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June 13, 2011 - Image 7

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-06-13

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Monday, June 13, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

7

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COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT
Disheveled appearances, far-off expressions ... is this an alternative "Lost" poster, J.J.?
'Super 8' brings out best
in actors and producers

Abrams and Spielberg
join forces with
retro-chic alien
thriller
By TIMOTHY RABB
DailyArts Writer
if there's anything new to say
about this weekend's "Super 8,"
it's that it should be making big-
ger waves - way
bigger waves. It's *
the perfect mar-
riage of minds:S
Steven Spielberg,
the indomitable AtQuality 16
storyteller, and and Rave
J.J. Abrams, who
gives the story Paramount
just the right
amount of weirdness to distin-
guish it from Spielberg's myriad
epics.
The retro-chic thriller frames
the quiet town of Lillian, Oh. at the
center of a tense battle between
Lillian's townies, the Army, and a
mysterious, other-worldly threat.
It's easy to be skeptical at first,
what with the ambiguous teaser

and rumors that it would be a
companion to "Cloverfield." But
"Super 8" lived up to the hype,
exceeded it even.
Though he's not in the direc-
tor's chair, many thanks are owed
to Spielberg, whose fingerprints
are all over this picture. He has an
eye for plot elements and charac-
ters with universal appeal, and he
succeeds in numerous ways here.
The acting, for one, is the best
in the recent history of sci-fi
film, and a huge step up from the
douchey caricatures that popu-
lated "Cloverfield." Abrams -
brilliant as his films' narrative
concepts and visuals are - doesn't
always get the best performances
from his talent.
That's where Spielberg comes
in. Though his usual stable of
bankable actors is nowhere to
be seen in "Super 8," he gets the
same (if not better) quality from a
bevy of fresh faces, which include
the pouty-lipped Elle Fanning
("Somewhere"), first-timer Joel
Courtney and several other prom-
ising child actors.
The young cast's natural chem-
istry and the retro, homely setting
give us a healthy twinge of block-
buster nostalgia without gushing

sentimental. No wonder the kids
have already invited comparisons
to the lovable youngsters of Goon
Docks fame.
Better still, not a moment of
screen time goes to waste as each
scene addresses key plot elements
with perfect pacing and equal
helpings of conflict, romance,
suspense and good old-fashioned
violence.
Creatively,
a perfect
marriage of
minds.
Spielberg doesn't take the
whole cake, though. Evidence
of Abrams's work can be seen in
some quirky, yet fitting, camera
angles, and (most importantly)
the awe-inducing action scenes -
these include an explosive train
derailment and a spaceship made
of magnetized trash, both over-
the-top in a good way.

As much as it hurts to criticize
such a holistic effort, there are
two things keeping"Super 8" from
the timelessness of a traditional
Spielberg film. You'll notice the
first flaw in particularly intense
scenes, when dialogue among
the children sounds awkwardly
lighthearted. Call it conservative,
but it seems disingenuous when
a bunch of kids are joking about
their friend's weight problem
while townspeople are killed all
around them.
But these moments are few,
far between and of lesser con-
cern than the underwhelming,
overly-politically correct ending,
which manages to omit about half
a dozen unresolved plot threads.
Beautiful as the film's final image
is, it's not much of a consolation.
But most of it is still packed with
enough meatto be worth your $10.
"Super 8" commits to a climax
of nuclear proportions, throw-
ing lovable characters, stylish
cinematography and chaotic spe-
cial effects into a mixing pot of
unbearable tension. And once
it's all on the cusp of a feverish
boiling point ... someone turns it
back down to "simmer." A damn
shame.

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