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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
Click poster to enlarge
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Elle Fanning
Kyle Chandler
Ron Eldard
Amanda Michalka
Noah Emmerich
Joel Courtney
Gabriel Basso
Zach Mills
.
Directors
JJ Abrams.
Screenwriters
JJ Abrams.
Running Time
111 minutes

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Super 8
The Monster Squad


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Plot
Sneaking out at night to shoot a pivotal scene in their homemade zombie film, Joe (Courtney) and his pals witness a dramatic train crash. Then the really weird stuff begins, and the boys realise something escaped from the wreckage...


Review
Super 8
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We need to talk about Steven. You might consider it grossly unfair to compare any director to one of the medium’s greatest exponents, but J. J. Abrams is asking for it. Not only has he persuaded Steven Spielberg to serve as producer on his latest film — encouragingly neither sequel, prequel, nor attempt to deodorise a stale franchise — but the very film the tenderfoot filmmaker has written and directed is a fan letter to the spirit of early Spielberg. The kind of cinematic telepathy, touching hearts and minds, that gave us Jaws, Close Encounters and E. T.. This is less covering The Beatles than growing a mop top, strapping on a Hofner bass and channelling an irresistibly catchy synthesis of R&B, rock ’n’ roll and Liverpudlian charisma.

Over the next 112 minutes, a motherless boy and his staunch gang of misshapen buddies (a Bash Street arrangement of cute, thin, fat, clever and pyromaniac) will face the great questions of life: how to talk to girls, how to get production values on your DIY zombie flick, and what to do when a despondent alien is deposited, care of an elaborate derailment, in your backyard. As set in 1979, an age crystallised as Spielberg’s imaginary playground. Fathers will struggle to fathom their mooncalf offspring, while confused townsfolk are shipped off in school buses amid a faceless military lockdown. There’s even a POV shot from the creature’s perspective, parting bushes to gaze upon the small-town setting, its jewelled streetlights flaring fetchingly in the lens. Prosecution rests.

To cut the film a significant break — and it’s a strong movie — if you’re going to homage, why not follow in the sneaker-steps of the master? A faithfully rearticulated sense of wonder coats Super 8 like varnish — an old-fashioned need to strike emotional chords over the modern urge to plunge headlong into excitement at all costs. A personal blockbuster in honour of the greatest of all personal blockbustermakers.

So we also need to talk about J. J.. Super 8 is to a degree autobiographical (about the whole alien visitation thing, he remains tight-lipped). He was that junior filmmaker with a chunky Super 8, brought up on Spielberg and Lucas, just as you know these kids have gobbled up Star Wars and Close Encounters (and snuck into a few Romeros). He transplants his New Jersey youth to a blue-collar Ohio town named Lillian significantly on the down (a chime of modern concerns), where Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) still struggles with the death of his adoring mother in a mill accident. His father, the town’s stoic deputy (Kyle Chandler), is faring worse, flinching from his son’s grief. A familiar refrain for anyone who caught Lost and Star Trek (or E. T.) — the legacy of the absentee parent.

Joel finds solace spending the summer goofing with his schlubby comrades. Led by bumptious, trumpet-voiced ‘director’, Charles (Riley Griffiths), they are intent on making their own film within the film: a nutty, lovable zombie skit shot on the eponymous camera, with homemade make-up care of Jack’s obsession with painting figurines and movie-model kits. His room is a junkyard of ’70s geek clutter, but these are geeks from a pre-internet age, happy to draw deep on fresh air, unsure growing up offers them a whole lot. The pressure, laid down by Spielberg’s unyielding template, was to find regular boys, gummy with youth, but enlivened by the camera.

