‘Super 8’ a super tale of growing up

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP | Contributor
Sunday, July 3, 2011

Super 8,” written and directed by the prolific TV and movie guru J.J. Abrams, is a collaboration with his hero, Steven Spielberg. “Super 8” is a semi-autobiographical story set in 1979 about a bunch of middle-school friends who set out to shoot a zombie movie when they witness (and get on their Super 8 camera) a train crash involving the paranormal.

Charles (Riley Griffiths) is the demanding natural-born director who uses big words and proper film terminology, along with an unnecessary amount of profanity and blasphemy: “God,” and “Jesus” are every other word. It’s supposed to be his schtick, but it’s ugly. I cringe every time I hear “the only name by which we may be saved” taken in vain. The Holy Name Society encourages us to whisper “... May he always be praised!” whenever we hear the Lord’s name slandered. Hey, it gives us the opportunity to praise.

Joe (Joel Courtney) is the main character, and he’s luminous. He has a crush on the female lead, Alice. Cary (Ryan Lee) is the natural-born camera and special effects guy and provides comic relief and fireworks on call.

Martin (Gabriel Basso) is another male lead and a big chicken. Alice (Elle Fanning) is the scrumptious female lead and natural actress. There are two wonderful scenes where she dazzles and enchants the guys with her ability to emote. Her character is sweet, sensitive, strong, reserved and, at times, uncertain.

“Super 8” is reminiscent of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” — the wind, the night skies, the shining lights, the alien presence, the supernatural abductions, take over of cars, electricity, energy sources, the pregnant silences followed by sudden jolts. It actually feels more Spielbergian than Abramsian. However the “monster” is pure Abrams, extremely reminiscent of “Cloverfield.”

Joe and Alice have both lost their mothers and have rocky relationships with their dads. The lack of the feminine motherliness in both their lives (and that of their fathers) leaves a gaping hole.

The middle-schoolers are truly middleschoolers with a certain innocence to them. Middle-schoolers should love this film. Make sure to stay for the credits to watch the kids’ finished zombie film.

“Super 8” is especially pertinent today with virtually every young person shooting video from their childhood on, using inexpensive, high-quality video phones and other handheld devices. The child actors are pros, and the story is truly told from a tween point of view by filmmakers still in touch with their own youth.