Just got back from Super 8. I have VERY mixed feelings. I sort of enjoyed it–but it’s not a great movie. It’s more JJ Abrams sucking on the dick of the Berg. Which is to say, I enjoy Spielberg, and this movie is reconstituted Spielberg. If you’ve seen Close Encounters and ET, you don’t need to see this. There’s even alien abductions like Close Encounters, a power truck on a country road at night (hello Roy Neary), and a grand finale ship takeoff. The only thing missing was “When You Wish Upon a Star.” JJs idea of gravitas is having one of the main kid’s parents conveniently killed off, so they’re like, SAD for a while and he and Dad don’t get along that well. Yay. It’s a token ‘Berg thing, having a parent dead or missing (ET), or having broken families (Close Encounters, War of the Worlds) or divorcees or kids who don’t get along with either mommy or daddy or both. Nothing new there, please move along.
The Super-8 monster is just a Cloverfield-Battle LA mashup. You don’t see him till near the end, and when you do, it’s mostly dark. Unlike JAWS, where the ‘Berg held out on showing Bruce (out of necessity, as it happens), Super-8 doesn’t show its monster card until near the end, by which time you’re like, oh. There it is.
The movie couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be a Goonies sort of adventure comedy, a sci-fi military drama, or a live action “Iron Giant” (with the beast making shit in a JUNKYARD, even!!). It’s “that 70s show” does ET, only ET is kind of angry about not being able to get home. And since it’s summer, they don’t get to go trick-or-treating. Instead, the military invades the small town of Lillian, Ohio, and scare people with their olive drab trucks and Geiger counters and edicts about the local hick sheriff not needing to know anything because hey, it’s always “need-to-know.”
I can’t believe Spielberg was cool with JJ pretty much redoing him.
STUNTCOCK: I concur.
It’s ostensibly about a bunch of “goonie” Ohio kids in 1979 making their own Romero style zombie movie.
Which is kinda funny, because the whole of Super 8 is about a grown-up Goonie named JJ making his own Spielberg style alien-in-small-town movie. It’s all, cheap scare, cheap scare, cheap scare, token ‘Berg feel-good ending where people hug. FUCK IT.
One minute the alien snatches a sheriff at a gas station, big shocker moment. The next, it’s a stoner teen saying something dopey for laughs. FUCK IT.
And what was with those white puzzle boxes? Those didn’t amount to shit, except that last one, but only to determine the locus of the finale. Their power / purpose is NEVER explained. FUCK ‘EM.
And the “bad guy” colonel, what was his deal? you don’t care about him enough to loathe him, you don’t loathe him enough to care. FUCK IT.
And was that Dakota Fanning’s sister? Couldn’t afford Dakota herself? FUCK IT.
And I like how her dad drives Bumblebee. FUCK IT.
I’d go into more, but I don’t wanna spoil it. Not that there’s much to spoil. I mean, it’s hardly a monster movie at all. It’s about the kids and their relationships, but shee-it, it’s hardly enough to hang shit on.
DICKBLOOD: I’m sure The Berg just chuckled when he read the script, muttered ‘fucking idiot’, and logged back onto his e-trade account to do some fucking day trading.
There’s even an evacuation created by the military to divert peoples’ attention from the alien visitor, just like CEOTTC. FUCK IT.
JJ was very careful to make sure we KNEW we were in the 70s, bashing us over the head with songs by ELO, Blondie, the Cars, the Knack. I mean, all great songs, but very ham-fisted. There’s even an original Sony Walkman. Oh, and there’s a reference to Rubik’s cube, which to be fair was invented in the early 70s, but we all know they didn’t catch on until like 80-82. They certainly weren’t a household name in ’79. Except maybe in JJ’s house.
If you need me over the next week, I’ll be right here at my PC—watching Super 8’s RT metascore drop from 80 to about 45 where it belongs.
Did I mention you can TELL it’s the 70s? There’s an original John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN poster on a bedroom wall. And DAWN OF THE DEAD. And there’s a newscast about fears over Three Mile Island having a meltdown. And there’s a Tandy hand-held electronic game. BECAUSE IT’S THE 70s!!!
