'Super 8' Review: Already One of the Best of 2011

In mid-May, I noted that the trailer for the science fiction thriller “Super 8” was well-done and that the film, which features a strong cast and great talent behind the scenes, looked promising. Now that I’ve seen the finished product, I can honestly say that “Super 8” lived up to my expectations and will likely be one of the best films released this summer. It could even be one of the best films of 2011.

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The story takes place in the quiet Ohio town of Lillian in 1979. The main character is Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), who loses his mother in a mill accident as the story begins. After her death, the story jumps ahead four months and shows Joe being raised by his single father (Kyle Chandler), the town deputy. As Joe’s father grieves for his wife, his son spends his time making a zombie movie with his buddies including his best friend, Charles (Riley Griffiths). Late one night, while the group is filming, a train crashes nearby in a spectacular action sequence. That crash releases a creature that was being held captive on the train and that creature soon begins to cause havoc in the small town.

I don’t want to ruin any surprises in the story, so I won’t divulge the plot any furthe,r but I will note that one of the biggest surprises is how this story balances so many different elements beautifully. The cast is particularly well-chosen, especially the young people who are at the heart of the story. According to the Internet Movie Database, both Courtney and Griffiths are making their big screen debuts and they both do a tremendous job.

The enchantingly idealistic script, written and directed by J.J. Abrams whose previous work includes “Lost” and 2009’s “Star Trek,” is also impressive with the main characters acting like regular kids and not “movie kids,” who often do and say unrealistic things. These youngsters act like real children with their funny asides, goofy remarks and cold sarcasm. Their jokes and some of the funny situations in the story provide a few strong laughs. With an impressive cast, witty dialogue and a great story, it’s hard not to be impressed with the team behind “Super 8” who make so many different elements work together effortlessly.

Along with the sharp writing, Abrams is brilliant at crafting interesting mysteries in his stories, which he did marvelously in the show “Lost.” For much of “Super 8,” the creature from the train is heard but not seen as the suspense is built up in small but subtle ways. Microwaves go missing. Pets disappear and are found a few towns away. Car parts disappear. The atmosphere is well-established and so is the suspense as mysterious things keep happening in this quiet town.

Admittedly, “Super 8” features a few disappointing elements but these flaws are nothing compared to the story’s strengths. The film’s second hour is weaker than the first and features a few corny moments and a disappointing ending that wraps everything up too cleanly. These are minor flaws in what is otherwise a great motion picture.

“Super 8” isn’t a movie that you watch. It’s a movie that you fall in love with. The first hour is an amazing movie experience and the second hour, while disappointing as compared to the first hour, is still excellent. This film is not to be missed.


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