Sunday, January 27, 2013

Super Friends

It seems that we've been seeing a lot of great recent movies with kids - first Moonrise Kingdom, now Super 8 (2011).

Super 8 is about two things: A group of movie-obsessed kids growing up in an Ohio mill town in the 70s, and a monster. The kids are great, all around 14:

  • Joel Courtney is a sensitive boy whose mother died, leaving him under the distracted care of his policeman father
  • Riley Griffiths is his best friend, a chubby kid who writes, directs and shoots horror movies on super 8 movie camera
  • Ryan Lee is their pyrotechnics experts, and a possibly a disturbed pyromaniac
  • Gabriel Basso, their leading man, is famed for losing his lunch
Somehow, this band of lame losers has managed to get bad-girl beauty Elle Fanning to be their leading lady in a scene shot at night in train station. But the train contains a terrible secret, and things go boom in  a big way.

The dynamics of the group of kids, especially Courtney's budding romance with Fanning are great. Maybe it's just that I'm a child of the era (I was probably born just a few years before these kids were supposed to be), but it was very nostalgic for me. The death of Courtney's mother was a bit much, but I guess director J.J. Abrams needed a little something extra. Griffiths reminded me of a young Orson Welles - restlessly, relentlessly pursuing a cinema dream.

The monster, on the other hand, was a little bit disappointing. Like in Cloverfield, they keep him hidden for a long time. I'm not going to spoil anything, except to say that the monster seemed like something we've seen before. Still, the buildup to the reveal - the train, the military presence, the secrecy - are pretty good.

I guess this movie is at least partly a tribute to producer Steven Spielberg and his kid-based SF movies. It also has plenty of Abrams' patented lens-flare and pointless (in my opinion) rotating camera movements. The Cloverfield connection is weak - this really isn't about accidentally filming the monster. But the tributes and sources and references are everywhere.

I think that if the kids had been making the movie, they would have understood the importance of the monster.

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