'Super 8' Review: Super-Cliched with the American Military as the Villain ... Again

You’ve certainly heard of the new film Super 8. Not the self-serving Anthony Weiner autobiography– the new summer flick about a small town in 1979 invaded by a strange alien creature that was written and directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg. With that pedigree in mind, I took off work early to take the little monsters to see it in the hopes that it would do what the trailers seemed to promise – capture the feeling of those uniquely American summer movies of the 70’s and 80’s like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and The Goonies that mixed action, laughs, and special effects together in a way we see all too rarely in the Michael Bay world of today.



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Yeah, it kind of did that, I suppose. Except I was too busy wondering why the central premise somehow had to be that American military personnel are sadistic, bloodthirsty, cold-blooded murderers. Then I remembered that this is Hollywood.

Now, to talk about Super 8, I will have to reveal what some might call “spoilers.” Except, they aren’t really “spoilers” because to be that the plot points I reveal would have to be unexpected and surprising. Sadly, Super 8 adopts the same tiresome clichés that have been wrecking Hollywood films for the last 40 years. The only surprise was the total lack of any surprise.

What do we have? Crazy, evil military officer as the baddie? Check! Kid with daddy issues? Check! Climax where the hero rescues the girl from monster's lair? Check! Monster that is the real victim even though he’s freaking killing US military people and eating civilians left and right? Check?



Let me throw something out there. The premise here is the space monster crash lands on Earth, then the Air Force gets him and won’t let him leave, and the monster gets mad, then escapes, and it’s all the fault of the mean colonel who was keeping him that the monster is devouring people. Maybe I’m biased after two deployments, but a character kills an American soldier onscreen and my sympathy meter drops into the red – Avatar, I am looking at you too. Maybe the cinematic deaths of some American military folk might be no biggie in Tinseltown, but some of us take it personally. Perhaps I’ll drop J.J. Abrams a line and invite him to the next memorial I have to attend.

Am I overreacting? Maybe. I can see the misdirection of the counterargument – “Crazy Conservative Says ‘Super 8’ Promotes Killing Soldiers!” What you won't see is a good explanation of why our own troops almost always end up as the bad guys. Perhaps the Hollywoodoids don’t see anything wrong with making US military people the villain so often. After all, most of them have nothing but contempt for soldiers despite their poses to the contrary, and US military people won’t send a suicide bomber into your Beverly Hills offices – unlike certain real villains who liberals won’t dare name.

Hollywood can make the movies it wants – the First Amendment is one of the things I made a miniscule contribution to protecting. But I can refuse to waste my money on a movie that depicts American servicemembers as psychos who literally murder American citizens in cold blood. And so can you.

Look at the far superior Close Encounters. The American military is an obstacle to the hero, not a malignant enemy. There, the military (and other agencies) are trying to make contact with the aliens; the military is benignly keeping folks away from Devil’s Tower. But in Super 8, they murder them – and that’s not an off-hand, one-time event but a key plot point. The American military have somehow become Hollywood’s go-to bad guys (though there are welcome exceptions like Battle: Los Angeles and even Speilberg's own Saving Private Ryan), but we don't have to sit back in our seats like zombies and take it.

Disgusting slander of our folks in uniform aside, Super 8 has some other significant problems. First, it’s slow. Way too slow. There’s a lot of talking and most of it is about feelings. I don’t go to summer movies to be babbled at about people's ungovernable emotions. I go to escape people babbling at me about their stupid feelings.

Second, the movie makes no sense. Zero. Things happen not because they would happen but because they have to happen to facilitate the plot. Here's an example: A key point is the heroine’s father missed a shift at work at the steel mill, which the hero’s mother took and where she was killed in an accident. The heroine’s father comes to the wake and the hero’s father – a deputy – arrests him. Huh? Punch him maybe, but arrest him? Well, it makes a good visual I guess, but it makes no sense. The rest of the movie is similar - totally bizarre things just kind of occur and everyone just nods and moves on. "All the dogs have left town, stuff's exploding and a bunch of people are missing - yep, sounds like a good time to share our feelings!"

And the alien has all these powers – he scares all the dogs out of town, makes lights go on and off, and can dig enormous caverns without generating any huge piles of dirt. I'm guessing he can also probably make the Earth cool, the oceans recede and keep unemployment under 8% by spending a trillion bucks. Regardless, none of these magical abilities make sense. Oh, he is the size of a Mac truck but he's harder to spot than "Where's Waldo" when he cruises around town – no one ever sees him as he steals entire auto engines, microwave ovens and whole junkyards. I like how the hero constantly hears it loudly banging around town, the noise echoing across the burg, but no one else seems to notice. And then, for some reason, the city water tower turns into a space ship. Whatever. I should have pounded a couple of my usual pre-movie Dos Equis - it may have made more sense.

Oh, and the alien eats the regular, hard-working citizens of Lillian, Ohio, which no one seems to think is a big problem. See, the alien says he was oppressed, so whatever he does is excusable. In this way, Super 8 is the ultimate liberal morality tale. The alien says he was oppressed, the message goes, so you decent folk can just pick up the tab. How dare you object to being used as cattle – didn’t you hear? The alien said he was oppressed. Shut up and take whatever happens to you. Substitute getting munched by a space spider with being forced to pay ever higher taxes to support subsidies to the Democrats’ favored deadbeat constituencies and Super 8 becomes – quite unwittingly – a Tea Party manifesto. To liberals, the devastation inflicted on normal people for the benefit of their chosen special interests is just well-deserved collateral damage.

Let me sound off on one other thing – I'm throwing my beer at the screen if I see one more scene where a character sneaks into the villian's lair to rescue his girlfriend and, instead of getting the hell out, they stand there and hug and start babbling about – yeah, you guessed it – their damn feelings. Maybe your emotional breaktrhough can wait until you're away from the intergalactic tarantula. Oh, and the intergalactic tarantula looks kind of doofy; we could be reaching the limits of what CGI can do. It also looks way too much like the Cloverfield creature, though, considering it is J.J. Abrams, that may not be unintentional.

All I wanted was to recapture some of the magic of those exciting, technically breathtaking movies I grew up with. It sure looked like them – the cinematography was right out of the Spielbergian playbook. The plucky youngsters were engaging too, though none are memorable except for Elle Fanning as the teen heroine. She’s going to be a HUGE star, mark my words.

In the end, I could have gotten past the flaws and enjoyed Super 8 except for the relentless trashing of the men and women who, frankly, made it possible with their blood and sacrifice. After 40 years of this nonsense, I’m bored and I’m disgusted with it. I still haven’t seen Avatar because of how it slimes my fellow vets, and had we known what Super 8 would do (which the trailer carefully obscures) the Hot Wife and I wouldn’t have dropped $38.50 on it.

You can make all the military-trashing films you want to, Hollywood – you’re welcome for the freedom to do so, by the way – but in the future you can count me and my money out. And I bet I’m not the only one.

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