You don’t expect a movie like Super 8, where so much of the intrigue is built around the mystery and slow reveal of the monster, to play as well the second time around. Yet, watching it again at home really made me appreciate everything else it has to offer, even if the cheese becomes a bit more pungent over time.
My immediate reaction to Super 8, aside from all of the obvious early Spielberg comparisons, was that it felt like the script was originally intended for Michael Bay but eventually fell into the hands of Cameron Crowe. Certainly the Bayhem is handled a little differently as the explosive scenes are actually relevant to the plot and there’s actual emphasis placed on developing the characters’ relationships. But you add to that the humor, sentimentality and growing pains of Say Anything… and Almost Famous — and I felt I’d found a Crowe film with massive train wrecks and aliens.
For the uninitiated, the film follows a group of small-town teenagers working on a zombie movie they plan to enter in a local Super 8 film festival. While filming a scene late one night at a depot, they find themselves caught in the middle of a train crash. Before long, the monster that escaped from the wreck begins wreaking havoc on the town, while our hero Joe (newcomer Joel Courtney) deals with the recent death of his mother, his misunderstanding father (Kyle Chandler) and his first crush (Elle Fanning‘s Alice).
The film’s strong point is its mostly unknown cast of young actors. You believe they’re actually friends, with director J.J. Abrams capturing them joking and making fun of each other the way real-life friends do. The interactions between the kids and adults are far less natural by comparison. Some of the scenes between Chandler and Courtney seem especially forced. In particular, Chandler’s final line, which Abrams notes in the director’s commentary was one of producer Steven Spielberg’s contributions, ruins a perfectly fine emotional moment and doesn’t even really make sense in the context of the scene.
At the beginning of the film I was convinced Fanning’s character was at least a grade or two older than the boys in the film (even though in real-life she’s a few years younger). Not only does she dwarf most of the boys height-wise, but she had this confidence and unreachable aura that made her seem like the intimidating older girl in school. But by the end, I actually bought that Joe and Alice looked and acted the same age, which says a lot for the amount of maturity and development Abrams was able to accomplish with these characters. Joe becomes courageous and begins standing up for himself, while Alice lets down her guard and begins showing some vulnerability.
If you’re into special features, the disc has a nice series of featurettes (look for a surprise appearance from Tom Cruise) that totals over 90 minutes in length, a slew of deleted/extended scenes and a rather dry commentary from Abrams and crew. Mostly though, you’re getting a movie that remains enjoyable through repeat viewings, even if a little of the luster begins to wear off. It’s hard to say that a movie is truly for everyone, but I can’t imagine anyone not liking Super 8 enough to warrant at least one viewing. I’d say give it a rental and go from there.
You can buy Super 8 on Blu-ray right here.