"Super 8" reminds audiences why alien flicks are so great. From the get-go the extremely talented child cast is captivating, providing alien-curious audiences with nostalgia. The story is a hybrid of many other classic extra terrestrial plot lines, but feels retro-chic in many ways. Super 8 has the elements of a great movie action, adventure, drama, and humor.
The film is centered on a young boy, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) who has recently lost his mother in a tragic factory accident. Joe is hard at work with friends filming an amateur film. The troop of boys, and their girl crush, Alice (Elle Fanning—yes, she’s Dakota’s sister) begin filming at the train tracks and witness a horrific disaster. Joe’s father, the town’s sheriff, is forced to allow the military to come into and clean up the mess. Once the military arrives, mysterious activity ensues, including Alice's disappearance.
Writer and Director, J.J. Abrams, layers the story well. The film is not just about the alien activity (i.e. Cloverfield--Producer). It’s so much more than that. The boys are forced to deal with their feelings towards Alice. Joe’s father, Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) is dealing with being a newly single father and the only law enforcement officer onto the military and its secrets. One thing that makes this film different from other alien films is that it takes place in the late 70’s and the fantastic child ensemble cast.
The performances are solid throughout. Each child actor plays a unique character that offers something fresh to the group. Alice (Fanning) is one of the stronger actors in the film, even admired as an actress in the film by the boys. The adults take a backseat to the strong cast of kids, but not so much so that they are forgotten. Jackson Lamb (Chandler) has some great emotional moments and suits a character from a time past.
While overall the film is entertaining, Abrams seems to be paying homage to Spielberg, which at times are a bit much. He does this throughout, with camera angles and storytelling tactics seen in E.T., Jaws, and other Spielberg classics. "Super 8" doesn’t feel fresh and original, but this is not necessarily a negative. The film’s nostalgic look and feel is truly a reminder that films about extra terrestrial life don’t have to horrifying, and they don’t have to take place in the present. Not to mention, Abrams proves that with the right cast, children are capable of telling a great story and carrying a film.
"Super 8" is playing at most Charlotte-Metro area theaters.