JJ Abrams’ life has been filled with wonder boxes. There are few people making films these days that put more stock in the power of your imagination than he does. Knowing full well that you will create a better picture in your own head than he can on the screen, he waits to show his audiences things that they crave to see. Sometimes, he never shows you at all, leaving the imagination reeling.
Super 8 is built on a wonder box. It’s not long before it literally crashes into the frame of the camera and it starts to do its work [and few do crashes better than Abrams]. With a cast of kids moving this story along its tracks, it quickly becomes clear that Steven Speilberg not only produced this film, he breathed his unique take on how kids think, talk, wonder, and explore into it. Super 8 is the closets thing to The Goonies (and E.T.) your local theater has ever offered you. In fact if you take The Goonies [one of Speilbergs greatest offerings to the film world] and mix it will Abram’s Cloverfield [not his greatest moment] you’d get something pretty close to Super 8.
The negative cracks on this film will come from its heavy-handed treatment of its themes at the end [Alcoholic Dad + Workoholic Dad, in almost slow motion, walking side-by-side towards their redemption. Ugh.]. While Abrams trust his audience to do some heavy lifting with their imaginations he loses that trust in the final scenes as he wraps things up.
But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a great movie. It is. It is filled with hilarious lines between the kids and action/adventure scenes that are exactly what we are all looking for with our summer blockbuster dollar. This kind of movie is as American as grilled hamburger.
The “facing your demons,” “learning to let go,” “moving through tragedy takes community” themes are all here. And, if you’re willing to go along for this ride, and don’t mind a slice of cheese on your burger, you’re in for a wonder-filled couple of hours that only Abrams and Speilberg can create.