Clearly something’s wrong here. Either I’ve completely lost patience with ludicrous plotting and gratuitous Spielbergian spectacle, or the critics have become a lot more forgiving. I guess it doesn’t matter which. All I know is that this movie should had been nominated for a Razzie in some category — worst use of a promising cast, maybe. It wouldn’t have “won” anything — not as long as Adam Sandler still walks among us — but it would have put a talented guy like J.J. Abrams on notice that concept alone does not make a great movie. You really, really have to have a coherent story.
The concept was what got me to rent the film, of course: Kids in 1979 are making a zombie film with Super 8 gear and come across something far more sinister than zombies. Great! To me this meant some sort of government conspiracy, no matter how unlikely that would have been with Jimmy Carter in the White House. I was thinking of movies like Blow Up (1966), Blow Out (1981), maybe The Conversation (1974). You know, a movie where the entire story turns on something accidentally witnessed. Only starring a bunch of cute kids.
Spoilers from here on out: In any case, I was hoping for something better than another E.T. who just wants to get home. But no. When people say this is an homage to Spielberg, they’re not kidding. This is E.T. all over again, except that this alien prefers human flesh to Reese’s Pieces and apparently has telekinetic dominion over all things metal. Big things, like major appliances and the full-size sedans Detroit was building in the 70s. It can also construct cavernous tunnels at will. How the government is able to confine and torment such a creature with anal probes over 20 years is never satisfactorily explained. (“Where exactly is the anus, Dr. Van Nostrum?”) Why such a creature would mend its ways after a two-minute talk with a 12-year-old boy is another lingering question.
I mentioned the promising cast, and they’re all doing the best they can. Kyle Chandler is still playing Coach Taylor, but that may be the role he was born to play. He’s convincing enough, although his no-nonsense demeanor is out of place in a movie that’s nothing but nonsense. Elle Fanning (Dakota’s sister) does a remarkable job with the small part of the script that focused on character. I’d love to see her in a good movie.
Then again, maybe you’re one of the 78 percent who loved Super 8. Feel free to disagree. I think I can handle it.