The much anticipated release, from Writer/Director JJ Abrams (Fringe, etc) and producer Stephen Spielberg, exceeded my personal expectations.
As normal fare for me, I'll try my best not to hint at anything that could potentially spoil this film. That said, there is so much I want to talk about here, it may be a bit difficult to live up to the standards I try adhering to whenever I conduct a review.
This movie is richly layered. It's really two stories in one. Each dealing with the theme of displacement.
There is also a short film the characters in the film are putting together. This film is about zombies. The finished piece can be seen as the credits role, so be sure to stick around for that. There's a few jokes in this short film, that take friendly shots at zombie films and their history; those affluent in Zombie lore should get a kick out of them. The only thing I really want to say about the short film is how the film is a zombie or walking dead short. This is symbolically important, as many of the characters in Super 8 have this almost zombie like feel to them. They are just moving along, unsure what will come next, just waiting to either be saved or be taken out of "the equation."
The theme of displacement also extends to the kid's short film. A zombie is a soul-less being without a place of its own. It lives in the shell of a former self. It doesn't know where to go or what to do. All it knows is to feed off the living, thus converting them into zombies, displacing them as well. Perhaps so the living can experience what they are going through.
The second plot in this film has to do with the creature. Although some may argue that this is really the initial plot, I disagree and will explain my position further in just a few moments. First though comes the creature's plot. The creature is displaced from it's planet. It has been here for sometime. A prisoner aching to leave this world and return home.
In this storyline the creature is the Protagonist. Nelec is the Antagonist. Dr. Woodward and then Alice and Joe, are the Helpers. The Sheriff and the army soldiers are the Detractors as they, along with Nelec, try to recapture the creature and inhibit/prevent his escape plan.
The main storyline is the story of Joe Lamb, who is displaced by the loss of his mother and living with a father who doesn't understand him and is pretty much unwilling to learn to be a father. Joe needs to overcome his loss and move forward with his life. This storyline begins before the film starts. This is where the inciting incident takes place, where an accident at Mrs. Lamb's place of work claims her life. This act gives life to Joe's storyline. Joe is obviously the Antagonist. The ever looming memory of the accident, and all the nuances that lead into and out from it, becomes the Antagonist that Joe needs to overcome to advance, to free himself from the place he's at. Deputy Jackson Lamb, Joe's father, and Louis Dainard, are the Detractors, assisting the Antagonist in its "plight' to keep Joe in a position of weakness. Alice Dainard and Joe's friends(to an extent) are the main Helpers for Joe, yet Donny, a stoner kid, becomes an unwitting Helper and the Creature also becomes one as these two main plots entwine with one another.
I'd like to briefly detail some of the reasons I included the children as helpers to Joe's quest. The act of the filmmaking is a welcome distraction for Joe, still dealing with the aftermath of his mother's accident. They do, in there own way, provide a sense of a support system as well. I just wanted to clarify that point a bit before moving on.
The amount of plotting in this film is remarkable. I've already listed the three major plots, but there are numerous subplots in this film as well, probably including others I either didn't pick up on, or forgot.
1. Will Charles Kaznyk complete his film
2. Will Charles Kaznyk evolve as the film goes forward. Charles is seen as a demanding, selfish boy throughout most of the film
3. Will Martin get over his fears
4. Will Louis get a chance, become the father that Alice needs and wants
5. Love Triangle, Joe, Alice, Charles
Most of these subplots do get resolved in one way or another, not all positive, but I found it interesting how Abrams was able to tie in so many plots into the overall scope of the story at large.
Another interesting thing I found was the stories use of symbolism. From the Super 8 camera to Dungeon( Dr. Woodward's self storage trailer) to the Locket that Joe's mother always wore, which gets passed on to Joe after her death. Each of these symbols, and I'm sure I'm missing or forgetting others, play their role in moving the story forward and providing added depth to each of the plots.
So just to briefly recap:
1. Joe Lamb Vs Moving forward (Accident & its associations as Antag.)
2. Creature Vs Need to return home (Nelec as Antag.)
Theme of Displacement
1. Joe Lamb is displaced because of the loss of his mother
2. The creature is displaced by being lost on a strange planet
3. The Zombie film is symbolic in itself of displacement
4. Dr. Woodward becomes displaced after being touched by the creature
5. Louis Dainard becomes displaced twice. The first is attached to Mrs. Lamb's accident. The second is when Alice goes missing later in the film.
6. Charles is displaced in relation to the love triangle idea I mentioned earlier
7. The entire accident at the train tracks displaces all the children from the world they just knew. (For Joe though this train accident works towards pushing him along in a new direction, so for him it was a needed event)
8. Alice feels displaced living with a father who is just there, drunk most of the time.
Super 8 is a thinkers action film. There are, as you can tell from this review, many layers to Super 8. Not all of them are integral to the overall structure of the film, but if you're not paying attention or missing them you're, in my opinion, missing out on the extra pieces Abram's and Spielberg included.
I thought the acting was very good and in stride with what the film was trying to accomplish. Pretty tough to obtain when dealing with something with so many layers, shown and not seen.
At points I found myself thinking of Stand By Me, probably because of the notion of childhood friends attempting to "do" something and their being near train tracks. I'm not going to go further into detail about the two films similarities here, yet felt it prudent to mention that I do feel they exist.
Anyone a fan of supernatural, or to some degree Sci-Fi, stories will enjoy this film. Anyone who likes Abram's previous work will enjoy this tale. Anyone who likes films with well defined and unique characters should enjoy this film.
Like I've mentioned before in previous posts I was looking forward to this film for some time, and I was not disappointed. This will be a film I pick up on Blu-Ray when it becomes available.