Super 8 Reviews: "Early Spielberg Classic," Spielberg & Abrams "Spiritually Clash On-Screen" UPDATED

by Anne Thompson
June 9, 2011 7:55 AM
2 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood
I went in to see Super 8 with modest expectations. I kept waiting for the movie to derail and lose its footing at some point. That never happened. I was instantly caught up with this group of kids trying to shoot a movie (the final result unspools over the closing credits, so stick around) and then figure out what sort of thing escaped from a huge train wreck to devastate their town. The rules of this movie are strictly Spielberg sci-fi universe, circa 1979, which is a wonderful place to be.

Here's an updated batch of advance reviews of the highly anticipated, modestly-budgeted J.J. Abrams 70s thriller, which has been described variously as E.T. meets Jaws and Stand By Me meets Cloverfield, which of course grossly oversimplifies what it really is: a heartfelt homage to the movies we all grew up on. There's a reason Spielberg is Spielberg, and it doesn't hurt to be reminded of what that really means.

Reviews and the trailer are below:

Roger Ebert:

"During the first hour of Super 8, I was elated by how good it was. It was like seeing a lost early Spielberg classic. Then something started to slip…Super 8 is a wonderful film, nostalgia not for a time but for a style of filmmaking, when shell-shocked young audiences were told a story and not pounded over the head with aggressive action. Abrams treats early adolescence with tenderness and affection. He uses his camera to accumulate emotion. He has the rural town locations right."

Richard Corliss, Time:

"Every Bit as Great as You Hoped It Would Be,..There's a reason that Super 8, with all its cool thrills, also seems a work of innocence: it takes incidental inspiration from the films of a director who, back in 1979, was the J.J. Abrams of his day…Did you ever cry at a boy-meets-girl picture? All right, did you root for a monster to win? Those are just two of the surprises awaiting you in the year's most thrilling, feeling mainstream movie. The some thing you'll feel is the open heart of J.J. Abrams, Super 8's boy genius."

Kenneth Turan, LATimes:

"Hybrids may be all the rage for cars, but this melding of two cinematic sensibilities, though effective at moments, is finally not as exciting or involving as it we'd like it to be…Super 8's elements do not jell into a satisfying whole. Though the directors have been personally close for decades — they first connected when Spielberg hired the then-15-year-old Abrams to restore his own 8mm films — their styles do not necessarily mesh. It's a dissonance that's prefigured when the logos of their production companies — Abrams' cranky Bad Robot and Spielberg's lyrical Amblin — spiritually clash on-screen…The problem with Super 8 is not how much there is to complain about but how little there is to be excited about."

Thompson on Hollywood

Leah Zak, ThePlaylist:
"Packed full of solid character actors, there are few, if any, weak links, with even supporting players leaving a solid impression…The young stars of Super 8, many of them first timers, carry the film well, and the dynamic between the group of friends is “Sandlot” -comparison worthy. Fanning and Courtney shine in the leads...the slow roll-out of Abrams’ CGI creation builds in edge-of-your-seat suspense to a genuinely frightening reveal, when we see full on what the town is up against. And while yes, a CGI creation it definitively is (will technology ever reach a point where CGI becomes indistinguishable?) we (well, this writer) jumped. More than once,..[Super 8] is a hugely successful addition to the Summer Blockbuster genre."

Drew McWeeny, HitFix:

"Super 8 is a fairly modest affair as summer movies go, and in that way, it definitely feels more like the summer movies I grew up watching.  In an age where summer films routinely cost $200 million or more, and each new movie feels like a contest to see how much they can crank up the spectacle, it's nice to see a film that seems relatively scaled back, focused on character first…The stuff the film gets dead right involves the young friends and their love of filmmaking.  It taps some of the same spirit that made Son Of Rambow such a treat, and setting the film in 1979 evokes a moment when many kids were just starting to get a look at the way films are made thanks to behind-the-scenes specials and magazines like Starlog, and just from the things we see in Joe's room, it's obvious he's been bitten by the bug, and hard."

