John Keith’s full review will be in print and online at the end of the week. -- Ed.
With the exception of “X-Men: First Class,” this summer’s blockbusters have been disappointing fare, from the franchise misfires of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” and “Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon,” to the failed launch of “Green Lantern.”
To its credit, “Super 8” could have been a real contender for the smash of the season—in the summer of ’78 or ’82. With its familiar tale of adolescence and aliens, this latest effort from director J.J. Abrams would have been a subdued, but popular relative of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.” Thirty-odd years removed, however, “Super 8” seems more a polished antique than a fresh reimagining of these Steven Spielberg classics.
“Super 8” has Mr. Spielberg’s fingerprints all over it, both literally and figuratively, as he is both producer and muse of Mr. Abrams paean. One wonders what compelled Mr. Spielberg to lend his name to what is essentially an unabashed remake of his own work. If his intention was to prove his own supremacy with the subject matter, than applause to Mr. Spielberg, for his protégé’s work lacks the narrative touches that make “Close Encounters” and “E.T.” affecting and unforgettable pieces of filmmaking.
“Super 8” follows a gaggle of teenage boys (particularly the best friends Joe and Charles), on the cusp of summer and smack in the middle of puberty, as they spend their vacation days making model trains, playing with firecrackers, and filming a zombie movie. Though Mr. Abrams fails to draw any sly caricatures of his idols with his young cinephilic protagonists, it is an enjoyable exercise to imagine the corpulent, impetuous Charles as George Lucas and the spindly, starry-eyed Joe as Mr. Spielberg.
Their insular male fiefdom is broken up when the friends realize they need to recruit a female lead for their film, a job they give to their popular classmate Alice, played by Elle Fanning (“Somewhere,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”). With Alice on board, the cast and crew pile into her father’s Buick Skylark and fly off for a midnight shoot at an abandoned railway station, where they narrowly escape with life and limb after a massive, terrifying train derailment. ...
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