Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Super 8" Film Review

Warning :: Spoiler Alert :: Don't read if you haven't seen the flick yet!

Done went and saw Super 8 yesterday.  The story takes place in the summer of 1979, so it's a period piece.  Several dramas are interwoven into the story: that of the main character (the boy) and his relationship to his single-parent father; that of a girl and her single-parent father; that of the same girl and main-character boy; the young super-8 filmmaking crew; a covert military science-project gone awry; an extraterrestrial trying to find its way back home.  Perhaps a few more could be extrapolated, but those are the major ingredients.

Nice cinematography all around, from beginning to end.  The children are likable, the growed-ups are also likable (except for the bad guys), and the E.T. is also, in all eventuality, likable as well.  There is a stoner in the story who gets thrown in for good 70's-ambience measure, and he is not likable.  You want to like him, as that's what seems to be pushed to the audience, but the actor just doesn't pull it off. In my opinion he should've been an outrageous Spicoli-type character that once-upon-a-time put Sean Penn on the map, but no, no cigar ... nor joint.  It's a shame because that could've added more spice to the cast of characters, and unfortunately that one seemed like a throwaway, when in fact the dude had considerable screen time.

As for the E.T. science-project, well, it's the J.J. Abrams's Cloverfield motif all over again, viz., something goes horribly wrong and out of control; it wreaks havoc and thus the ongoing fable's moral is always crystal-clear.  Fine, agreed, it's a message that always needs to be "out there," but here's the thing.  There's a biologist in the story who claims to have made an internal connection with the E.T. that's been coldly mistreated by scientists, and that's where the audience is tipped off that the E.T. is not an extraterrestrial reptile gone apeshit, but does have a heart.  But the connection of biologist to E.T. is not explored any further, it's merely a device to indicate that the E.T. isn't what it appears to be. Personally that whole storyline left me wanting more.  There's a Spielbergian "I'll be right here" heart-to-heart moment in the end between main boy and E.T., somewhat briefly and implicitly, and it drives the point home (so to speak) well, as did the original E.T. flick from ten thousand light-years ago, that it's the humans who need to evolve to higher, intergalactic modes of compassion.  

Other than that, the movie ends with E.T. going home, and that's that.  I was somewhat aghast at the abruptness of it.  Why did the story end right there?  There was too much left to be inferred.  After all, there were all those dramas happening.  Sure, some of the open ends got closed, but the ending, to me, was narratively incorrect.  That's because the story was not about the E.T. going home, per se.  That's not all that was happening, so to end it there seemed to thwart the focus from the human characters to being that of the E.T.'s objective after all, viz., that of blasting off to the wild blue yonder, at last.  I was disappointed.  Call me jaded, but for me, it was a "Goonies meets Cloverfield"; it's a 6.5 out of 10.