- the cinematic musings of a self-certified geek


Super 8 - Dir. JJ Abrams, USA, 112mins, 2011

Black Swan

Copyright MainstreamMatt/Mainstream 2005-2011

The onset of age brings with it an increased cynicism, especially when it comes to film analysis and the consumption of multiple movies, each of varying degrees of quality. Every once in a while you’re astonished by the likes of Terence Malick, Peter Jackson, David Fincher et al. But something special happened with Super8, something that was so intrinsically related to being a child of the 80’s (although in no way does that mean it’s appeal is niche), raised as a cinephile, nurtured by Stephen Spielberg, that left an indelible mark to match those imprinted on me by E.T., and Jurassic Park; Super 8 woke that 12-year old kid up again.


Born from an obvious love of all things “Spielbergian”, Star Trek and Lost director Abrams knows his audience, a fact that has elicited some criticism related to a supposed pandering to the “geek” audience. Absolute rubbish. Star Trek was the perfect balance between fanboy pleasing and mainstream blockbuster entertainment, and Super 8 takes it one step further by being an original movie made using the mould from an era when enchantment and storytelling was at the forefront of the art, not opening weekends and 3-D conversions.


The adoration is clear for all to see and is scorched masterfully onto the microfiche; lens flares, a shot-for-shot homage to E.T. as the camera sweeps over the suburban night, single-parent families struggling to conform to their patriarchal roles. Yet it never feels hackneyed, or forced, if you don’t notice the affectionate nods then it doesn’t matter, because at the films big beating heart is a simple story of friendship and family.


So despite being about a rampaging beastie, the importance of which lessens as the movie progresses, the audience becoming more involved with the relationships between the children than what the alien looks like, this is a human story, and the young actors are sensational.


Elle Fanning steals the movie as the girl of the gang; funny, assured, and utterly convincing, especially when delivering an emotional admission to the equally endearing Courtney, the Elliot of the film. In fact, the dynamics of the gang are reminiscent of a certain group of kids who went hunting for One Eyed Willie’s treasure. Both them, and the script beautifully encapsulates what it’s like to be a kid; your first crush, the names you call your buddies, and in one tenderly measured moment, the first time you see your dad cry.


Some may be put off by such mawkishness, but even those irked by sentimentality must admit that the story is complemented by it, and if they don’t agree then they will still have the spectacular train crash and ensuing monster mash to sate them.


Super8 is “mint”.