project Stranger Things exploded out of Netflix and into worldwide domination. What’s more, the script is funny, but not overly so; it’s warm and even laugh-out-loud at times without being too quippy or relying on shtick. Abrams’s Super 8 Headed for Box-Office Disappointment? Set a handful of years after Super 8 but still in small-town America, Stranger Things was an homage-laden sci-fi series starring a group of misfits, all unknown, who solve an otherworldly mystery kick-started by a secretive military operation gone awry. And why? As the film draws to its emotional, dazzling climax, it’s reminiscent of E.T. Abrams on Making Star Trek in 3-D and the Super Secrecy Around Super 8
Tags: or Close Encounters of the Third Kind in ways that feel earned. Admittedly, it’s not perfect. Hey, that’s not a spoiler. It’s by turns cozy, nostalgic, spooky, and wholesome, and much like the monster at the center of it all, it just wants a little more of our love. That’s largely thanks to its familiar suburban setting and superb performances from young actors like Joel Courtney (in his first-ever role) and a mesmerizing Elle Fanning. Those who were disgruntled by the lack of a Proper View Of Cloverfield Monster (reportedly sacrificed to preserve the film’s chaotic realism) may have been less interested in another Abrams-backed creature feature so soon after. But after the year our own world just experienced in the proverbial Upside-Down, it’s time to shun the cynical and embrace the wholeheartedly optimistic. Roger Ebert gave Super 8 3 ½ stars, and it holds a ripe score of 81 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. For starters, the plot offers a classic setup: On an idyllic summer evening in 1979, a few AV-club-type kids making a zombie movie (on Super 8 film, oh-ho!) witness a train crash. While Abrams neither wrote nor directed Cloverfield, he was the highest-profile producer attached to the film at the time, and marketing certainly led audiences to believe that it was his work. It’s like a summer blockbuster made in a lab. In fact, by 2010, he had been obliged to clarify that the films weren’t related. The family-friendly J.J. 2008’s Cloverfield, a found-footage film produced by Abrams, was not as good about that. Super 8 has fallen out of our cultural consciousness over time, but it deserves a rewatch. J.J. Many looks, in fact. Abrams sci-fi epic, now with 20 percent more lens flares* (*citation needed), turns 10 this month, marking a full decade of its under-appreciation. Mop-top lead Courtney now appears in Netflix’s The Kissing Booth series, and the younger Fanning is a compelling (and unexpectedly offbeat!) movie star. Not even a nod for sound mixing at the Oscars? Photo: Paramount Pictures
Here are a few things that the film Super 8, released June 10, 2011, can now do: Enroll in fifth grade, exchange a tin-anniversary gift, and assert its rightful status as the most overlooked film of the decade. To be fair, we didn’t fail the movie entirely back then. And, of course, the fall after Super 8 was released, Chandler took home an Emmy for his role as Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights. Era-perfect details enhance its familiarity: The hairstyles, technology, costuming, and cars all signal a specific pocket of time, lending an intentionally Spielbergian layer to the proceedings. Finish off the movie’s astonishing visual effects with some masterful editing and set it all to a moving score and you’ve got what has to be the most overlooked film of 2011. What sells it more than anything? Related
Is J.J. How come, Chief Willoughby? On paper, it would seem like there are almost too many of them: the loss of a parent, a strained father-son relationship, beef between the local cop and the town ne’er-do-well, fishy military operations, a monster with unclear motives, the kids biking everywhere, no one listening to the kids … you know how it goes. Even AJ Michalka, who has a small but fun role, is agin releasing music again with her sister, fellow actor and musician Aly Michalka. The Demogorgon’s look even evokes the Super 8 monster’s. The friendships feel genuine and the conflicts honest, and the tension between Joe (Courtney), still missing his mother, and his father, the town deputy (Kyle Chandler), is compelling. But it all just works. It’s up to our young heroes to uncover the truth before it takes out their entire town. There are few people of color present in Super 8, which is disappointing and limiting. And society has progressed past the need for a dead mom as shorthand for childhood trauma. Fortunately, he learned from Cloverfield’s missteps and crafted a truly breathtaking dude for Super 8. So maybe audiences just weren’t ready for Super 8 in 2011. Consider that five years after Super 8 was released, the Duffer bros. It seems like the train was intentionally derailed to release something, but … what? Super 8 is streaming on Paramount+. Sure, Occam’s razor would suggest that if a film isn’t popular, it probably isn’t good. However: Isn’t it just as possible that it was ahead of its time? The genuine look at the monster. You’ve had ten years to watch it. Super 8 expertly deploys tropes that tug on the heartstrings. But the fact remains: We simply do not talk about this film enough!