Thompson on Hollywood

Katey Rich, Cinemablend:
"It's time to lower your expectations for Super 8. Of course, after the month of hype and nostalgia and feverish discussion about how J.J. Abrams might be perfectly channeling the spirit of early Spielberg films like E.T. and Close Encounters, it's hard to imagine them being much higher-- you all realize this is a movie made by a human being and not the physical embodiment of your childhood, right? Super 8 is better than 90% of the blockbusters Hollywood makes, in that it is good, entertaining, sometimes emotional and often inventive, but not perfect. I wanted it to be amazing too, trust me, but it's got many of the same story issues as Abrams's Star Trek without the constant action or humor to cover it up."

Brad Miska, BloodyDisgusting:

"A love letter to early Steven Spielberg films that was actually produced by the iconic director's Amblin Entertainment – thus making it an authentic Spielberg film. (The irony is that Spielberg produced Transformers 3 - opening this summer, from the same studio - one of the many movies that has ruined the theatrical experience.) When the film's end credits began to roll, every ounce of my being was confused, angry and even a bit sad. Everything that's RIGHT about the immersive movie experience lay within the grasp of Super 8, a film that isn't worried about the 'creature' or 'special effects' as much as it wants you to love its characters…Super 8 truly is the beginning and the end of summer blockbusters. In fact, this is the summer blockbuster of 1986. If Abrams' flick came out in the ‘80s, it would be the sole movie that everyone was in line for. That's the most heartbreaking aspect of this mind-blowing nostalgic experience."

Thompson on Hollywood

Jamie Graham, TotalFilm:
"There was a time, back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when blockbusters had heart and soul to go with their balls, when the testosterone and the money shots were duly arrived at after periods of intimacy…Super 8, the old charmer, returns to such innocent times, assuredly delivering bang for buck…Only a young Spielberg at the top of his game could beat it…A monster mash-up of '50s sci-fi, late-'70s / early '80s event movie and autobiography, Super 8 doesn’t possess the top-to-bottom greatness of the films it’s modelled on but, in shooting for the stars, leaves 90% of modern blockbusters in the gutter."

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2 Comments

  • Brian | June 3, 2011 3:22 AMReply

    I'm trying to think of sci-fi/alien invasion/monster movies with kid protagonists that worked for me and I'm wracking my brains. There's INVADERS FROM MARS (1953), but that was totally laced with paranoia, which made it work. And then there were all those Japanese movies with Gamera the giant turtle in the '60s, where the protagonists were usually a pair of boys, one Japanese and one westerner, but the kids were absolute lunatics in those movies, so there was none of this Spielbergian cloying. (The latest Gamera movie, GAMERA THE BRAVE, 2005, suffers from this kind of cloying.)

    I tend to prefer my monster movies with command structures, like THEM! (1954) where the military, the FBI, the local cops and the scientific experts all team up. Or THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953). I recently saw for the first time THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD (1957), about mutated giant mollusks, which benefited from location filming at a naval base at the Salton Sea in Calif. and featured naval officers and state and local police trying to stop the mollusks from getting into the Calif. water supply. Like THEM!, the monsters were life-size mechanical mock-ups that shared the screen with the actors, so there was a believabiltiy factor as the actors reacted to what they could see and not to a green screen.

    However, as we saw from his Star Trek movie, J.J. Abrams has no understanding of command structure (Kirk becomes Captain of the Enterprise straight out of the Academy--no experience necessary), so I'm not terribly hopeful about this film. If the kids are in charge, forget it. One of the reasons I disliked Spielberg's WAR OF THE WORLDS was because he took the action away from the command structure and gave it to Tom Cruise and his brats. I just don't find that kind of thing at all interesting.

  • Hannah Torres | June 3, 2011 1:35 AMReply

    Director Ewing Miles Brown says Sam Botta has lost 74 lbs (now 150 lbs.) for Movie Tech Studios pre-production of "Live Fearless" Sam Botta Hosts the upcoming reality TV show. :) in Pre-Production now with guests like Betty White, who says "Appreciate life while it's happening!" Also "get over it" (referring to aging) and "I'm swimming as fast as I can" in reference to her work.

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