Thankfully, the kids are more than alright. They’re fabulous: yearningly fresh-faced and infantile, effortlessly colliding with the Brownian motion of a boyhood of in-jokes, flash sulks and bike-rides through the balmy sunlight of possibility (a mood as much redolent of Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me as Spielberg). En masse, they stand in tremulous awe at Elle Fanning’s Alice (spookily reminiscent of Erika Eleniak in E. T.), who has agreed to co-star in their endeavours, revealing a startling ability to, like, act. She’s also a precious commodity for Abrams: the budding romance between Joe and Alice gives the film its heartbeat. Both are caught in the slipstream of wounded fathers, Joel’s tragedy movingly intertwined with Alice’s fragmenting family.

Is it significant that Super 8 is a film without mothers? Nothing here carries the emotional wallop of E. T.’s Dee Wallace finding a literal alien in her home, her reaction overwhelmingly human — to wrench her son away from the unknown. To protect. We are yanked beyond the bounds of science-fiction by the force of maternal instinct. Super 8 never relinquishes its movieness. Where Spielberg mingled the extraordinary with a verifiable suburbia, Abrams works at one remove, locating the extraordinary in Spielbergia. The magic comes lovingly pre-packaged. Idealised. We obediently bask in its glow, but nothing startles us.

As Abrams has explained, these boys (and girl) only teeter on the precipice of teenhood, yet to make the plunge. Awakening to the female of the species is still chastely above board; sex only sensed like an alien presence. Of all the monsters arriving in boxcars, puberty could be the most terrifying of all. For now, sneaking off on location to Lillian’s ramshackle station, the boys (and girl) will witness a tumultuous, CG-exaggerated train crash, their toppled camera catching sight of an escaping bogeyman.

The director has also been honest about how the coming-of-age and coming-of-alien storylines were separate ideas, later melded together. And the film never manages to shake its bi-part origins. Alongside the escapades of the boys (and girl), Abrams drip-feeds his weirdness: a noticeboard teeming with news of lost dogs, strange reflections in pools of petroleum. Until the very end, we are granted no greater glimpse of the alien than something malevolent lurking in the bushes, picking off irrelevant yokels one by one. It might as well be smoke. Or an ill-tempered Great White.

Too soon the drip feed turns into a cascade and science-fiction floods both town and film, washing away the mystery and much of the charm. The military, led by a granite-faced Noah Emmerich, aren’t fooling anybody. And with the Earth-shattering revelation that aliens are not only real but intent on ridding the neighbourhood of both its population and electrical goods, relationship issues, or finishing your zombie epic, surely become secondary concerns.

Worse than the creature, convention rears its ugly head. The boys (and girl) are required to clatter about like The Goonies, Abrams slipping gears into B-movie short-cuts. And while intriguingly Tolkieny in close-up, the alien turns out a confusing concept: evil yet wronged, beastly yet advanced, enigmatic yet possessed of a convenient telepathy to circumvent narrative snarl-ups. We feel nothing for it, neither fear nor compassion — a visitor from Planet MacGuffin.

Moreover, the fact it has escaped from government skulduggery (like Paul pruned of his Earthly drollery) is a dead end. There is nothing the kids discover that the scowling authorities are not already in on. Apart from a sketchy rescue mission, they are bystanders in a plot that has crash-landed from a different movie. No matter how much CG-alien action we get for our money, we miss just watching these kids grow up. In this, at least, Abrams is true to his mentor. The humans are the most awesome special effect.


Verdict
It’s nowhere close to E. T. — what is? — but amongst the hullabaloo of summer, Super 8 is something to cherish: a beautifully made homage to better times, and better movies.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Super 8
Empire Star Rating

NOT E.T BUT STILL BRILLIANT!!!!

I don't want to be unfair about the film because to me it's more like 'the goonies' meets 'cloverfield' then meets E.T and the enjoyment of it is just fantastic everyone of these kids you can relate to at least one of them. compared to E.T it's a four star but as a film on it's own it's five ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by *Dyn0mitedeck* at 10:15, 04 October 2013 | Report This Post


NOT E.T BUT STILL BRILLIANT!!!!

