It is easy to slot most movies into a particular genre. Not so with J.J. Abrams new effort, Super 8. It will probably be designated as science fiction, and that is predominantly the correct genre. But Super 8 is so much more. It is a period piece, an innocent coming-of-age film, an action flick, a drama, and even a suspense thriller. While that may all sound like a lot, Abrams makes it work and it works very well.
The film centers on a group of young teens set on making their own movie. The coterie is anchored beautifully by newcomer Joel Courtney and veteran child actress Elle Fanning. The duo displays just the right amount of innocence and angst. As a whole, the six youngsters are believable as friends with their constant ribbing and camaraderie.
The want-to-be filmmakers witness a catastrophic train wreck late one night while working on their movie and the action is on. Abrams has made a living doling out information and answers in tiny bits and he does a terrific job here of keeping us guessing and wanting more, both on the sci-fi monster and the personal storyline.
It is these personal side stories that score the most points for Abrams. It is so well done; the science fiction aspect of the film seems like the side story, the background, in the lives of these kids. It is here where Fanning and Courtney truly shine, truly pull you in. They are sweet and emotional, without being sappy or over doing it. They come off very natural with each other and their young fellow cast mates.
If I have any complaints about Super 8, I would have to say it is the sometimes forced relationship between Joe (Courtney) and his father, Deputy Jackson Lamb (Friday Night Light’s Kyle Chandler). There is tragedy here but this relationship is not fleshed out very well. Alice’s relationship with her father (Ron Eldard) is a little bit better and there is a history between the two fathers that adds to the dramatic content. Other than a few questions about the alien that are unanswered or unexplained, I have few other complaints about this movie.
Super 8 combines drama and action, science fiction and young love, and the result is a fun, fast paced, intriguing movie that is a pleasant departure from the overwhelming fare of comic book movies and summertime sequels. If you are looking for something a little different, you won’t be disappointed in this enjoyable movie.
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