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Laramie Movie Scope:
Super 8

A good throwback sci-fi movie about kids

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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June 13, 2011 -- This reminds me of those old sci-fi movies where kids save the world, like “E.T.,” “The Monster Squad” and “Invaders from Mars.” It has more sophisticated special effects, the monster is scarier and the action is more intense, but at its heart this is a throwback to another, more innocent era in America. It is set in the year 1979, the last year there was a real large middle class in this country and just before the income gap between the rich and everyone else started to widen from a arroyo to a canyon. It was the last of summer in America and fall was about to begin.

“Super 8” is kind of a film within a film (watch the credits to see the film the kids supposedly made). Some kids are in the process of making an amateur zombie film using a small movie camera shooting super 8 film when they accidentally film a creature from outer space breaking out of a wrecked train carrying a lot of secret military materials. Coincidentally, the train wreck was caused by a science teacher, Dr. Woodward (Glynn Turman of “Burlesque”) who teaches at the same school the kids attend. He drives his pickup truck on the railroad tracks, deliberately hitting the train. I know what you are thinking. A pickup truck won't make a train derail, especially the way it is shown in this film. You have to really seriously suspend your disbelief for this film. It really strains credulity on a number of points.

Anyway, the kids just happen to be filming their zombie movie at the scene of the train wreck. They begin to figure out what is going on when they finally get the film from the camera developed and put together all the clues they've pieced together in the meantime. The acting in the film is pretty solid by the kids, Joel Courtney, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Riley Griffiths and Elle Fanning. The adults in the film also have well rounded characters, including the local deputy sheriff, Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler of “The Day the Earth Stood Still”) who is also the father of the film's main character, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney). Noah Emmerich is sufficiently scary as the main villain of the film, an army colonel who is a lot like a ruthless, evil “Man in Black.” There is a character a lot like him in the mini-series “Taken.” You wouldn't be very surprised if you found out this whole alien monster thing was part of a secret government conspiracy, would you?

Despite the weaknesses in the story it is pretty compelling and it has good characters worth following. The special effects are good and the story upholds a fairly good moral standard too. As in “Jaws,” the story builds some suspense by not showing us the alien monster right away. It teases us with a lot of hints at the beginning. Writer-director J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek,” “Fringe,” “Lost”) and the effects people show admirable restraint. This is a good, solid sci-fi film. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2011 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)