seen @ Green Acres Cinemas, Valley Stream NY
A few years ago, the world learned the story of the group of Mississippi kids who spent years filming a homemade remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I had the privilege of seeing it at the Anthology Film Archives. I cannot begin to imagine the level of dedication necessary for a group of kids to accomplish something like this, especially when you consider that this was made long before modern technology would've made it much easier (to say nothing of the devotion to the original film itself).
It's a level of fandom that often gets mocked - or at least used to - but now that geeks have transcended their stereotypes and become fashionable, it has received a great deal more respect, as it should. I still find it amazing to consider that, culturally speaking, the geeks have won. The ubiquity of geekdom is something I've touched on before, but it's important to remember that this is a relatively recent phenomena. Those of us of a certain generation likely still remember what it felt like to be mocked for liking things like monster movies or model kit making...
... like the kids in Super 8. Joe and Charles and friends are presented as a clique unto themselves; we don't see them with other school kids, though whether that's a result of ostracism isn't clear. Their zombie movie-making hobby is looked down upon by adults and older siblings, but this isn't a significant plot point. By looking at their dedication to their craft, it's easy to imagine them growing up to become professional filmmakers. I love how Charles takes unexpected occurrences and incorporates them into his film, such as the train heading towards the station that kick-starts Super 8's plot.
Much has been written of how director JJ Abrams conceived of Super 8 as a tribute to the plucky-kids-in-peril movies from the 80s. For most of the movie, it's very much in that tradition, although Abrams' penchant for excess is once again on full display here. Then comes the climax and rather abrupt ending. What was that? The alien's been on a rampage throughout the town, it's got the kids trapped in an underground cavern, it's about to eat Joe or whatever, and then... I dunno. I get that Joe misses his recently dead mother, and that the alien made some kind of empathic connection with him because of that, but how was that enough for the alien to suddenly stop his rampage, create a new spaceship and skedaddle just like that? It happened so quick and ended so suddenly, I couldn't believe it - and it ruined what was shaping up to be a decent movie to that point.
Is it time to admit that the emperor has no clothes? Abrams is no M. Night Shyamalan, but he's not the genius auteur everyone makes him out to be, either. Just as people were willing to overlook Star Trek's flaws, I get the same feeling here, because his films hit you at an emotional, gut level that's hard to ignore. He's excellent at developing characters and putting them in stressful situations, and because you grow to care about them, you want to root for them. But his third acts fall apart from the weight of all that excess I mentioned earlier. Just as Star Trek was two-thirds of an entertaining film, so Super 8 was three-quarters of an entertaining film, which I suppose is an improvement.