Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Super 8 **1/2

Super 8 is J.J. Abrams' weakest film because it lacks the imagination that allowed him to breathe new life into the Mission Impossible and Star Trek franchises.  The movie plays as a compendium of moments from vintage Spielberg films, including E.T., The Goonies and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but it never breaks free from this reverence for its source material.  The first half is infectious for anyone who grew up loving these kinds of movies and the youthful cast is very good; from Elle Fanning all the way down to Gabriel Basso, whose character Martin bears an uncanny resemblance to Cory Haim in Lucas -- coincidence?  Eventually the thrill of identifying these allusions wears thin and the movie's hollow centre is revealed.  Like so many other recent mainstream movies, Super 8 plays like a movie about other movies, rather than a movie about real people facing real problems.  The brilliance of the early films was grounded in Spielberg's ability to use extraordinary situations to reveal something universal about ordinary lives and the choices each of us makes.  Abrams' film works hard to generate this connection, but it isn't emotionally moving.  Kids who are new to the genre will enjoy the film.  It's fun to watch and the action set-pieces don't assault you; they have a pace and structure that is sorely lacking in modern summer blockbusters.  I just can't bring myself to fully get behind a movie that "celebrates storytelling" by referencing somebody else's stories.  The script should have been better.