With perhaps the most spectacular train wreck in film history, director J.J.Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg have all the elements for an all-time Science Fiction classic. Alas, in attempting to reach serious Sci-Fi fans and children, by wanting to be all things to all people, the movie tends to dissipate by serving two masters.
According to BoxOfficeMojo.com “Distributor Paramount Pictures’ exit polling indicated that 71 percent of Super 8‘s audience was over 25 years old and 56 percent was male”, which, I believe, proves my point. The June 4th critics screening – on a weekend when the June 3rd passing of actor James Arness was announced – was eerie as SUPER 8 has more elements from the Gunsmoke actor’s iconic Sci-Fi role as “The Thing” (From Another World) than Spielberg’s E.T. or Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. It’s too bad that Arness didn’t make a guest appearance in this…Kyle Chandler (TV’s Early Edition; films The Day The Earth Stood Still and King Kong) plays Jackson Lamb (shades of John Cusack as Jackson Curtis in 2012) with veteran actor Bruce Greenwood also in for some of the fun…the vets holding up an array of new faces, which seems to be the formula these days…and a good one for establishing new actors via Sci-Fi vehicles…think Christopher Reeve.
But it is the age of the young filmmakers that is annoying. These teenagers come off as too smart for the age they are supposed to play, the producers wanting the wild-eyed enthusiasm of youth and the cleverness of college students. The film’s biggest drawback is that it should have had a group transplanted from the Blair Witch Project making a movie and inadvertently filming classified information. This is such a simple formula, a no-brainer, really, and the film suffers because it truly appears as if the film studio wanted to capture both the older crowd and the Saturday matinee kids…two worlds that just don’t fit together. Seeing that males 25 and older are attending this film with some terrific moments in it, well…the magical, monumental scenes would be better served with a crew that Jodie Foster assembled in CONTACT for her starsearch…and Kyle Chandler’s acting skills can’t save him from being an annoyed parent…it just doesn’t wash. Still, the sets straight from the original Invaders from Mars (not the cloying remake) and the hats off to some of the classic films of the genre make this a good film that could have been great.
On a budget of $50 million it doesn’t have as much of a mountain to climb as X-Men First Class (budgeted at over triple Super 8 with approx $160 million)…and perhaps a serious sequel is in order…let the kids grow up and come back in 7 or 8 years to go looking for E.T. again. SUPER 8 almost makes the grade…but it will entertain and works in spite of itself.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.