Last year, it was Inception that easily led the pack of summer movies leaving all the usual shallow, meaningless drivel in its dust. Although it’s only half way through June, Super 8 is poised to be the best summer movie of 2011.
Super 8 even has the potential to be one of the best movies of the year. It’s that good. Set in 1979 in the town of Lillian, Ohio, a group of five friends are making a zombie movie when they inadvertently film a train crash that unleashes something extraterrestrial on their town. It’s a simple plot but it yields exponential results in the hands of writer and director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg. It’s no wonder that this film draws heavily from films such as E.T., Stand By Me and The Goonies; Spielberg directed two of those three and Abrams has never been shy about expressing his love of Spielberg’s work.
The largest criticism of Super 8 has been its highly derivative nature but when it’s this well done, there’s nothing wrong with that. As you watch Super 8, it’s hard not to wonder why films like this aren’t made that much anymore. It’s clearly able to be done. Movies like this make it fun to go to the movies; it’s a movie that causes you to get lost in another world and care about the characters.
Speaking of the characters, all the child actors they got to play the parts of the kids who are central to the story are excellent. There’s a tendency in these types of movies to make the roles of kids overly precocious and witty. Super 8 does an admirable job of riding that line; occasionally you see grown-up elements to their personality but they’re still just kids at heart. In particular, Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning show tremendous range and potentially have long and successful careers ahead of them provided they don’t succumb to the usual trappings of child actors.
Simply put, Super 8, much like Bridesmaids (in an odd way), is a movie that everyone can enjoy. It reminds you that movies can be great by being well-written, having well-defined characters who get a chance to develop, and it ultimately ends up engaging you intelligently and emotionally. Do whatever you have to do to see Super 8 at the Cinemagic in Merrimack or Hooksett (where they have it in IMAX).