Unpopped – Super 8

Unpopped, the column in which I, Mel Dale, will be sifting through the unpopped kernels of cinema (aka films I haven’t seen).  I’ll watch one of these movies that has eluded me and comment on it here.  I may or may not like the film I watch, but I’ll be sure to provide my honest and fair opinion.  One of our goals for this site is to avoid negativity as best as possible while fostering a community for film lovers to connect with one another.  With that in mind, I want to encourage all of you to suggest new films for me to watch in the comments section every week or hit me up on Twitter (@mel_dale) and suggest a movie title to me using the hashtag #unpopped.  I’ll do my best to pick from your suggestions and look forward to all the new stories and worlds I’ll get to enjoy because of it.

I’m a huge fan of both the writing and directing of J.J. Abrams so for me to miss a film featuring both of his talents seems a bit unbelievable.  Sadly, this was true until just recently with Abrams’ sophomore film as a writer/director, Super 8.  While the film was wowing audiences in theaters, it just so happened that I was moving across the country with my family.  The expense of moving, paired with an unfamiliar locale, resulted in me missing Super 8 during its theatrical release.   However, thanks to the magic of Netflix, this cinematic oversight has been corrected and I’ve finally seen the movie.  Here are my thoughts.

What Works:

J.J. Abrams, per his usual, crafts a really enjoyable movie full of little mysteries that unfold through the viewing experience.  Abrams’ natural instinct to hold back on exposition is one of my favorite characteristics of his brand of storytelling.  Super 8 was incredibly captivating, while remaining mostly elusive on the finer details of what was happening plot-wise.  This is something Hollywood could use a lot more of.

What makes the mystery all the more enjoyable are all the fun, relatable characters you’re experiencing the story through.  Abrams assembled an excellent cast of young actors who carry the film effortlessly with their stellar performances.  A special shout-out is deserved for Elle Fanning (Dakota Fanning’s sister) who more than once pulls the intensity of the plot to its knees with spellbinding monologues full of rich emotional conveyance.  Seriously, this girl is good.

What Doesn’t Work:

Although I really enjoyed the many mysteries of Super 8, I could have stood to have less of the plot explained to me.  I know, when compared to other films, Super 8 is incredibly tight lipped.  Still, J.J. Abrams is a writer of such caliber that he can tell you a story minus ALL of the details and I would have really enjoyed that kind of experience here; specifically, the scene in the film’s climax where Joe and the monster connect, this could have been completely silent, and still totally satisfying.

Also, despite stellar performances from the young cast of Super 8, I can’t say that any of the performances from the adult actors of the film stood out to me.  None of them were noticeably bad either, which is good, but it really was an all kids show for me.  There was definitely an opportunity for big performances from the adult cast, I just don’t recall any of them grabbing my attention.

All of my minuscule gripes aside, I really enjoyed Super 8.  It really feels like a love letter to the early films of Steven Spielberg, of which I am a tremendous fan.  I can imagine a double feature in my future pairing Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Super 8 for a night of nostalgic alien awesomeness.  If you’re a fan of mysteries, science fiction, coming of age stories, or the early films of Steven Spielberg, I highly recommend checking out Super 8.

by Mel Dale (@mel_dale)


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