When I first saw that J.J. Abrams was behind recently released Super 8, I knew instantly that I was going to be spending money on at least one summer movie.
Abrams first monster film, Cloverfield, I enjoyed a lot. When I read that Super 8 may have something to do with an eight mm (hence Super 8) camera, I was expecting Abrams newest film to follow Cloverfield‘s precedent and have the entire movie in first person point of view through the super 8 lens.
I was dead wrong. In fact, the super 8 has a minimal role to the overall theme of the film. But me being wrong makes it all so right.
Abrams stuck with one major element from Cloverfield — revealing the “creature” bit by bit which made Cloverfield successful. However, this time around, Abrams went with the traditional third-person filming method that achieved what Cloverfield kinda, sorta, failed to do. Tell a story.
Super 8, on the surface, is about a group of children who are filming their own Super 8 movie when a train derails, releasing a dangerous presence into their town. However the movie is about more than that. The movie is about letting go.
From Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) letting go of the anger he had for the man he felt responsible for his wife’s death, to the ‘creature’ letting go of its anger to humans to Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) letting go of his mother, the film tells us that to fully achieve happiness, we have to release hold of the things that hold us down.
Much like Cloverfield, there is an aspect of the ‘love conquers all’ theme when the main character Joe goes into the ‘creature’s’ lair to rescue his love interest Alice (Elle Fanning) much like Rob (played by Michael Stahl-David) did in Cloverfield when he went to save Beth (played by Odette Yustman) with New York under attack.
With Super 8, Abrams was able to explore the characters’ emotions and relationships in depth which brought out a humanistic sensiblity and understanding that Abrams didn’t capture in Cloverfield. Despite the unworldly anatognist (was it really?), the viewer felt the heart-string that the film presents.
Super 8 is a really good film — but it is a great story.