That high flying duo known as J.J. Abrams and some guy named Steven Spielberg are back with their latest coming-of-age/science fiction story in Super 8. The trailers and promotional material did absolutely nothing to quench the thirst of the uber geeky. All we saw was a bunch of kids making a super 8 film, a train crash, and something that may have been in a top secret government container escape. That’s it. Considering that you have J.J. Abrams directing and Speilberg producing, the stakes would be kind of on the high side. Well, the time has come for you to see what all the fuss is about on Blu-ray. Why So Blu presents: Super 8.
Super 8 is J.J. Abrams latest project with the Steven Speilberg as Producer and tells the tale of a group of best friends and aspiring filmmakers who are all from a small town in Ohio. It’s in this small town where tragedy has struck the local mill where Joe Lamb’s (Joel Courtney) mother was killed in an accident. Left alone with his distant father, Joe spends his time with his group of friends as they take on the task of shooting a zombie-noir super 8 film to enter at a local film festival.
One night as the group of friends are filming some scenes at a local train yard, they witness a spectacular train crash and barely escape with their lives. As everyone tries to gather themselves from the wreckage, Joe sees “something” escaping from a military labeled “top secret” container. Once the group get back into town strange things begin to happen to the inhabitants and their pets. They start to disappear. This goes on back and forth a bit all while focusing on the relationship of Joe and his father. Joe can’t get over the loss of his mother and his father’s way of coping with his own loss is to distant himself way from his son. Joe’s only solace is with the ragtag group of misfits making the film.
In watching Super 8 I found it obvious that Abrams was making a tribute to Spielberg and his own body of work. Whether that was needed or not, I’ll let the viewer decide, but I found it a bit on the self serving side. I’m no fan of ego stroking, so I found it kind of weird. The relationship between the core group of kids was fun, amusing, and really well acted by all those involved. The visuals were also top notch, and that train crash scene will probably go down in history (somewhere) as one of the greatest disasters in cinema.
Now it’s time for the bad news and nitpicking. I didn’t care for the whole E.T. comparison, because that film was much more pure than Super 8. In this film you are hinted at something mean, big, and bad, but when the final reveal is presented it comes off a bit on the awkward side. I was like, “that’s it?” Also the motivations for “it” being here and what it could do came off very tact on. Yes, I understand that Super 8 was not really marketed as an alien invasion flick even though we do have the creature component in there, but I really wished that that aspect had been fleshed out more. The ending is way too convenient and left me feeling a bit cold. It’s got a great build up, but falls flat. It’s the plot devices that make it fail in the final act.
Super 8 features a lot of new kids on the block which include Joel Courtney in the lead and Elle Fanning. Funny enough, I didn’t even know Dakota had a sister. The rest of the group of kids play their roles in an authentic fashion reminiscent of Goonies and Stand By Me which was great. They are NOT a boring bunch of kids, I’ll tell you that much. They have some great lines, and one of them is fond of fireworks/explosives which only made it even funnier.
I didn’t love Super 8, but I also didn’t hate it. I’m stuck in neutral.
Super 8 is presented in 1080p, 2.40:1, widescreen. Here’s a presentation that may or may not get some flack from movie viewers. I’m sort of split on the whole issue, but lean towards the higher grade, but not by much. Taking place in the 70’s, the color palette is not as colorful as one would expect. In fact, it’s kind of muted somewhat. It’s as if it were a cloudy-overcast kind of day in this town. Flesh tones are natural, as everyone looks healthy and non-sickly. There’s a healthy layer of grain throughout the film, but where I have to knock down a full star will be in the crush area. When the creature is finally revealed, there were times that I had to squint to try and tell what I was looking at. This creature is no chameleon, but just seemed to blend right into the darkness level of the film itself. It was hard on the eyes. This only represents about 10% of the film which is why it still gets a strong four star. Edge enhancement is nowhere to be found, sharpness levels are in tact, and banding was never an issue. This being a J.J. Abrams film , you will be treated to constant lens flares, but that is a stylistic choice and has nothing to do with the transfer of the Blu-ray.
Super 8 is presented in 7.1 Dolby TrueHD and the results are STELLAR! There’s no need to fluff this one out. The soundtrack is reference quality in every way. Dialogue is nice and clear, crisp, and balanced. Yes, the film features lots of screaming kids and what not, but they never drown out the sound field with their antics. The train crash that you’ve probably seen over and over again in the trailer IS the highlight of the film and will rock the crap out of your home theater. If you’ve got friends or family coming over that is the one scene that you will have to showcase. When we get into some of the military components of the film the audio keeps up nicely and never lags, and likewise when the creature is teased and hinted at, it rumbles along nicely.
Super 8 has some above average special features which are always welcome. There’s a full length documentary that’s been divided up into sections, assuming you don’t want to sit through it all the way through, and a commentary track with J.J. Abrams, Cinematographer Larry Wong, and Producer Bryan Burk. There’s a some deleted scenes and a very featurette on the “deconstruction” of the train crash.
- Commentary by writer/director J.J. Abrams, producer Bryan Burk, and cinematographer Larry Fong
- Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes: The Dream Behind Super 8 – The Search for New Faces – Meet Joel Courtney – Rediscovering Steel Town – The Visitor Lives – Scoring Super 8 – Do You Believe in Magic? – The 8mm Revolution
- Deconstructing the Train Crash
- Deleted Scenes
I think J.J. Abrams has proved (not that he hadn’t already) that he can hang with the big boys. Super 8 is an obvious tribute-passion project of his and is well made. I wish the story had been a bit tighter especially during that last act, but that’s how it goes. Oh, and if you want a special treat, stick around during the credits, so you can see something cool. On that alone, Super 8 is a rental. Me, I’m split on the film, but will say that it’s just okay. The first two thirds of the film are pretty rad, though. Happy viewing.
Order Super 8 on Blu-ray!