Thursday, June 9, 2011

Super 8

I remember a little over a year and a half ago, I saw a little teaser before Iron Man 2, and it was a film called "Super 8". Now, the first image was a yellow truck. And for some reason, the first image that came to mind was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Which of course features Richard Dryfuss' character, Roy Neary's truck. There was no particular reason as to why I thought THAT truck, it's just what I thought. And it wasn't until "something" was trying to break out of the train cargo that I thought "Wow, this might be a Close Encounters reference". So as the months passed by, more marketing was done for the film. TV spots, trailers, posters and I was instantly hooked. I love aliens, I love Spielberg, and I really dig Abrams (not so much his work, but his nerd/creative mentality). I mean, I just like the guy. So without going into complete spoiler territory, Ill keep it to a mininum.

First off, I want to explain one thing. There is a difference between ripping off and homage. Tarantino rips people off. In his HEAD, he's paying tribute to whoever he is ripping off, but there is nothing to indicate "HEY! This is from another movie!" to the average movie goer. And Ill admit it, sometimes he rips people off good (as counter-insulting as that sounds [is that a word?]). But what Abrams is doing here is just a complete homage to the ole late 70's/80's Amblin films. And honestly, just having Speilberg as producer on this film instantly makes it a homage to his films. It's kind of like if I were to film a scene in which a guy parks his car like The Blues Brothers. If it was just that, you would say, "That's ripped straight out of The Blues Brothers!". But if he parks the car like The Blues, and his passenger said, "Okay, Elwood...". That's a nod or a homage to The Blues Brothers. It's not trying to pass as it's own. And as I said, just having Spielberg as a producer instantly passes it as a nod and not a rip off to any of his films.

And you know what? The movie works. Until the end. But Ill get to that later. For now, Ill elaborate as to why 80% of the movie works. First of all, the kids. They casted a GREAT group of kids. It was clear they were going for The Goonies/E.T. group of kids. And it worked really well. You have the lead, Elliot-type character, the fat Chunk-like character, the girl, and the side friends. But the best was the main kid, the fatty, and the girl. This is a first time job for most of them, and they hit the right timing on most of their lines. The main kid didn't overact anything really, at all. The fat kid had some great, genuine comic timing, and the girl had that right balance of "the regular girl" and totally not boring. And the one great thing about it was, they seemed like they were actually a real group of friends, eventhough they all met on the set. Kudos to the kids and casting agents. And to Abrams for knowing how to direct kids.

As mentioned above, this movie is a bunch of movies in one. And to just put it out there, it's: The Gonnies, E.T., Close Encounters, District 9, and Signs all in one. The Goonies and E.T. I already elaborated on. But the main influence, that I see, is Close Encounters. And Im not just saying that cause it's one of my absolute favorite movies of all. There are shots taken DIRECTLY from Close Encounters. From the evacuation scenes, to the US Military's presence, to even the setting. It's all Close Encounters. And I dont have a problem with that. It actually did it quite well. I absolutely love that small-town rustic 70's look. It makes your bond with the group of kids that much more meaningful. If it were in a kind of boring setting, you wouldnt really care what the hell they were doing, or where they were going.

I also listed Signs as one of the influences. Was it an influence? I dont think so. Could it have been a rip-off? I think so. And this not being a spoiler, the kid's mom is dead in the beginning of the movie. So all it is, is the kid and his father, who is a local police deputy. So therin lies not only a Signs rip-off, but a Spielberg nod. Instead of father-neglect (a common theme in Spielberg films), it's his mother. Only, she didnt neglect him. She died. But getting back to the Signs rip-off. In Signs, a father is left with his two kids after his wife dies from being hit by a car while jogging. And the person who hit her tried to reach out to the husband, but just couldnt bring himself to it. In this, dude's wife dies because a co-worker called out, she covered his shift, and something terrible happened at work and she died. The dude goes to the funeral and tries to reach out and the husband doesn't want it. There's more to it in the film, but I dont want to lay the whole movie out for you. But there are some story-points taken from Signs.

The other film it kind of riffs from is District 9. And with this, Im not going to get into. Reason being, it would give too much away, story wise. Although, Im sure you might have guessed what it might have taken from D9. Now those are the films that I saw that Abrams had been influenced by. But he listed a few others, officially, as influences. The Thing, Scanners, and Slumber Party Massacre. Slumber Party, really? Apparently, it was for soundtrack musical choises. Why that film? Dont know. But it's odd and I like it.

The end. Dont worry, it's safe to read after this point. It's no secret, you see the movie you see the monster. Or alien. Or whathaveyou. And THERE lies the problem for me. The one thing Abrams SHOULD have taken from Spielberg's past films, was Jaws. In Jaws, you barely see the shark until really the end. Yes, you see glimpses of it, but not the entire thing. First off, Abrams could have chosen a MUCH better creatur design. And this is coming from someone who loved Cloverfield (I dont give a flaming shit. That was a great monster movie!). I loved the Cloverfield monster. It looked as if a creepy white hairless cat had mutated with a grasshopper. It just looked fucking cool. But this monster... Eh... No. Im not going to describe it, because that would be fucking retarded. But they could have done better. Much better. I have a comparrison as to what the monster looked like, but I wont say. Ill only give 3 clues: A 1998 animation film that ends with the letter "Z". Moving on...

The monster was where the brick started to crumble. And what happened after... They could have avoided the "SHOW EVERYTHING" approach. And I guess that's the end of the review really. The rest would just be spoilers.

All in all, it was a fun movie. Had an intriguing story, some really good acting, some fun references, a decent score, and a worthy entry for Abrams' film catalog. Was I disappointed? Yeah. Was it terrible? No. It'll actually probably end up being one of the better summer movies. Oh yeah, and there are lense flares.

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