June 14, 2011

How Nostalgia Almost Ruined Super 8

One of the buzz words that circulates around the new film "Super 8" is "nostalgia." This sentimental longing for the past is almost a universal human emotion. I mean facebook is essentially a nostalgia machine, don't believe me, go to your profile, click on photos of yourself and go the first one ever posted, yuppp....Nostalgia! However I found the nostalgia in "Super 8" to be a little un-necessary? Why did this movie have to be set in the past? Have kids changed so much since the 1979 or is it that in our modern world, we've lost our sense of Spielbergian cinematic wonder?

The central story of the film is brilliant. Five kids on the cusp of being teenagers set out to make a film and end up capturing a monster on camera. The monster (and the military who come to find it) begin to terrorize their small town and they're caught in the middle of it all and may even hold the key to saving the town/world/each other. If that sounds a little hokey, it's because it is, but in the best possible ways. Newcomer Joel Courtney as Joe, is a standout amongst the stellar young cast. Each one of them has their own personality, tagline, and skill-set which aids in the story and gives the film a magical "Goonies" vibe.

Director J.J. Abrams has a great handle on how to direct the young kids and to stage the havoc and mayhem the military/monster causes. Say what you will about Abrams but the guy is a highly underrated action director, the scenes here are crisp, clear, and refreshingly devoid of "shakey cam" syndrome which can ruin a film. The explosions, special effects, and monster design are all top notch. Wait, speaking of monster design, the monster looks like a cousin of the "Cloverfield" monster, which looked like "Star Trek" monster, so you gotta wonder if all these creatures are related and JJ is going to reveal this in future and systematically make nerds explodes all at once.

Ahh nerds, not the candy, but the primary audience for this film. This is a film the deliberately conjures up the sense of wonder of everybody felt while watching "E.T.," "Jurassic Park," and "Close Encounters." That sense of wonder is THE NERD IN YOU, the childlike fascination in the unknown and awesome. Because JJ/Spielberg try so hard to appeal to this, they make a choice in the ending which I didn't agree with. I don't want to spoil it, but let's say it involves our hero and the compassion that "Old Man Woodward's Research" supposedly has. It felt un-earned and too heavy handed with it's emotions, too much designed to appeal to the old school nerd wonder and not the story the film had told so well up to that moment. It felt like a red flag that said "see, we're just like those movies from your childhood you love!"

This simple decision didn't ruin the movie at all, it's still great, but it made wonder just why it had to be in there. Are we as viewers craving nostalgic wonder so much, we cannot create create or appreciate it in the present? Kid's these days may not shoot films on Super 8 cameras, but they still make them and they're still awesome. They still get nervous around the opposite sex, are impressed fireworks and destruction, and possess amazing courage in the face of the unknown. "Super 8" is great film, but it could have been a legendary one if Abrams and Spielberg trusted the kids of 2011 a little more and made it about them*

**"Attack The Block" is a film about a group of teenagers fighting aliens in a london Housing project in 2011, it's getting rave reviews and comes out July 29**

1 comment:

  1. I liked the Nostalgia of the film. I think as a visual tool, the Super 8 camera provided something that a handycam, FlipVideo, or iPhone camera could never have come close to. It wasn't just about accidentally catching the monster on film. Think of the scene when the power comes back on and the film projector comes back to life revealing scenes of Joe's recently deceased mother. This is a moment that is not possible with the movie set in 2011, and it is also one of the best scenes in the movie.