As everybody already knows, I am a Steven Spielberg whore... Well, at least I'm whorish for his early works: everything from Jaws to Jurassic Park. So I can fully appreciate what writer and director JJ Abrams (of Cloverfield, Star Trek, and unfortunately Lost fame) tried to do with his newest movie, Super 8.
Abrams had made it perfectly clear from the start that he was going to make a perfect homage to early Spielberg flicks with this movie, and he almost succeeded. Super 8 is so close to being 100% awesome, but it's not quite all it should be, and what pisses me off the most is that if Spielberg himself (who produced the movie) had just taken one last look at the script he would have easily seen these small failings and he could have had Abrams fix this shit in order to make another alien movie masterpiece... But to quote Dumbledore, "Alas, earwax."
Hmmm, maybe Spielberg did this on purpose to make his original movies look that much better in comparison. Who knows.
Anyway, not that I find Super 8 to be sucky — far from it in fact — just that I wanted so badly to love it as much as the three main Spielbergian movies it does its best to emulate: ET, Close Encounters, and The Goonies (the main man may not have been credited for directing The Goonies, but by all accounts it was his movie and Richard Donner was simply his puppet). I grew up with those movies and was able to watch them at the perfect times in my life, and I was so hoping that I'd be able to relive their magic in the form of Super 8. And in fact, Abrams got a ton of his Spielbergian clichés right (good characters, great kid actors, fun and intriguing plot, great setting, entertaining dialogue, and cool mysteries), but he really missed on a big one (though not as badly as he missed on the entire last season of Lost [seriously, he dropped the fucking ball on that crap]): there was NO sympathy for the alien creature. As it stood, I couldn't have cared less if the creature survived, got home, fucked his wife in creepy alien sex, and died of old age as an old alien grandfather — I just didn't give a half a shit. As a matter of fact, I cared a metric fuck-ton more about the locket reveal at the end than I did about the monster unveiling. Fuck the Super 8 creature. Fuck it in its ear!
Okay, let me back up and talk some spoilers. Unfortunately in order to fully dissect my issues with Super 8 I will need to talk about the plot and the ending in detail. You have been warned!
Super 8 is all about a bunch of 13 year-olds living in rural Lillian, Ohio back in 1979. The main kid (Joe) just lost his mother in an accident at the local steel mill (flattened like a penny by a 2-ton beam), and his emotionally distant deputy father now has to raise him on his own. Joe moves on, and soon he and his freaks and geeks friends start working on the token annoying fat kid's Super 8 movie that he's making for some local film festival (seriously, chubs is the group's Eric Cartman). The zombie flick in question keeps changing and evolving, and soon the tubby turd announces that he's asked cute, blonde classmate Alice (played by Dakota Fanning's younger and more talented sister Elle) to play a new role in his fan film, and that everybody involved in his movie is going to meet at midnight in order to film a key emotional scene at the local piddly train station.
It's at this midnight rendezvous that the kids' lives get flipped upside down, just like the government train that got derailed by some crazy guy in a pickup truck right in front of the station and the kids' unbelieving eyes (and shit-stained underwear). Honestly, this was one of the most amazing crashes of any kind I have ever seen put to film. I saw Super 8 in an IMAX theater and the visuals blew my mind while the sound burst my eardrums. I'm not complaining.
As soon as the kids find out that they're all okay after the minutes of collisions and explosions, they take off to avoid being caught by the soldiers from the local Air Force base who've come to investigate the crashing of their train. Then, starting the next day, local yokels and cars and other assorted electronics start going missing in Lillian, just like in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (only no alcohol or cigarettes disappear, and nobody gets raped). The kids are too into filming the remaining scenes for their movie to notice, but Joe's policeman dad gets caught up in the whole disappearing mess, yet when he tries to get the military to tell him why they won't let him or his people near their crash site, or if these vanishings have anything to do with their shit; the brass just act like Sergeant Schultz and start claiming "I know noooooooothing!" But Deputy Joe's Dad is a good cop, and soon he starts to figure out that something that was being transported on the train has escaped, and his whole burg is in danger. Just like when Carl eats Krystal's chili-burgers and chili-fries and lets loose upwind of downtown Athens, he knows that things are only going to get worse before they get better.