I don't want to be unfair about the film because to me it's more like 'the goonies' meets 'cloverfield' then meets E.T and the enjoyment of it is just fantastic everyone of these kids you can relate to at least one of them. compared to E.T it's a four star but as a film on it's own it's five ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by *Dyn0mitedeck* at 10:15, 04 October 2013 | Report This Post


NOT E.T BUT STILL BRILLIANT!!!!

I don't want to be unfair about the film because to me it's more like 'the goonies' meets 'cloverfield' then meets E.T and the enjoyment of it is just fantastic everyone of these kids you can relate to at least one of them. compared to E.T it's a four star but as a film on it's own it's five ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by *Dyn0mitedeck* at 10:14, 04 October 2013 | Report This Post


Super 8 is everything brilliant about J.J Abrams and Steven Spielberg rolled into one. It has the real feel of the period and has traditional styles which are endangered nowadays. Super 8 is a masterpiece whoever may argue. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by samzucca at 16:41, 15 April 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8

Need to watch this again. Watched over Christmas and can't remember much about it other than the unnecessarily long shot of the necklace at the end and the kid 'letting go' which might as well have been written on the bottom of a frying pan and spange me in the face in 3D. ... More

Posted by UTB at 13:12, 08 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8

L: Shifty Bench That's the main problem I have with the ending too. S BELOWt's like we are meant to feel glad the man-eating monster got away. Doesn't matter that it can now bring its mates down to the buffet planet, apparently. Loved the film but the ending was rubbish. hat I took from it was that the alien was lonely and wanted some sort of emotional connection. Hence the amassed collection of personal artifacts. And the actions of the young lad appealed to the alien's better cons... More

Posted by Emyr Thy King at 21:31, 07 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Film!

L: Bighousewill Really worth a watch very good indeed very well made. loves that lens flare.acting all round and great characters. sp; Just got round to watching it on this rainy BH today and I have to say it didn't live up to my expectations. I also found the forementioned lens flare very very iritating, at some points in the film it almost took up a third of the film. I too thought there were elements of The Goonies with the interplay of the kids, who were all good, which I r... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MuckyMuckMan at 19:17, 07 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Film!

L: Bighousewill Really worth a watch very good indeed very well made. loves that lens flare.acting all round and great characters. sp; Just got round to watching it on this rainy BH today and I have to say it didn't live up to my expectations. I also found the forementioned lens flare very very iritating, at some points in the film it almost took up a third of the film. I too thought there were elements of The Goonies with the interplay of the kids, who were all good, which I r... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MuckyMuckMan at 19:17, 07 May 2012 | Report This Post


Super Lame

Why bother trying to capture the 80s spirit of the Goonies or E.T. when it's all so ... boring? The kids are not bad actors and it's well made but who cares when it drags so badly? I didn't connect with any of the melodrama and had no idea if the alien was supposed to be sympathetic or not when it's killing people at random. Horror or adventure? Pick one, don't just choose some grey middle area. Total waste after Star Trek was so much fun. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rich at 18:34, 03 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Outstanding Super 8

Whoever posted the "ET with lens flare" poster on another thread summed this up well. How fake and unnecessarily intrusive was that??! (I haven't checked if it IS fake but it sure looks it!) It's a kids film, but a good kids film. Nothing 'blow your mind' but a good old fashioned yarn that's entertaining and not taxing... And then there's that ending...dear o dear, why did they have to give it such a mawkish conclusion? ... More

Posted by Vitamin F at 14:36, 03 April 2012 | Report This Post


Outstanding Super 8

Wonderful surprise. Moving, scary, funny homage to Speilberg. Well done film. Where is the Oscar attention for this film? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:50, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


Outstaning Super 8

Wonderful surprise. Moving, scary, funny homage to Speilberg. Well done film. Where is the Oscar attention for this film? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 22:50, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


good...

it was good... but not that good. they sholdnt have gave the monster emotions, or even showed its face for that matter... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jackcarlin18 at 15:47, 22 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8 SPOILERS IN POST!

Do you honsetly think Abrams had any notion of that thematic being subtle? ... More

Posted by JohnChard at 20:39, 15 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8 SPOILERS IN POST!

