Tuesday, 9 August 2011

205: Review - Super 8

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Super 8 poster

Super 8
08 August 2011. Location: Cinema

WARNING: SPOILERS HEREIN

A curious one, this. I'd heard nothing but good things about it, and probably raised my expectations too highly as a result.

As an alien flick, written/directed by J.J.Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, you might expect a head-on mashup of Cloverfield and E.T. It shouldn't surprise you, then, to find that it's pretty much exactly that (and I mean that as a compliment to all three films). Set in 1979, it's a fantastic snapshot of a more innocent time, with a genuine sense of wonder unfolding alongside the plot as a group of youngsters find themselves involved with a military cover-up and an alien visitor trying to get home.

There's so much to love here, including just about every aspect of the production. Even the child-actors (usually a bugbear of mine) are effortlessly great. Beautiful photography (including all that lens-flare), great scoring, naturalistic scripting, awesome effects-work...

...and yet I can't quite put my finger on why I feel there was something missing? Maybe it was because I spent a lot of time wondering what the hell was going on (even though the gradual exposition is present and correct)? Maybe it was because despite the even pacing, I felt like the film was dragging (even though it clocks in at under two hours)? Maybe it was because the tension between the two adult male leads was dragged out for the whole film then seemingly forgiven and forgotten conveniently at the end?

Or maybe, just maybe I was expecting to have more empathy with the alien? Unlike Cloverfield, we learn the how/when/why of the vistor's presence, and we also learn that he's only trying to get home (I'm not applying the gender, they say 'he' in the film), much to the chagrin of the government's armed forces who are trying to detain and (later) kill him. And for something that's like a cross between the Acklay in Attack of the Clones and a biological version of Megatron from Transformers, he's surprisingly expressive.

But it's difficult to build any sympathy with a creature who, right up to and including his final scene, is killing people. And not 'the bad men who are trying to hurt him', but just 'anyone who happens to be in the way and/or look like food'. Even as his re-assembled ship soars into the night sky in the film's final scene, the detritus of the improvised launchpad crumbles down into the street threatening to crush onlookers who have been lucky enough to make it this far. This intelligent alien doesn't really give a fuck if you live or die. He's not 'evil', he's just largely ambivalent. And you've got to hand it to Abrams, that's pretty much unexplored in the sci-fi genre, so well done there (I guess).

I felt a little of that ambivalence myself during the final scene. I was kind of relieved that the central characters survived to the end, but that was it. I felt no joy, relief or sadness at the alien finally winning/seizing his freedom.

That said, don't let my drivel put you off. This is a very well made film, and I suspect that any lack of enjoyment on my part was more down to my frame of mind at the time of viewing. Pffft. Despite the 12A cert Super 8's got in the UK, and the young protagonists, this didn't feel like a kids' film to me. Again, this works in its favour (in my book).

5/7

Oh, and the cube that Joel steals from the crash-site changes shape in his room before it makes its own escape. We learn that the material is shape-shifting, but it isn't explored why this one changed, when the ones that the government confiscates stay the same. Just a thought.



DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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