Okay, so it’s been over a month since I last posted.
As well as moving house and being busy with lots of work, I haven’t allowed myself much time to write – but I have, of course, been watching lots of films…
But enough with the excuses – I’m getting back on to this writing ting!
So a while ago I watched Super 8 – directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Stephen Spielberg. It’s about aliens kept secretly by the military discovered by a group of children in small town America yadda yadda…
So far, so familiar – it’s basically E.T. but with more of a bland Cloverfield type monster instead of the cuddly little brown one we all know and love.
First the good stuff - the child actors, mostly unknowns and quite rightly what the film mostly focuses on, are on the whole very effective in their roles - capturing the essence of childhood camaraderie and innocent adventure. Elle Fanning is a particular standout, following on the family tradition of being able to act with a wisdom that belies her young age.
The train crash at the beginning of the film is another highlight – one of the most visceral ever committed to film – it needs to be seen to be believed.
Now unfortunately, the bad stuff - my main gripe with this film is that it tries to be too much. Although Abrams is usually competent at juggling multiple themes across various genres, it seems this film is trying to be too many types of film at once. Is it a science fiction/monster movie mashup? Is it a nostalgic coming of age period piece drama? Is it about the magic of cinema and how the film making process bonds and inspires?
The truth is, it’s all of these things, but at the same time not enough focus is given to each, resulting in something that feels distinctly half-baked in its presentation. The lack of story focus casts doubt onto who the audience for this film is. There is too much violence and swearing for young kids, not substantial enough for adults (too many of the monster kills happen off screen for example).
The greatest potential of this film is in its Stand By Me focus of the kids’ group dynamic – just coupling this with the amateur filmmaking strand of the story (and as a period piece) would have made for a good enough movie – in fact, the argument can be made that taking away the whole ‘alien’ element of the story would have made the whole thing a much more focused and worthwhile film.
Because lets face it – Spielberg did that infinitely better with E.T and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which this film is clearly wants to be.
A couple of technical things that bothered me too – Abrams! Enough with the lens flare! Although people complained about its overuse in Star Trek, at least it fitted in with the otherworldly future-tech aesthetic of the shiny new rebooted Enterprise deck. But a film set in 1979? It just seems way out of place and jarring.
The sound mixing was also a bit haphazard – really quiet speaking parts followed by deafeningly loud action scenes will have you constantly reaching to adjust the volume control on the remote. Coupled with the occasional bout of unconvincing CGI the film is sometimes hard to lose yourself in.
What this all contributes to is a very so-so film. Not terrible by any means but just kind of bland. It’s kind of a disappointment when the amateur movie the kids make (which is shown in full during the end credits) displays more charm than the entire film can muster.
5 July 2012