Friday, June 10, 2011

Super 8 (J.J. Abrams)

The kids staring at a potential 'production value'.

Just like the case with Tobe Hooper's "Poltergeist", "Super 8" will certainly be more remembered as a Spielberg-produced spectacle than it is a J.J. Abrams-directed film. Abrams, who in my opinion has not proved anything yet in terms of cinematic imagination and vision (a full-length directorial resume that merely boasts of a "Mission: Impossible" sequel and a "Star Trek" reboot) because of the fact that he does not necessarily have to start from scratch from those film projects, could have capitalized on "Super 8" as his genuine coming-out party. But instead, what he did is ride on Spielberg's sci-fi, kid-friendly, wholesome fixation on aliens (come on, let's not pretend that extraterrestrials aren't the ones involved) and became somewhat an obligatory man on the helm to carry out the superstar director's 'been there, done that, seen that, heard that' concept. And worst of all, seemingly with puppet strings attached.

Yes, "Super 8" is a gargantuan letdown for me, but not because of the film's tired content and mindless use of explosions and CGIs in its clumsy second-half, but because of its broken promise to deliver something new and bring forth an intriguingly-themed film to reverberate the once prosperous conceptual disposal of the science fiction genre that is slowly running out of stock. Now come on, do not pretend that you have not felt even the slightest bit of curiosity when you've seen the enticingly minimalist trailer. It's the main reason why I have even seen "Super 8" in the first place. And also mainly due to the hyped nostalgic feel that comes along with it that may potentially bring the stellar, one of a kind atmospheres of Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "E.T." back to prominence for a new generation of audiences to see.

Now granted, the premise of the film is new and quite puzzling, inspires revelatory anticipation and its opening sequence up to somewhere before all those prolonged forebodings (come on, how can you maintain a strong sense of silent menace when you have heard that otherworldly creature's wail before? "Jurassic Park's" Tyrannosaurus Rex, anyone?) is potent at a considerable degree. Even the characterizations of the kids who set on to make a short film called "The Case" about zombies and stuff, although forced and emotionally compressed just so we may properly care for them before complications start, is interestingly dramatic and naively charming.

The sad-eyed girl next door (Elle Fanning), the straight-laced main kid (Joel Courtney) and the bossy overweight one (Riley Griffiths). Oh, and there's also the cartoonish pyromaniac (Ryan Lee). Initially, they're a joy to watch, being overly animated and concerned regarding their cheesy film production and all, but in the subsequent scenes, they just plunge down along with the film's qualitative execution.

Suddenly, they are heroes. Suddenly, the sad-eyed girl is now the missing damsel in distress. Suddenly, it just all felt wrong. There's nothing bad to see those pesky kids running and fending off some shrapnel here and bits of metals there, hell they're at the peak of adolescence, they truly are supposed to run. It's an age of physical restlessness. But heroes? Really? A film which promised something different, resorting to a cute swash-buckling bunch? And in a more extreme extent, one of them as an alien persuader? Haha, I'm sorry, but no thanks.

And that grieving father/deputy character (Kyle Chandler) who even disguised his way to find out the exact truth behind it all. He never even really found anything of utter importance that may serve as a solution. The next thing I know, he's there, with his child, looking up into some out of this world creature and subliminally saying goodbye.

Oh please, that abomination is far worse looking than those in "District 9". And aside from the inability to move on which the deputy character and the alien indirectly share (one emotionally and the other quite literally), there's no bond between them whatsoever, so weeping and a sense of longing shouldn't have even been an option for the first.

"Super 8", although a bit inappropriately titled, could have been an above average science fiction blockbuster fare. It's got these mysteriously looming vibes surrounding it. It has good leads and it's packed with suspense and thrill-a-minute laughs. If only those are rationed in exact moments and its forebodings ultimately leading into a creature worth the wait, the build-up and the running time, "Super 8" could have been infinitely better.

The kids' cheesy, awkwardly edited zombie flick "The Case", which was shown during the end credits, turned out to be the real highlight of the film. It's momentarily fun to watch, but it's hardly worth my money.

Director J.J. Abrams and executive producer Steven Spielberg, who tried to revisit the old ways to thrill, let us feel and make us believe, came silently blazing with "Super 8" in their hands, but with all the grumpy old cliches holding on tight along with them. And an ugly alien.


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