Looking back at this past summer’s films, both big blockbusters and smaller productions there was one film that most were really looking forward to and that was J.J. Abrams’ Super 8. Coming off of a hot streak with Star Trek and the found-footage film Cloverfield, Abrams was a sure thing, most thought. Super 8 is proof that getting too close to your favorite director is a bad thing.
It’s no secret that Super 8 producer Steven Spielberg is Abrams’ favorite director, just watch Super 8 and you’ll see a montage of Spielberg’s better films. Super 8 is such a knockoff of Spielberg films that it almost feels offensive. Abrams is better than that; he can make his own things while paying tribute to a great director, but there is no excuse for blatantly ripping off beats from a director’s past films without adding to it in anyway. That’s just a lazy filmmaker gushing.
Joe (Joel Courtney) is a young kid growing up in 1979. He has friends that he’s making a movie with and his dad Jackson (Kyle Chandler), who is a police officer. After losing his mother recently Joe becomes even more distant from his father while growing closer and closer to Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), the daughter of the man who’s partially responsible for the death of Joe’s mother. The small town of Lillian is turned upside down when a mysterious train wreck occurs; causing military to lock down the town in search for its precious cargo.
Joe and his friends witness certain events that throw them in the middle of this disaster. While Jackson figures out what the military is covering up Joe, Alice and their friends must finish shooting a movie while uncovering the truth behind the train, its cargo and where it came from.
Super 8 is an Amblin film; there is no doubt about it. Spielberg produced this film, but he should have just taken the directing credit while he was at it, because Super 8 is a copy of his work. J.J. Abrams has shown his capability of directing known things, like his Star Trek reboot that managed to be its own thing while still pleasing the fans. Super 8 is never is its own thing. The only trademark left behind that indicates who directed the film is the over used and annoying lens flare. I don’t know why Abrams chose to use the lens flare as much as he did with this production, but the guy has a weird obsession.
The strongest characters in the film are the kids. Joel Courtney leads the young cast with Elle Fanning backing him up. The two kids have excellent chemistry with each other and the rest of the gang, while the adults provide nothing worthy of stealing the kids screen time. Kyle Chandler is the only adult actor you’ll know, but even he comes off as a major annoyance for most of the running time.
The monster effects are carbon copies of Cloverfield, except for the changed face. If you’re going to build up the monster reveal for the whole film, why don’t you try having a unique monster? Something that we haven’t already seen?
Super 8 isn’t a bad film, but it’s not really a good one because we’ve seen it all before and we’ve seen it done much better. Spielberg is a master of his craft; J.J. Abrams isn’t, not yet at least. Super 8 is either Abrams gushing at Spielberg for 2 hours or its Spielberg taking his producing credit to the next level and completely controlling the film, regardless it’s the director’s fault for not taking control of his production.
Paramount transfers Super 8 to Blu-Ray very authentically. The film is clean, with a layer of grain added over that never distorts the detail in anyway, but instead helps the film feel like it takes place in the 70’s. Super 8 is a dark film, with most of the action taking place at night, so most of the colors are dark grays, blues and blacks, with very little brightness. It feels very much like a theatrical presentation, which is faithful to the look and feel Abrams was going for. It doesn’t however make the disc a crowd pleaser worth showing off to friends and family.
The audio on the other hand must be heard! The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD track is very impressive. It’s loud, energetic and extremely active. The opening train wreck is by far one of the most impressive sequences to listen to on Blu-Ray this year. The dialogue is clear and most background noises can be heard without a problem. Michael Giacchino‘s score comes to life on all 7 channels, which helps give the film more feeling and character. The track does have moments of silence and dullness, but that’s only momentarily.
Super 8 comes packed on Blu-Ray with a ton of extras. There’s a good audio commentary provided by J.J. Abrams as well as a ton of deleted scenes and several interesting featurettes. Check them out below.
- Audio Commentary with Director J.J. Abrams
- The Dream Behind Super 8 (HD)
- The Search for New Faces (HD)
- Meet Joel Courtney (HD)
- Rediscovering Steel Town (HD)
- The Visitor Lives (HD)
- Scoring Super 8 (HD)
- Do You Believe in Magic? (HD)
- The 8mm Revolution (HD)
- Deconstructing the Train Crash (HD)
- Deleted Scenes (HD)
- DVD Copy
- Digital Copy
It’s sad to see Super 8 become such a disappointment, but some may not be as picky as I. I don’t appreciate having to re-watch dozens of scenes from Spielberg movies in a new movie. I like Abrams’ past work and I know he can do better. There is nothing wrong with paying homage to a favorite director or movie, just watch Attack the Block, director Joe Cornish had no problems walking that fine line. With Super 8 Abrams crossed the line and did nothing but try and recreate the magic of Spielberg, which should only be reserved for Spielberg himself. His films are timeless and they don’t need to be updated. Abrams fails at making a film that’s truly his own. Super 8 feels too familiar, which holds down the entire film.
The kids do their best making the film feel memorable, but the adults do absolutely nothing. The story is charming and warm, but it never really builds up to anything. The monster design is also disappointing, considering it’s a knock-off of Cloverfield, with very little difference. The music is really good; the score felt like something from an 80’s film, while maintaining its own sound. Super 8 is a technically sound film. Abrams knows how to work a camera and pace without problems, but it never shakes the feeling of being a rehash. I applaud filmmakers for paying tribute to the greats while making their own movie with its own agenda, not for copying there favorites; scene for scene.
Paramount’s Blu-Ray transfer is another strong one. The picture is dark and full of lens flares, but detail is never lost even with the added grain. It’s a picture that has no problems looking and feeling like it was from the 70’s. The audio track is another loud one, which helps make the experience a little more enjoyable.
The package is also full of some really fun special features. The featurettes themselves are worth checking out if you want to know where Abrams got his inspirations for the film, but we already know it was his love for Spielberg films. The deleted scenes give a little more detail to stuff that we don’t really need detail on. The DVD and digital copy are always good for fans of the film who want to take it with them anywhere.
Some might enjoy Super 8 because it reminds them of a Steven Spielberg film, but others will consider that its major flaw. It all comes down to what you’re looking for in a movie. If you want the feeling of familiar, then you’ll enjoy Super 8 for what it is, but if you’re looking for something fresh and new don’t bother. The Blu-Ray makes the purchase/rental a little easier because Paramount takes care of their releases, giving them good video, audio and a fine batch of extras.
Super 8 comes to Blu-Ray with a faithful video transfer and a loud audio transfer, not to mention the load of extras, making the disc one of Paramount's better efforts.