L: JohnChard SPOILERS IN POST! I adore the ending, crowns it all off nicely. It's about letting go t was a good ending, except for the 'letting go' theme, which couldn't have been less subtle if they'd have written it on their arse cheeks and all pulled a mooney at the end. ... More

Posted by UTB at 17:59, 15 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8 SPOILERS IN POST!

SPOILERS IN POST!       I adore the ending, crowns it all off nicely. It's about letting go, new beginnings, the monster going home is very significant and we should feel glad that it is finally going home after years of being held captive by man. Saying the creature might return with its mates is irrelevant, it's going home where it belongs, and the two motherless families, in their own homes, can now rebuild a new life. The necklace metaphor is sheer clas... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JohnChard at 17:47, 15 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8

The father/son relationship didn't work for me, seemed very cliched (although that may be intentional). The interaction between Alice and Joe was probably the only thing that kept me interested. ... More

Posted by Tech_Noir at 17:40, 15 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8

L: Shifty Bench That's the main problem I have with the ending too. S BELOWt's like we are meant to feel glad the man-eating monster got away. Doesn't matter that it can now bring its mates down to the buffet planet, apparently. Loved the film but the ending was rubbish. urprisingly that issue flew-way-over my head. See I was focusing more on the Father and Son relationship,but yes your right.How are we suposed to feel towards the Alien? Glad he broke free but he also killed/ate... More

Posted by DARKO_DONNIE_DONUT at 17:11, 15 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8

That's the main problem I have with the ending too. S BELOWt's like we are meant to feel glad the man-eating monster got away. Doesn't matter that it can now bring its mates down to the buffet planet, apparently. Loved the film but the ending was rubbish. ... More

Posted by Shifty Bench at 15:26, 15 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8

SPOILERS Good first half, predictable second. Elle Fanning was amazing throughout. As noted in another post I would have preferred it if there was no alien/military, etc. just a fun coming of age story about these kids. Also I couldn't tell if we were meant to feel sorry for the alien or not. Towards the end I was losing interest but was the alien eating those humans? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Tech_Noir at 15:11, 15 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8

An excellent film,one that is steeped in nostalgic 80's and early 90's classic family films. The action scenes were great,the story was solid and above all the acting was extremely good,especially from the kids (once again american kid actors run the rule over there british counterparts ie Harry Potter,The Dr Who tv series,Attack The Block etc). is a super film.Must see. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by DARKO_DONNIE_DONUT at 13:15, 14 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8

This film was excellent, it had suspense, charm, excitement. I loved the characters. An updated version of ET. Lovely summer flick.! ... More

Posted by sugarbabe1978 at 08:36, 06 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: okay but over-hyped

ly enjoyed this movie as did my dad and mom, the creature was great and as were the acting of the human actors especially the four children and the girl, great acting from the actor from king kong as joe's father. The action scenes were great and their were some great laugh out moments from the kids themselves my favorite scene was the projectile vomiting from the kid with the specs in the back of the military bus. But was surprised that I know like something that JJ.Abrams has done and not m... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by anakin solo at 18:40, 05 January 2012 | Report This Post


a big dissapointment

it was classic style filmaking but it nowhere near met the hype, it wasnt a scary monster movie, it wasnt a goonies thrilling adventure, it wasnt emotional or moving. just a movie about some kids, albeit fleshed out kids, who find a monster thats not much of a threat in a small town we've seen many times before. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mclane1 at 18:45, 03 January 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Excellent

I'm beginning to think that I watched a different film to everyone else... this was poorly acted (with the exception of the young girl), badly scripted, Americana tosh. There was nothing in this film to hold my attention (after the train crash which it would seem used up the bulk of the budget, leaving nothing for everything else) and there was audible groans in the room at the disgustingly cheesy ending. I am giving it one star because we made it to the end, but that was partly bec... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by narmour at 12:28, 30 December 2011 | Report This Post


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