Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Review: SUPER 8

OK, so you probably know the drill by now: I've written up a review of J.J. Abrams' new film, Super 8. The review in its entirety is over here, at Arts Hub, but here's an extract to whet your appetite:

Like the young protagonists in Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me (1986), the main characters in Super 8 are in their last days of innocence before puberty sends them raging into adolescence. Their precarious position, on the cusp between childhood and their teenage years, means a very specific – and deliberate – tone permeates the film; an awareness that something threatening, powerful, and irresistible is lurking just out of sight.

This ‘puberty-as-monster’ subplot is by no means original – it’s a key theme of The Lost Boys (1987) for example – but here it’s played out subtly, more as a mood or a motif than as an overt theme of the film. Other films Super 8 references include The Goonies (1985) and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982), but while the film is clearly crafted as a homage to the movies of Abrams’ childhood, it is simultaneously contemporary and engaging, playing to the sensibilities of modern 12-14 year olds as much as to their nostalgic parents.

Modern references abound – such as a scene evoking post 9/11 New York, when Joe posts a message about his missing dog on a local notice board, only for the camera to pan back and reveal his flyer is just one among dozens – alongside obvious homages to even earlier horror films, most notably Christian Nyby’s Cold War classic, The Thing From Another World (1951).

Performances are strong – particularly Elle Fanning, who is exceptional – and the film looks fantastic, though Abrams still can’t seem to resist an excess of lens flare in several key scenes, which some will find distracting. The film’s ending borders on the mawkish, but just holds back, while its evocation of period and obvious delight in referencing its cinematic forbears sometimes feels a touch contrived, and consequently occasionally distances the viewer instead of allowing one to be swept up in the drama...

So, that's my take on the film - what did you think of it?

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