Anyway, Joe, Alice and the rest of the geeks continue to sneak around filming their stuff (against the wishes of Joe's and Alice's dads, who don't want their chillun playin' doctor or "zombie makeup" with each other), and they begin to uncover some secrets and plot points about what's terrorizing their town, while finding out that hormones are super, and that sometimes having a little hottie in your group makes everything better.
Before too long, pandemonium breaks out in Lillian, the military (pissed at not finding what they're looking for) starts a fire to chase out the townies and smoke out whatever escaped their train, Joe's dad gets MP-captured for getting too nosy, Alice gets kidnapped by some large "thing" after her drunk father almost runs her over in his sweet ride, and Joe and his friends sneak back into town in order to rescue the girl and maybe film a better ending for their movie.
Now up to this point I was LOVING Super 8. Hell, even when the boys find that the military's weapons and tanks are starting to go fucking bananas and are blowing up their neighborhood as they race through it to the alien's hiding place I was totally captivated by it all... But then came the big reveal of the creature... And it was the Cloverfield monster. And I found I had no sympathy for the funky-looking 6-limbed beast at all, despite the fact that I knew I should (hell, just like the adorable ET, he only wanted to go home)... but as Psycho Weasel put it so succinctly, "When a giant creature just eats the heads or crushes 2 or three innocent people right in front of the main character's eyes, you can't possibly expect the audience to sniff and cry a tear when said creature makes a slight mental connection to the protagonist two minutes later." That, and it fucking looked like a totally CG'd Cloverfield monster at about 1/100th scale.
What would have truly saved this scene for me (other than NOT having the beast rage and EAT innocent townies) would have been if Abrams had actually built a puppet creature, like ET! I mean, if you're going through all the trouble of making an early Spielberg movie, why ruin it in the last few minutes by chucking in a totally obvious computer generated alien in your most important scene? Like I said before, I was more eager for the reveal of what was inside Joe's mother's locket that he had been carrying around the whole movie than I was to see the actual monster. And when the audience yells out "What the FUCK!? That's Cloverfield!" at your biggest emotional moment, you've kind of failed, Mr. Abrams. I blame you too, Mr. Spielberg. You most definitely should have known better, and you should have kept Abrams from trying the whole "don't show the shark until the end" ploy here too... You guys should have made the monster a character throughout the film, like ET, instead. THAT'S how you gain sympathy, and that would have made this movie 100% Spielbergian Awesome. Pisser.
Really though, Super 8 was a fun, marvelous, pretty fucking sweet film. The kids were straight out of The Goonies, the town was directly from ET, and the chases and wonder of some scenes were cut directly from Close Encounters. This is a homage film to end all homages. It was so close to perfection. So close.
Quite honestly, dear readers, this movie ticked me off. The whole point of the multi-million dollar production seemed to be "If you find an alien, let it go home. It just wants to go home."
HOGWASH, I say! Do you know just how hard it was for me to capture my extra-terrestrial in the first place? How many government grants I had to steal in order to fund my operation, and then house the beast for 20 years!? Millions! And now he's PISSED! I'm not about to free that 20-foot lizardman from Alpha Centauri while I'm within 150 miles from my fortified basement-bunker prison facility — I'm not crazy. Plus it's just so fun to poke him with a cattle prod for a half an hour every other Monday. That giant lizardman still goes nuts after 20 years! It's priceless! And it's SCIENCE!
I did in fact appreciate how they showed that by freeing the beast in the movie they released Hell on Earth in that small MidWestern town. I can only imagine what would happen to my fair city should my lizardman break free someday. If those electromagnetic force fields ever fail, I estimate that 10,000 people would die in about a week. You hear that, power company?! If you cut me off, their blood will be on YOUR hands!
No Data, no Short Round make Kuni very sad. Why did they not put in any Short Round? Short Round killed Nazis with Dr. Jones! He stabbed evil ugly Hindu prince too! He saved Dr. Jones and tell him to hold on to his potatoes! Data have slick shoes too! What the fuck, guy!? No Pincers of Peril in Super 8s either!!! Fuck you, guy!