If you ask me, “Super 8″ was the surprise hit of 2011. Even though sequels and comic book adaptations were coming out left and right, this movie stood out because it had something that other movies lacked – depth along with an emotional attachment to its characters.
Super 8 is a seemingly simple story about a young boy Joe (played by Joel Courtney) whose mother is killed in a work accident. Joe throws himself into making a movie with his best friends Charles, Cary, Martin and Preston. Joe’s dismissive and absentee father Jackson Lamb, played convincingly by the football coaching dad of “Friday Night Lights”, Kyle Chandler, disapproves of Joe wasting his time with such frivolous things. When the female lead is cast in the friends “zombie take over movie”, Joe finds himself spending time with a girl from school named Alice. There is history between Joe and Alice’s fathers, giving them a Romeo and Juliet type of tension. Elle Fanning really steps out of her sisters’ shadow in this role and proves she is ready for the big time.
While the kids are filming the movie, madness ensues when they are nearly killed by a train that is derailed by a truck driven by their biology teacher. Something is let loose from the train and the movie follows the young friends trying to figure out what it was, why military men are showing up all over town, and why the heck are all the dogs and appliances going missing?
This movie truly has heart, and you will find yourself knowing each character and caring about what happens to all of them. Super 8 is a mixture of “Stand by Me” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. Throughout the movie the audience gets mere glimpses of the creature that has inhabited this small town, and reminiscent of movies from the 80’s and beyond, the “reveal” does not happen until the very end. The characters relationships and back stories are so well developed that you feel as if you know them on a personal level. This also leaves room for breakout performances from supporting roles such as David Gallagher as pot smoking Donny and Ryan Lee who plays a hilarious, joke cracking Cary.
Super 8 brings back the story and suspense that recent cinema seems to be lacking and gives the audience an experience that can be appreciated by anyone, young or old. Each moment will feel personal and bring up raw emotions that no simple alien movie of today could bring out.