Movie Review: Super 8

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The “E.T.” of the 21st century.

Growing up overseas, I never saw the original “E.T.”  But I had the pleasure of seeing the 2001’s remake.  “Super 8” is a reminiscence of that, with a homage to “Jurassic Park.”  I saw it a couple of weeks ago, but due to a variety of factors, I wasn’t able to write a review around that time.  It may not be an instant classic, but “Super 8” has a magical quality.  It stays fresh in my mind as one of the best movies of the year.

If you’re not a fan of “Cloverfield,” fear not, “Super 8” is nothing like the shaky docu-style film.  While both share the director, J.J. Abrams, that’s where the similarity stops.  It’s also worlds beyond Spielberg’s own “War of the Worlds” (starring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning).  Inspired by Spielberg (acting as producer here), “Super 8” has all the footprints of an old-fashioned kids’ adventure, family movie.

Set in 1979 Ohio, the story opens with several kids (Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Gabriel Basso), filming an amateur movie with a Super 8 camera in front of an old train station.  They witness and survive the impact of a horrifically breathtaking freight train crash, which is derailed by a pick-up truck driven by a familiar face.  Almost immediately the U.S. Air Force (led by Noah Emmerich) swarm in and sweep around the area, recovering tons of small white-cubed materials from the train.  They continually roam around  and even set up makeshift camps in town.

Not long after the town begins to experience strange occurrences.  Pets running and found many miles away, people mysteriously disappearing, pools of blood streaming through, random power outage, electrical interference, neighborhood posts destroyed, loud scary noises in the dark.  And during the Cold War era, suspicion gravitates toward the Soviet Union.  Little did they know that something far sinister lurks in the background, threatening the lives of everyone.  A pandora box has been opened.

The filmmakers did a super job in keeping “Super 8” under wrap and thus raises the “shock and awe” value.  “Super 8” is a throwback to a nostalgic era – rotary telephone, walkman, camera film – filled with memories of childhood friendships and the wonders of exploration and discovery about the world.   The kids are the true stars here.  Relatively unknown, they’re a talented bunch.  Ellen Fanning is especially stunning.  The natural interconnectedness yet underscored by distinct personalities create an authentic innocence and camaraderie.

The strength of “Super 8” lies in the execution.  It’s executed exceptionally well that every moment is precious… The ambiance is just right that you could literally feel the chill in the air.  With spectacular cinematography, special effects, sound editing, it’s tense and thrilling.

And the story is the draw.  It’s purely poignant, sweet and funny.  It’s a story about a boy’s grief, coping with the loss of his mother, and dealing with his overprotective father and the town’s sheriff (Kyle Chandler).  It’s also a coming-of-age story, interlinked with genuine interactions among friends.

Perfectly paced, the suspense builds gradually and keeps its momentum until its heartwarming ending.  Stay through the closing credits roll for a special treat.  “Super 8” is spellbindingly super.

Copyright (c) 2011. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, lifestyle/travel writer and film columnist. She can be reached at Nathalia owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven (

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].


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