Movie Review: ‘Super 8’

By Mark Jackson
Mark Jackson
Mark Jackson
Film Critic
Mark Jackson is the senior film critic for The Epoch Times. Mark has 20 years' experience as a professional New York actor, classical theater training, and a BA in philosophy. He recently narrated the Epoch Times audiobook “How the Specter of Communism is Ruling Our World,” and has a Rotten Tomatoes author page.
June 10, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015
NOSTALGIC FEEL: (L-R) Zach Mills, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Joel Courtney, and Gabriel Basso in 'Super 8.' (Francois Duhamel/ Paramount Pictures)
NOSTALGIC FEEL: (L-R) Zach Mills, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Joel Courtney, and Gabriel Basso in 'Super 8.' (Francois Duhamel/ Paramount Pictures)

Super 8—it’s pretty darn blockbuster-y! It’s got Steven Spielberg producing and J.J. Abrams directing, so how could it not be?

The studio pitch probably went something like: It’s Stand By Me meets Cloverfield, Jurassic Park, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind!

What I enjoy most about the summer blockbuster formula is the nostalgic setting of the scene in rustic Small Town, USA. I love when you can almost smell the new-mown lawns, hear the sprinklers and the splashing in backyard pools, and watch pink-orange sunsets fade to purple-blue dusks, silhouetting water towers and illuminating cozy amber-colored windows.

Every American who grew up in the country or in suburbia knows whereof I speak. Other movies that do this well are Dazed and Confused, American Graffiti, Friday Night Lights, and the first Transformers.

Like Stand by Me, Super 8 chronicles the time in the lives of boys when they care only about baseball cards, model airplanes, and in this case, shooting home movies on the Paleolithic Super 8 video recorder of the late 1970s. It’s pretty much the archetypal story of film directors as kids.

[youtube]tCRQQCKS7go[/youtube]The kids shoot a movie within the movie, and inadvertently they capture something on film that wasn’t supposed to be seen. Things, people, and dogs start disappearing, the electricity goes haywire, the cops go looking around, and the military shows up and gets cryptic. Something large and very mysterious is afoot.

The key to making these things work is you have to hide the MacGuffin well. Jaws would not have been the first massive blockbuster if the shark had had a built-in GPS.

Blockbusters are also all about the explosions. Generally, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all, but I have to say, this movie has some outstanding explosions!

The film’s two standout performers are Dakota Fanning’s little sister, Elle, and never-acted-before Joel Courtney in the lead. Theirs is a truly touching puppy love, and Joel has an inherent sweetness that is heartwarming, heartbreaking, and refreshing to see in this time of sarcastic “Whatever” children. It harks back to more innocent times.

A slight disappointment are the actors playing the parents of these two, Ron Eldard and Friday Night Lights coach Kyle Chandler, respectively. They’re both typically solid actors, though they fall short of earning emotional investment in these roles.

Likely to appeal to kids young and old, Super 8 is a good campfire story. If you like remembering those humid summer nights when you could see the Dairy Queen sign and the cozy islands of fluorescent gas-station lights through dark green halos of summer foliage, when you could hear crickets, katydids, and jacked-up muscle cars revving in the distance over near the drive-in movie, and when you had a crush on the prettiest girl in school so bad it made your bones ache—I recommend the nostalgia of Super 8!

Mark Jackson
Film Critic
Mark Jackson is the senior film critic for The Epoch Times. Mark has 20 years' experience as a professional New York actor, classical theater training, and a BA in philosophy. He recently narrated the Epoch Times audiobook “How the Specter of Communism is Ruling Our World,” and has a Rotten Tomatoes author page.