I want so badly to love Super 8 whole-heartedly because it had the kind of marketing campaign that actually intrigues people to catch a movie, and that is never a bad thing.
JJ Abrams' track record has also earned him credibility (TV's Lost, Cloverfield - yes, I thought it was awesome, Star Trek), and there is that Spielberg brand-name to bank on, too.
But what is holding me back, then?
So far, two camps have emerged after watching the sci-fi thriller, which opened at #1 in the US over the past weekend. Some are saying it is a mesh-up of The Goonies, E.T. and basically every other Steven Spielberg coming-of-age film in the past.
On the other side of the fence, however, stands people who praised the film for the homage it pays, and that yada-yada about the nostalgic factor.
Personally, I feel that Super 8 is not the definitive sci-fi flick the mysterious trailers and marketing posters set it out to be. But it is no denying that it is one darn good summer movie with more good things to be said than there are flaws to be nit-picked.
If you haven't already known, the film centres around a group of teenagers who were out filming a zombie movie one night and witnessed a disastrous train accident. The wreck was caught on their Super 8 film, and therein lies some thrilling answers to some strange happenings in their little Ohio town.
From the opening act, the director sets the tone right with the untimely death of someone close to the protagonist. Within that short period of time, the cinematography establishes the era with the sub-urban houses of a small American town, and the screenplay was quick with characterizations, so that the story can move towards the fateful train crash without delay.
But here lies a big problem with the film. As suspenseful as some of the scenes were (audience members with weak hearts might jump once or twice), it never really got to the point of thrills as promised by the secretive trailers. With Steven Spielberg as producer, one would expect the sense of awe as shown by E.T., and although one scene involving an overturned bus did bring back memories of Spielberg's classic Jurassic Park, it was neither as scary nor exciting for the viewers.
However, is JJ Abrams really going for a full-fledged alien movie? One cannot help but feel that the film has more of a character driven-plot, ala Korea's The Host, instead of the soulless Battle: Los Angeles.
And with that direction, Super 8 succeeds.
The young cast carries the entire show, with two of the leads shining the brightest. Joel Courtney stars as the young Joe Lamb, who oscillates between bravery and innocence with breathless ease, making his character as a kid who has to handle some screwed-up domestic issues entirely believable.
His sweet, budding romance with Alice Dainard (played by Elle Fanning, absolutely stealing every scene she's in) anchors the plot well because of their likeable chemistry, and the rest of the Goonies-like youngsters round up the fun-pack with their strange little eccentricities.
While admittedly not the most original movie of its genre to emerge (for that, see Oscar Best Picture nominee District 9), you cannot help but enjoy Super 8. Is it because it brings us back to the time where movies are supposed to entertain us with a good story, characters and perhaps a pepper of special effects here and there?
To me, the film has the universal appeal of a summer blockbuster, but it contains a pure heart so rarely found in (or reflected in) movies nowadays. Now that is something I can't really compain about.
P.S. Stay during the credit roll for the amusing movie-within-a-movie.
Current Tomatometer: 83%
My Rating: 3.5/5
That's all about Super 8!
OMG I can't believe I only have 5 days left for my Taiwan exchange! Gonna miss this place so much =(
But I'm kinda missing Singapore loads, too, so I can't wait to go home as well.
Take care, people!