Super 8

Rating: ★★★★☆

“Super 8” is a sweet and thoughtful love letter to the art of filmmaking, but its advertisements has cunningly disguised it as a monster-infested thriller. Though elements of a sci-fi movie are found here, “Super 8” shines the most when its settles down for simple storytelling, which has unfortunately become an uncommon service from big-budgeted, modern-day Hollywood.

It is summer break for the students of the small town of Lillian, Ohio, and a pack of youngsters set out to make a zombie movie of their own. The director is a brisk and lively Charles, who commands his cast and crew as if he’s paying them in return for their cooperation. But Charles’ allowance isn’t what these kids want. For Cary, he’s just awaiting for the opportunity to blow something up with his firecrackers. For Joe and Alice, this project provides a temporary escape from their lives at home. Their dads, whose partners are no longer by their side, are emotionally distant.

With an ambitious auteur like Charles in command, their movie will not be easy. As early teenagers, they are bound by limitations set by the law, and their parents. These kids will have to be more creative and resourceful. This need for extra effort is demonstrated when Alice uses her dad’s car without permission so they could get to their next shooting location: a remote railway station.

Everything seems to be in place, and just before they could start shooting, they notice that a train is about to pass by. Charles identifies the train as great production value. The scene can go on without it, but its presence will make the moment more believable, more entertaining. But then, like in most Michael Bay films, something goes horribly wrong on the set. The train is violently derailed. Lots of heavy containers fly through the air, but movie magic allows our heroes to survive.

One container starts to get hammered from the inside out. What’s within it, I shall not reveal. In this review, let’s just call it, The Threat. During the film’s first hour, The Threat remains hidden. We are not even teased with a glimpse of it. However, we feel its effects. Dogs run away from Lillian. The power starts to fluctuate. People begin to disappear. Even car engines and electric appliances are stolen. (This Threat, it is very stealthy.) J.J. Abrams, writer and director, wisely uses The Threat as a tool for suspense, and not just a scary face that can smash lots of stuff.

Citizens start to scramble in panic, but the kids investigate this mystery. Once again, their age has restricted their actions, and that’s a good thing for the audience. Most of the entertainment in “Super 8” comes from the innovations that our heroes must carry out in order to overcome The Threat. Because we are blessed with such radiant characters, The Threat merely functions as, how should I say this, production value.

For its genre, “Super 8” is an innovation itself. Its choice of heroes makes it engaging, because they are required to perform beyond their comfort zone, and their curfew.

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Super 8