Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

SUPER 8 (2011)
This review will probably be worthless, because I adored it even as I have to be upfront and admit it doesn't hold up under intense scrutiny, especially in the last act. It's a well-made movie--probably a solid three to three-and-a-half stars for people who liked it--but then there's the damn nostalgia factor which worked on me completely. The movie not only takes place in 1980, it looks (for the most part, minus the CGI) as though it were made in 1980, which is one of the many details I love about this flick. It's about a group of kids making a monster movie for a super 8 film competition, who witness the derailment of a USAF train. After this, strange things start happening, and it's basically a Spielberg movie from the early eighties, with all of the strengths (likable and realistic kids, effective mystery, story techniques that pull you in to an enjoyable experience) and weaknesses (daddy issues, swooping close-ups of people looking open-mouthed into the distance, scenes where the symbolism gets so heavy-handed the film threatens to collapse into itself like a black hole) that implies. JJ Abrams has basically made a Spielberg flick from when Spielberg was still great, but with distracting CGI and a fuck-ton of lens flares. And yes, when we see the alien in the third act, it's pretty disappointing--yet another in the post-ID4 parade of things with too many arms and a lack of definition and jagged edges going in all directions because why not?

So, what did I like so much about this movie? That it has the same kind of sincerity as those movies I saw as a child. That at its heart it's a movie about kids who want to tell stories, and a likable kid who is neither outcast nor popular (Joel Courtney, who is as good as Henry Thomas was in E.T.) who falls in love with a girl worth falling in love with (Elle Fanning--who is already a better actress than her sister ever was or will be--playing one of those wounded angels that men never get over in their lives... it's a cliched character, one that is even insulting to some women, but one who rings true to guys who had them--I had two, Terri McGinnis and Jamie Drendel). It remembers a time when kids in movies were smart and curious, not little smartasses with internet accounts. It remembers a time when movies created mystery and invested you in characters who became involved in it, instead of our current situation, when movies try too hard to be cool and last way too long. For all of those things, I loved it. Again, I admit that it's a flawed film. It's not perfect by any means. But the experience of all of this--an experience that I don't think would be the same at all in front of a computer screen or on DVD--was something wonderful. And that plays into how much I dug it, too.

I feel like I should recuse myself from giving it a rating, to be honest. Like I said, a rating would be worthless coming from me. But I adored it as a whole, even if it isn't always made of the most quality pieces.

Oh, and one thing worth noting: the reason I had to rush out to the theater to see this is the feeling the trailers gave me. They sold this the way Spielberg used to sell movies before they just started saying eff it and revealing everything in the trailers. It was a combination of nostalgia and intrigue that got me in the theater. And, more importantly, the movie delivered on that promise for me--hell, even the great Michael Giacchino was scoring the movie the way John Williams would have. It was pretty much the same thing that got me to the theater to see Abrams' Star Trek--trailers that remembered a time in film when space exploration was dangerous, mysterious, and exciting. And that was another flawed film that I had one hell of a time at. I'm kind of willing to put myself in JJ Abrams' hands right now...


Paradox Al said...
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jaundicedi said...

I totally agree. The scene where Fanning's character is rehearsing her lines just before the crash is one of the best five minutes of film I have ever seen. My only complaint is that the scene was so strong that it overshadowed the rest of the film a bit.