Overlooking at Super 8

It’s been a week or so since I saw Super 8 in the theatre, and it’s given me a chance to really think about my feelings about it. I’d love to see it again to be sure, but living in nowheresville, Canada makes that premise a little bit more difficult. Driving an hour to see a film usually means I’m watching something new, but I digress.

Basically, I loved Super 8. I absolutely loved it. The kids were pitch perfect, the story was well paced and the action was consistently entertaining. The way JJ Abrams conveyed a complete love and reverence towards both the craft and medium of film was brilliant. Coming out of the theatre, I couldn’t see how I could possibly like any movie this year more than this one.

What I’ve realized since is that I may have turned a blind eye towards some of the major flaws of the film. I’ll try to be vague, but spoilers for Super 8 follow.

My primary problem came with the end of the film. I really felt like the characters had no real impact on the final act. On one hand, the kids have a direct impact within their own storyline (even when it crosses over with that of the alien), but ultimately fail to contribute in any way to the driving plotline of the entire film. While the discovery, and eventual liberation, of the alien/monster may only be a MacGuffin upon which the actual story is built, the way in which the alien storyline is resolved still felt forced.

Similarly, the resolutions of some of the relationships seemed forced. While the way in which they were portrayed (especially between the father and son) was still believable (and still managed to pull an emotional response out of me. That final, unabashedly Spielbergian, shot, looking into space, was pure magic), there was really no moment to me that the father really “got it” in regards to who his son really was. I guess I can believe that their relationship was strengthened due to the events of the film, and I can understand the desperation and unconditional love going into finding them at the end, it still seemed like nothing was really changed. The relationship between the two father characters seemed rushed, as well. Once again, I can buy the whole “shared experience” angle, but how Joe’s father can make a complete 180 that way seemed dubious, at best.

Despite this, and a few other small gripes (the way characters would be alluded to and introduced, seemingly only to be cannon fodder to create a false sense of danger towards the main characters, for example), none of these problems came up while I was watching the film. The things I absolutely loved (the relationships between the kids, the filmmaking aspect, the mystery, etc.) completely outnumber the minor issues (that are mostly nestled within things I loved).

I guess this sort of turned into a review, so I’ll end by saying that Super 8 is absolutely worth watching, watching again, buying, and watching again. It may end up being my favourite film of the year (though I haven’t seen Attack the Block yet). It does some things wrong, but it’s all wrapped within such a great package that it’s incredibly easy to overlook them. The scene near the end (to avoid spoilers as much as possible) when the kids are running through the town is enough, by itself, to recommend this movie.

I don’t want this to seem like a middling review, either. My intent is to demonstrate that a) Super 8 is not a perfect movie, but that b) the flaws don’t even begin to make me love it any less. I’m glad I waited to post this, because it let me get some sort of a perspective on my feelings, but I don’t think my enthusiasm has been tempered at all. If anything, I want to rewatch it even more. Please, drive-in, bring this to Perth soon.


Scream 4 Review

Scream 4

Just a quick impression of Scream 4 (Scre4m), not really a full review, but at least a relevant post.

Overall, I thought it was pretty good, an enjoyable, if only superficially so, way to spend a couple hours.

Scream 4 reunites the cast of the originals, with Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Neve Campbell reprising their roles, but it’s the newcomers that are forced to mostly carry the film. On the whole they do a serviceable job, hitting the horror beats, playing the victims and generally making us care about these doomed characters. While I felt the film nerd characters were enjoyable to watch, they felt too clichéd, and struck me as more of a way to explain the new rules to the audience than real people. The new additions did their jobs well, but it’s still the veterans stealing the show.

The whodunit aspect of the plot was well done, and I was genuinely surprised when the villain was revealed. I felt the first act dragged a bit, but the last half, and especially the last few scenes, more than redeemed it.

The main issue I have with the film is how much it simply coasts. While it continually makes reference to the ‘rules’ of horror films, and how Ghostface is updating them for the new generation of horror fans, it also falls into these tropes, ultimately failing to provide any real surprises or twists. There’s only so much a self-referential humour can do to save the films. The first Scream had it, this one doesn’t quite break even.

As someone who was relatively lukewarm towards the Scream series (and hasn’t seen the third one), and despite my complaints, I enjoyed the movie. It’s funny, it’s a worthy addition to the series, and it has some really good scenes once the movie gets going. If you like the Scream series, this is a strong showing, and you’ll certainly find a lot to like. If you aren’t a fan of the series, or horror films, I’d say wait for the DVD if you’re interested in checking it out. You won’t be disappointed.