Film: Super 8
Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Click. . . 5 4 3 2 1 . . .

Being an Ohio Native means a few things. First, you learn to love the rolling acres of corn and hay that spread across most of the state. Second, the name LeBron instills a sense of betrayal and hatred. Third, other than rubber, the Rock and Football Halls of Fame, and Alternative Press, we don’t have much to offer. So when I hear that a film or television show is going to take place in Ohio, I get excited. When I heard the film will not only be created by Steven Spielberg, but J.J. Abrams as well, I have to admit that I may have wet my shorts.

Shrouded in mystery, Super 8 was originally rumored to be a sequel or prequel to the moderately successful, Blair Witch style, New York monster flick Cloverfield (this turned out to be false). In fact, the movie itself was a rumor.In May of 2010, the first sign, that the film was even real, presented itself in the form of a secret trailer attached to some prints of Iron Man 2. The mystery continued on with secret movie websites popping up with clues and puzzles that had to be solved to reveal more clues and teasers. Groups of people on the internet were working together to gather clues, dissect trailers and discuss possibilities. In fact, as I check the predominant Super 8 news fan site,, there are STILL clues surfacing from the film makers leading some to believe a second film is in the works. The whole thing was much like the viral videos released preceding Cloverfield’s announcement. People were asking things like “what is the monster?” and “What does that sign say? Flip it upside down. Does it give us a clue?” The hysteria was mounting.

With all of the hype, I found my anticipation growing rapidly. Finally, the movie was released. I was out of state at the time so I didn’t attend the midnight showing as originally planned. I did however watch it the night after I returned home. After a scary drive through a north eastern Ohio surprise rainstorm, I arrived at the theatre just in time to see the Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows Part 2 preview.

The movie started off well enough. Introducing the characters gradually and setting up the back story of the characters’ small town relationships. It truly set the tone of a small Ohio town in the late 80’s. One of the things that caught my interest was the character Preston. The young actor paying him is actually from Ohio. In fact, my younger sister went to grade school with him in a small town where we grew up. This obviously means nothing to you or to the plot of the movie, but it got me just that much more interested in the film. The cast selection was well done. The main character, newcomer Joel Courtney, did a great job at portraying an innocent child (Joe Lamb) who has lost a lot and followed all his life but ultimately becomes the natural born leader every sci-fi movie needs. Well done, young actor, well done. The female protagonist was just as well chosen. Elle Fanning has, in my opinion, been consistently outshining her older sister Dakota in the past few years. She has been getting some fantastic roles and the role of Alice Dainard was a perfect fit. She plays off the daughter of a trouble making drunkard of a father excellently. The chemistry between Fanning and Courtney is exactly as it needed to be, youthful.

The plot of the movie is what ultimately disappointed me. If we were to use movie math to sum up this film, I would write it as such: District 9 + Cloverfield. Both of those movies were fantastic in my eyes, but Super 8 fell short. The story was recycled and the monster looks far too familiar to Abrams previous monster thriller. Like Cloverfield, a majority of the movie contained scenes showing small parts of the monster, teasing the viewer. The creature looks just like the one in Cloverfield. When the DVD comes out, I wouldn’t be surprised to find concept drawings identical to the ones on Cloverfield. It turns out; this monster is just a misunderstood creature. Does this sound familiar Peter Jackson? The end of the movie ended almost exactly like District 9 did as well. The go-to filler shot of the movie was simply Joe Lamb staring at people. Sure, the kid has a kind face and those little kid eyes that would make the grandparents go crazy, but to be honest, I’d rather see the monster’s face than his.

The whole point of the movie was a mysterious government secret set free on the unknowing public. If that’s so, why not make it more mysterious? Heck, the clues given to those following the film online were a hundred times more cryptic than the small bit of mystery I met in the theatre. Oh, there was this little silver box thing as well. Didn’t they use something like this in The Last Mimzy and in Transformers? The further I got into the movie, the more disappointed I became. The lack of a great story, the absence of creativity I have come to expect from Spielberg and Abrams, and an unoriginal monster left me heartbroken. I never thought I would say that a piece of J.J. Abrams’ work would dissatisfy me like Super 8 has.

I can see why the film is getting generally good reviews. There is action, aliens, transforming pieces of machinery, and some big name directors in the credits. But honestly, it’s exactly what we’ve all seen before. There is nothing new, nothing interesting. Save yourself a few bucks and wait for this one to hit Netflix, Red Box, or the internet. Better yet, go rent Cloverfield, District 9, and the newest Transformers release. They at least offer something original and exciting.

If I could give one piece of advice to film makers it would be this, Stay away from aliens. Go to a theatre and watch the previews before any feature film. 90% of the trailers contain alien or robotic bull crap that I honestly don’t want to see any more. Give me a good movie that I can think about. Something that will make me think about how the movie could end, and then throw me backwards with a twist. I’m not asking for an M. Night Shyamalan ending, but I’m tired of knowing the ending before it gets there.

click. . . End of tape.

Review written by Jacob Tender

Jacob Tender
Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “MOVIE REVIEW: Super 8”

  1. Firstly, no one cares that you know someone that knows an actor from the movie. Really killed the momentum of your review.

    Secondly, I think you’re sort of missing the point. The monster/alien/thing, to me, doesn’t seem to be the main story so much as it does a plot device. Seems to me that it’s completely about this kid growing up. Do those continued shots of his face make more sense to you now? I sure hope they would. In fact, if anything, I think they made it a bit TOO obvious what you were supposed to take away from the film with the ham-handed shot selection.

    Thirdly, District 9, for being such a good film, had one pf the worst endings in recent memory. Beyond clumsy and obvious.

  2. At no point did I claim that I had any personal connection to the film itself. The story merely took place in Ohio and I pulled a connection to that. The location as well as the viral aspects to the advertisements pulled me in and had me excited. This tells the reader of this review that I had high hopes and expectations. Moving on…

    If you re-read my review, you’ll find this sentence:
    “The main character, newcomer Joel Courtney, did a great job at
    portraying an innocent child (Joe Lamb) who has lost a lot and followed
    all his life but ultimately becomes the natural born leader every sci-fi
    movie needs.” Which supports your bit about the kid growing up. I’ve got that covered.

    I stand by what I said. The story is recycled, predictable, and unexciting. As much as I really wanted to like this film I did not. I’m glad you did, though. Thanks for reading.