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Opinions are the deciding factor in everything from which jeans we purchase to who we elect to be the president. They are a right and not a privilege. If you don't have an opinion, use ours. If you have an opinion of your own, please feel free to compare it to our professionally produced opinion.
Since I am responsible for providing movie reviews, it's probably time for a little refresher course in how I look at movies. I do this from time to time so that those of you who vicariously form opinions have an opportunity to judge whether your acquired opinion has a legitimate pedigree.
First of all, movies are art. Sometimes whimsical, sometimes serious, art is the reflection of the artist's soul. The artist, with more or less skill, manipulates the medium to present the human condition, and by doing so, makes the audience laugh, cry or gasp in awe. Of course, as in all human endeavors, sometimes the artist is really good, sometimes the artist is really bad.
I think the best movie made to date is Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy -- an extraordinary telling of an extraordinary tale with stunning vision and technical skill. I could go on and on about the marvel of movie-making that this series is, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that perhaps the most astounding aspect of the work is how Mr. Jackson talked people into backing the project. "Hi, my names Peter. I've made a half dozen movies with no particular success, but I would like to spend nearly $400 million dollars on a movie to be released over a three year period." Close behind LoTR is Spielberg's Empire of the Sun. This movie demonstrates how multidimensional and rich story telling can be in movies as he deftly manipulates images and sounds to allow you to feel the main characters' emotions.
Bad movies? Unfortunately, there are loads and bunches of bad movies. Readers of my past reviews know that Skyline would have to be on the list of really bad movies, as would The Expendables. Bad movies have stupid stories about stupid people, think that barfing is funny, and spend way too much of their budgets on fake blood and canned sound tracks of breaking bones.
So with LoTR and Skyline as bookends, all other movies fit in between. All other movies I've seen anyway. For example, if LoTR is the 10, and Skyline is the 0, then last year's Best Picture, The Kings Speech, comes in with a solid 9. This past month's Thor would be an okay 5. Last week's Kung Fu Panda 2 would be in the area of 8, and X-Men: First Class a 7.
Super 8 is a wonderful tale of childhood adventure, science fiction style. Twelve year old Joe and his buddies are making a movie, a zombie movie no less. Their movie-making adventure takes an ominous turn when, while filming a scene at the train station, a freight train comes roaring past only to collide with a pick-up truck and crash spectacularly all around the young movie makers. A ghoulish warning from the injured truck driver, the sudden appearance of armed U.S. Air Force personnel, and eerie happenings in the mangled wreckage propel the kids into a mystery that soon consumes the whole town.
I have read some reviews of this movie that were glowing. They promised a blockbuster and perhaps the best blockbuster in years. Spielberg was mentioned so often that you almost got the idea that this movie was about Spielberg. I think that was actually unfortunate. This is a good movie, but not that good. To be sure, there are some very good things about the movie. The stuff I know next to nothing about -- the way a movie is lit and the special effects -- were top notch. I make that judgment from a consumer's point of view; it looked great and when things blew up, they blew up real, real good. And the acting from the cast of kids was outstanding. I assume it takes a special director to get that much acting out of a bunch of kids, and Abrams allowed these young stars to really shine.
And it was a fun story. Nothing deep, no real surprises, nothing particularly new. Much like Spielberg's Indiana Jones movies, this was a story that looks a lot like the stories in the old movies out of the 1950s and 1960s era, the movies you saw at the double feature Saturday afternoon matinee. But that's okay, because like the Spielberg movies, Super 8 is done well with a great deal of technical finesse.
Was this a blockbuster? Maybe, and I wish it well. Is it a great movie? No, I don't think so. A very good, movie, and lots and lots of fun for sure. I would give it a 7, on the par with X-Men: First Class. This movie was technically a little more savvy and the kids were a delight; X-Men had the better story.
So go ahead and empty the piggy bank to go see this one. It's fun, and it's worth seeing on the big screen with the big theater sounds.
Super 8 is the kind of movie that you want to just stay put in the theater and watch through again at the next showing; the second time through, you could watch for all the details and anticipate the coolest scenes, savoring it all again without having to fork out another price of tickets and all. Unfortunately, theaters don't work that way, and have their sweepers and bouncers come in after the final scene and run would-be all-day movie-junkies off, backed by monolithic rent-a-cop movie-goons. I was run off by the goons, nothing less would have kept me from seeing the film again.
A central ensemble cast of kids inhabits this movie, and I had intended to talk about their characters, but instead, I must say that Super 8 was a wonderful example of the concept of "Show, don't tell" in storytelling. That means Show what this character is about, what he does, how he thinks. Don't use a narrative to describe what the character does. Let him reveal his own story. It was so much fun to see the development of each kid's character that to talk about it in this review would spoil the effect. Especially when, as Bernie pointed out, the acting by the kids was so very good.
As with almost all science fiction/fantasy stories, there were moments of implausibility in Super 8; they did not detract from the sheer entertainment of the story at all.
Alas, not wanting to include a spoiler, I can't speak of what convinced me that I wasn't the only one in the theater who had been captivated by the story. It will have to be enough to say that other movie-goers were stopped in their tracks, eyes riveted to the screen, to see what the movie was really about.
I loved this film, and will definitely see it again.