Super 8 - 6.5/10
(potential mild spoilers)
Another movie I went into without knowing anything about it, although I gather it was quite hyped up. Thankfully I missed that – I hate hyped up things, they rarely live up to it. So, without the hype, my judgement of this movie is ‘good.’ Not amazing, but by no means bad or even average. Not disappointing, as I had no expectations to begin with. I enjoyed it. But not quite as much as The Losers. So that’s why this is sitting at 6.5 instead of 7. Good, but not quite really good.
On the surface, Super 8 looks like a kind of ‘scarier E.T.’ A group of children are filming an amateur zombie movie at a railway station when a train crashes and something emerges from the wreckage. (The kids are filming on an old Super 8 camera which gives the film its name, but this is not a found-footage movie. As far as I’m concerned that’s a good thing, but there may be some folks out there who are disappointed, thinking this is ‘Cloverfield for Kids’.) The alien then proceeds to terrorise the small town, kidnapping people and taking bits of metal with it in order to rebuild its spaceship. Everyone is afraid of it, the army is hunting it, but the alien just wants to go home.
That’s where the E.T. similarities stop. The alien is not adorable, the children barely get involved with it, and it is quite capable of getting home by itself without a little boy’s help. This isn’t a bad thing; I didn’t particularly want to see another E.T, and depicting the alien as a dangerous creature as well as a vulnerable one was a nice touch. Just because it’s the victim and the audience can feel sorry for it, doesn’t mean it also has to be harmless. It was like a very large, very ugly tiger, just trying to get away from the men with the guns. If you get in its way, you probably will get clawed.
Unfortunately, at points it seemed like the film wasn’t quite sure what it wanted to be. The children’s story seemed to be a little too separate from the alien’s story. The children’s story was brilliantly done; the kids’ acting was spot on and I could really feel everything that they were feeling. Their problems, broken families and unrealised dreams were interesting enough to be a film on its own. The alien’s story was also compelling. Where did it come from and what did the army/government want with it? Would it manage to get home, or would the men with the guns put it back in the lab? There was a strong sense of loss surrounding it. It could have told us so much, showed us new worlds and new ways of thinking, but the bad scientists (in typical bad scientist fashion) ruined it for us by trying to stick it full of holes. Two great plot concepts that, although slightly cliché nowadays, could have worked together so well, complimenting each other and allowing for a beautiful, touching ending. Well, I mean, E.T. did it.
This didn’t quite happen with this film. The alien felt too distant, like a natural disaster going on in the background in order to force people to run around a bit to break up the talking. The focus of the film was on the children, as I think it should be, but it might have been nice to have a bit more of the monster. The triumphant ending therefore fell a bit flat for me.
So this is what stopped it from being a great film that might go down as a classic, but it didn’t stop it from being a good film. The children’s story was always interesting, the alien’s appearances were enjoyable, and I’m glad I rented it. I also thought the whole film was shot beautifully, giving it a nostalgically-ethereal-sadhappy glow that complimented the experience. Personally, I thought the alien was a bit disappointing – the first brief shots of it were so promising, then it turned into some kind of cross between an ape and a Lord of the Rings troll – but at least the special effects were good. It was a believable apetroll. The best thing about the film is that it didn't need to resort to a lot of explosions to tell its story. Now, I have nothing against explosions, but it is nice to see a more thoughtful, understated alien film now and again. Then the explosions will be all the more satisfying next time.
And that sums it up. Perhaps nothing magical, but a good film nonetheless.