Hello and welcome back to Hey You With The Face, where we meet for the second installment of SUPER WEEK, the first ever themed review week ever held by me, The Face Guy. In this week, I am going to be reviewing three movies that in some way are "super." The first review of the week was a review of Green Lantern, a superhero movie. With that idea in mind, I now review a film with the word "Super" right in the title: Super 8.
This movie needs a little bit of backstory, and it all starts way back with a little movie called E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Made back in 1982, E.T. was directed and produced by the popular director Steven Spielberg, dealing with themes such as acceptance, the importance of love and faith, the importance of having a place to call home, and all around how awesome it is to have peace at heart. The movie was a smash hit, and remains a classic movie for everyone, not just science-fiction buffs. It has been called the greatest science-fiction movie of all time, and stands proud in the fact that it was a perfect movie on it's own and didn't need anything more. For this reason, no director or writer has ever attempted to make any sort of sequel or remake of E.T. in any way.
Screw nostalgia, I have money.
When trailers and leaks for Super 8 first started coming to the public, Steven Spielberg was quoted saying that the movie was designed to be a "spiritual successor" to E.T., essentially saying that he wanted to make a remake without actually making a remake. Especially looking at the quote now, after seeing the movie itself, this could not have been a more obvious money-making ploy if it were painted with giant green dollar signs. Both Spielberg and Abrams, who co-produced Super 8, were poignantly aware that this movie was something specifically designed for targeting people's sense of nostalgia, the memories from their youth of wonder at the unknown. The same themes that made E.T. the masterpiece it was would be the same things that both directors knew would make Super 8 popular, and as such those were the aspects that were most strongly highlighted in the advertising campaign.
Unfortunately for them, it was far too obvious that they were doing it all for the money.
Now don't get me wrong - Super 8 is by no means a horrible movie. It would be so much simpler to define and review if it were just another disaster. The problem with Super 8 isn't that it's really bad, it's that it's nothing close to what we were promised in the year or so leading up to it.
Not really surprising, since we were basically promised the movie equivalent of this.
Super 8 follows the story of a young boy named Joe, who we meet right after his mother is killed in a steel-mill accident. We cut to a few months later where we find that he's struggling to find his place in the world, since is his father's police work has left him more or less to his own devices. We meet his loyal group of nerdy friends who have put their heads together to make an amateur zombie movie, each child representing one of the classic traits of childhood. The stage set for a feel-good coming of age movie, we start the main core of the plot with... a five minute long sequence of nonstop explosions, shouting, and children being intimidated by a crazy man with a gun.
Of course, it wouldn't be a modern Steven Spielberg movie without an overabundance of explosions. And also: aliens! You just can't have a "spiritual successor" to E.T. without an alien, right? Of course, in E.T. the alien was innocent, peaceful, and represented how mankind's inability to accept that which is different leads us to antagonize even the gentlest of creatures. Apparently, however, Spielberg forgot that this was one of the most stirring aspects of his 1980's masterpiece, because this alien does not mess around with any of that peace and love BS. This alien appears to have no compunction over butchering everything that it comes across.
"E.T. phone police to leave cryptic hint about next grisly murder!
And this, in case you didn't get the hint, is where Super 8 really falls apart. It seems as though there was a major disagreement between the writers and the producers. The writers wanted a coming of age movie, kind of in the Stand By Me vein, where a group of kids begin their trek down the road to maturity. The producers, however, wanted some hideous crossbreed of Men in Black and Cloverfield, with as many explosions as humanly possible mixed in for good measure.
Also lens flare. You can't forget the lens flare.
... No, seriously. It never goes away. It's like a lamprey mixed with Herpes.
Now, don't get me wrong - I consider every movie that I just listed to be good films in their own right. The problem comes around when Abrams and Spielberg tried to fuse them all together into some horrific cinematic Frankenstein's Monster. The result is a movie that feels incredibly off-balance and disjointed, with no cohesive theme or plot. In the end this "spiritual successor" to one of the most heartwarming and powerful movies of all time comes down to "being mean is bad", resulting in one of the biggest let-downs of the decade.
Super 8 is not a horrible movie. The acting is overall good and the writing is certainly above the quality of many other films in the genre. The problem is that Super 8 tries to bite off WAY more than it can reasonably chew for a single film. While in theory the idea of combining great action with powerful relationship building and a story of overcoming the premature death of a parent in just under two hours sounds like a great idea, so did the Roman Empire's idea of uniting the world under their banner. In the end, both Rome and Super 8 collapsed under their own weight and hubris, reduced to a steaming heap of wasted potential. It's not so much dreadful as it is depressing, since we can see just how amazing this film could have been if they had simply avoided the urge to rely on cheap explosions and car chases. While Green Lantern may have been a disaster, Super 8 - while the decidedly superior film - is a tragedy.
Final Grade: C