J. J. Abrams has done it again. In 2009, he wowed viewers with the spectacular Star Trek, and now, two years later, he has given audiences an exciting, edge-of-your-seat thriller that will surely be a crowd pleaser.
Set in the late 1970s, Super 8 follows a handful of middle school kids who are busy shooting a movie in the quaint town they call home, Lillian, Ohio. One of the kids, a young boy named Joe, is still reeling from the sudden death of his mother and often finds himself on his own because of his dad’s job as a police officer. A series of strange events begins when Joe and his friends Charles, Cary, Preston, Alice, and Martin witness a train crash when filming a scene for their movie. Shortly after this, people and pets go missing, sparking a local police and military investigation. But there is a secret behind the mysterious train crash, and the group of friends must uncover the mystery if they want to save their town and their loved ones.
The acting here is phenomenal. The young leads, especially Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney, couldn’t have done a better job. Fanning, who plays Alice Dainard, holds her own against a cast consisting mainly of males, and in some scenes surpasses her costars. Courtney, who plays the protagonist, Joe Lamb, does a solid job portraying the character we are supposed to like and sympathize with at the same time. The supporting cast, including Riley Griffiths as the aspiring filmmaker, Charles, and Ryan Lee as Cary, do a superb job as well. The younger members of the cast have a special onscreen chemistry, and the companionship their characters show really goes a long way in developing them as characters and accurately depicting how young boys interact with each other.
While this film has many strengths, it also has a few weaknesses. The final act of the movie is very cliché, and I feel that a team like Abrams and Spielberg could have come up with a better way to tie everything together. The first three quarters of the film are incredibly entertaining, but after the kids figure out who, or what, the culprit is and why the military wants it so bad, I knew exactly what was going to happen. The biggest issue I have with this film is the ending. It is a fitting ending, but for some reason it left me hanging and I am still not quite satisfied with how it all turned out. I won’t say any more, but I am almost certain that I am not alone when I say that the ending left a lot to be desired.
Overall, Super 8 is fantastic summer entertainment. It isn’t incredibly original, but I still found it a fun and engaging experience. There are a few intense chases, many explosions, and a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. The storytelling pulls viewers in and keeps them entertained until the credits roll. If the last thirty minutes or so had been stronger, I would have enjoyed it even more.
While not perfect, Super 8 still makes for a fun trip to the movie theater. 3.5/5 stars