Friday, August 12, 2011

Reviewiverse number 2

Reviewiverse 2


Kevin Scott Bolinger

    Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s Steven Spielberg was coming into his own. After the success of Jaws in 1975, he began to dabble in more personal projects. Films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T. would go on to inspire many modern day filmmakers.  One of these is J.J. Abrams , known mainly for his hit series Lost, and the recent rebook of the Star Trek franchise.  Recently Abrams released a film which is in essence a love letter to Spielberg, that film, Super 8. Now, I will warn you, there will probably be spoilers in this review, however, the film has been out for a while now, so many have probably already seen it, or just want to get a feel for it and see if they want to watch it in a theater or wait for a rental.

    The film opens in Ohio in 1979, where we learn that a 13 year old boy, Joe Lamb, has just lost his mother in a factory accident. During the wake, a man shows up at the house to pay his respects, and Joe’s dad, one of the local deputies, takes the man away in handcuffs. We then flash forward four months later, where Joe’s best friend Charles, an aspiring film director, is working on a super 8 zombie film. He has convinced Alice, the daughter of the man arrested at the beginning, to play one of the leads.  She steals her dads car, and picks the group up, now also consisting of Cary, a pyromaniac in the making, with his sack full of fireworks, Preston, one of the players in the film, and Martin, another player in the film. Joe, it turns out, is the makeup expert.

    Alice drives them to an old train station so they can use the location to film a farewell scene in the film. As they are beginning to film, they hear an approaching train. Charles decides he wants to film the scene as the train passes for realism. As they are filming, Joe turns his head, and notices a pickup truck heading towards the crossing fast. The truck turns and slams head on into the train, causing it to violently derail. All the kids are nearly killed, but miraculously survive. Destroyed rail cars are everywhere, and the ground is littered with strange metal cubes. As Joe looks at the destruction, one of the cars shakes violently and the door is thrown off and into the air, nearly landing on him.

Chaotic train crash!

    The kids make their way to the remains of the pickup truck, and see a man slumped over the steering wheel, presumably dead. They recognize him as their biology teacher. He moves, waving a gun. He tells them to not speak of what they saw, or they would all be killed, they he tells them to run. The kids flee, with Charles grabbing his ruined camera. As he looks it over, he realizes that the entire reel of film has been shot by the camera. Joe managed to grab a cube from the crash and takes it home.

Crash scene as the kids film the next day.

    As the days go by, more and more odd occurrences happen in town. Dogs disappear, people disappear, engines are stolen from cars, wires from poles. Joe, who builds models as a hobby and is quite good at it, recognizes that the train that crashed was an Air Force train. The kids decide to keep working on the film, Charles sending off the one reel to be developed. They film on a hillside, overlooking the wreck and use it in the film.  Alice and Joe begin to draw close.  The towns Sheriff vanishes and his car is destroyed, leaving Joe’s dad in charge. He tells Joe he doesn’t want him near Alice, because of her dad, and Joe hears the same thing from Alice’s dad. Alice later tells him that on the day his mom was killed, her dad had been drunk, and couldn’t go to work. Joe’s mom had to cover for him, and she died. Joe’s dad blamed Alice’s dad this whole time.

Alice and Joe.

   Joe starts putting small pieces of the mystery together. The Military causes a fire on the outskirts of town as an excuse to evacuate it, a cover to let them recapture their cargo, an alien.  Alice, sneaking back in from visiting Joe late the night before the evacuation, gets into a fight with her dad, and runs out, getting on her bike. Her dad chases her in his car, but crashes it when she makes a quick u-turn. Her dad, bloody and hurt, sees something grab Alice in his rear view mirror, and tries to follow. The next day, at the evacuation site, Joe learns that Alice is missing, and that something took her. Knowing their teacher was somehow involved, they figure a way to sneak back into town and into their school

   They learn that the military has had the alien since the early 60’s. They had studied it all this time, but  the former scientist turned teacher had made accidental physical contact with the creature, and had a mental bond with it. He crashed the truck into the train to free the alien. The boys are captured by the Air Force as they make their way out of the school.

    Loaded on a bus, they are locked in the prisoner area at the back. The bus is attacked by the alien, and all the Air Force men are killed, but the boys manage to get out through a broken window. They are picked up by the same guy that brought them to town, but he is now too stoned to drive. Joe drives them all back towards town. His plan is to get to the cemetery, he thinks he can find the creature there.
War zone! From left, Martin, Cary, Joe, and Charles.

   In town, all the tanks and guns and missiles of the military are going crazy. Everything is firing wildly, destroying homes and businesses . The boys take shelter in a home, but an explosion blows out a wall, breaking Martin’s leg. Joe tells Charles to stay with Martin, who then tries to set martin’s leg. Joe and Cary run to the cemetery to find Alice. They bust open a huge garage door to reveal a giant subterranean tunnel entrance. The climb down and follow the tunnel to a large cavern, in which something ahs been building a giant machine with parts taken from all over town. People are hanging upside down . Joe spots Alice, but the alien returns, chewing on a human leg. He tells Cary he will circle around to the other side, and he needs him to use his fireworks to create a huge distraction. As Joe reaches Alice, the fireworks go off, and Joe gets her down. He has to slap her to get her to awaken.

   She tells him the creature just wants to go home, but Joe just wants to get back to the entrance. As they run, Cary rejoins them. The alien begins to give chase. They come to a dead end, and Joe faces the alien. He tells the creature he understands, that he knows it just wants to go, so he tells it to go. It grabs him, and through the telepathic bond, it understands, and even calls him Joe.

   The kids escape, and are reunited with Charles and Martin. Joe and Alice’s dads show up, and things begin going haywire. Anything metal is being dragged towards the water tower, now a giant magnet. As it gets stronger, all the metal blocks arrive, and they begin swirling, eventually rebuilding the alien’s ship. He boards it, takes off, and the movie ends. As the credits roll, you are treated to the super 8 zombie film the kids made.

Joe and his dad, Alice and her dad.

   This movie was not bad. It was also nothing spectacular. I found it easily average. The train crash was cool. The alien, what little of him is shown, is cool looking and flows organically.  The acting from the kids is surprisingly good. However, this is not a typical alien movie, it is really a coming of age story wrapped in a sci fi blanket.  It has it’s fun parts, but there are other parts that seem to drag. 

   As I said, this is a love letter from J.J. to Steven. Steven was the producer, so his hand does show in the finished project. The film is really an homage to the earlier Spielberg films. On that level, it does succeed. It can make those that grew up in the late 70’s and early 80”, like I did, nostalgic for that simpler era. If you are on the bubble about seeing it, check it out, you might like it. If it never got your attention from the trailers, skip it or wait for a rental. All in all, the only reviewer you need to listen too is yourself.

Artists conception of the alien.

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