Granted, that Cheerios box on top of the fridge wasn’t the packaging they used back then. JJ should have just gone with Wheaties. But hey, that’s not what the Brody family had for breakfast in JAWS 2. And even though JAWS 2 was not directed by Spielberg, the first one was—and Jeanneau Scwartz is close enough to ‘Berg for JJ as far as cereal choices go.
Did I mention Breen, the gas station clerk? He can’t hear the commotion outside because he’s listening to “Heart of Glass” by Blondie. Fair enough. But you’re telling me he can’t feel the vibration of a CAR SLAMMING INTO THE PAVEMENT from 20 feet off the ground RIGHT OUTSIDE HIS DOOR? Whatever. Parallel Lines is a great album, but you deserve to die if you aren’t hip to your environs, dude.
And hey, back to Close Encounters. In Super 8, whenever the alien is around, the power goes out and appliances go all crazy. Just like CEOTTC. This all amounts to nothing—but there it is.
The kids in the movie are funny, if cliché (there’s the fat one, the one with braces, the skinny one…NO, NOT A BLACK ONE—ARE YOU CRAZY?!). There are a few good laughs, and the one F-bomb is well-timed. But I had trouble remembering any of their names, and their relationships don’t amount to much. The two main kids are buddies haggling over who’s gonna direct their Super-8 zombie movie. Fatty is supposed to be the director, but the “normal” kid takes over with his camera after Fatty’s is broken during the big train wreck. I don’t know about you, but even back in ’79 not every fucking house had a Super-8 camera. Certainly not the kind that captured sound with the images. JJ kind of gets inside their heads—there is some authentic-sounding dialogue, and the Fat Kid admits he’s sore with Normal Kid because hey, HE LIKED THE PRETTY GIRL FIRST, and it HURTS to know SHE likes Normal Kid more than him, because he’s FAT.
The way they go about making their silly zombie flick is amusing. Fatty is always capitalizing on opportunities to up his “production value” by rolling camera when, say, a train passes by or the military rolls down main street. Because you can USE that stuff. I bought all that shit; it’s how I used to think. I still do, some days. The scene on the train platform is great, with Skinny Kid pretending like he’s talking to someone on the phone in the background as Tall Geeky Kid and Pretty Girl do their husband-wife routine. Come the end of the movie (the REAL movie, Super-8), we get to see the finished product (during the credits). But we’ve been down this road in SON OF RAMBOW.
There’s also heavy emphasis on 70s lingo, or what JJ seems to think was 70s lingo. Accordingly, the adjective “mint” is used about 143 times. There are also references to “freaks” and people “flipping out.” Totally.
I enjoyed Super-8 as the spools unraveled before me, but I kept getting the queasy feeling—especially at the end—that I’d seen all these things before in other places. Because I have. Say, did you see MONSTERS last year? That gas station scene was a little better. Fuck.
The Super-8 monster is simply MISUNDERSTOOD, you see? He’s probably sad that he scared all the dogs away (another phenomenon that’s never explained). He’s also HUNGRY, and he eats people. But if you just talk to it nicely and tell him it’s okay to have a bad day, he’ll put you down and definitely NOT eat you. Maybe he’ll even share his Reeses Pieces. Oh wait—those weren’t available in the 70s. But poor, poor monster. He can make mechanical objects float through the air and assemble themselves magically, but I guess Lillian, Ohio is short on circular saw-record players with which to fucking phone home.
What’s-his-face from Jackson’s KING KONG and that alter-reality show a decade ago is pretty good as the dad, but he’s not given much to work with. His shaky relationship with his son boils down to “I’ve got you” at the end. Seriously. Just those words and a hug, and that makes everything better. Ahhh, but at least dad gets to elbow an M.P. in the face. That was a choice takedown. But when he shoots the gas tank to make it blow up, he forgets to say, “Smile you son of a bitch.” I’m SURE JJ had that written down.