Super 8 is a new classic of filmmaking.
The overture of the film, long before anything supernatural is introduced sets the tone well, and prepared us for the subplots and compelling characterizations the film enjoys.
The train crash sequence is outstandingly devastating. This scene marks the introduction of the primary conflict, and it is extremely well crafted.
The excitement generated from just this scene is worth the price of admission, and it sets us up for lots of well directed action scenes to follow.
The film has some elements of a startle flick, but not to a fault. The monster is hidden a little too well for most of the film, almost too clearly a device of suspense.
For a little while it was starting to feel like a Shyamalan production, and I greatly feared that the monster was going to turn out to be something really dumb.
It wasn’t dumb though, and in retrospect I realize that I only felt that way because other moviemakers have used the mechanic poorly in the past, not because this film itself had anything wrong with it.
The characters are well developed, relatable and deeply sympathetic. I’m glad that Abrams decided to go with some truly talented children, rather than hiring a bunch of twenty-somethings to play teenagers, a temptation not every director is able to overcome.
This decision, perhaps more than any other, really makes the film work. All of the children are excellent, but the shining star here is 13-year-old Elle Fanning. In this departure from her typical roles, she shows that she has more than enough of the serious acting chops she needs to have a fine and long career.
The subplot is a touching coming of age story. The protagonist’s internal dilemma is one of grief. He has a strong need to let go of the loss of his mother four months earlier, and through the help of his friends, and their adventure to discover the nature of the monster, he moves through his grief, and in the climax of the film takes a massive symbolic gesture toward the release of his pain, and the acceptance of a new life with his father.
This internal conflict was more compelling even than the external conflict, and it runs through every element and character in the story.
Super 8 has the potential to sit on-high with the great, classic coming of age adventure stories. This is a film for everyone, and when it comes time, you’ll want a copy for your personal DVD library.