by Stefan Abrutat
If you’re going to film a train crash, Get JJ Abrams. He just did for smashing up locomotives what Robert Zemeckis did for airplane disposal in Castaway. I involuntarily ducked in my seat several times as hurtling, screeching rolling stock cartwheeled across the screen, and I didn’t even see this bad boy in an IMAX theatre. Brace yourself, folks.
If there’s one thing I took from this movie it’s that JJ Abrams has matured as a filmmaker. Compared to his 2008 offering Cloverfield, he seems to have realized that moviegoers only experience the tension all the running, screaming and destruction are supposed to elicit if we actually give a shit about the characters. Empathy has to be earned. All too often in movies nowadays (most likely due to studio involvement trying to adhere to that “winning” formula), cardboard, cutout, assembly-line characters are mere window-dressing in the store that sells explosions.
In his current offering, Abrams directs with a deft hand, eliciting fine performances from his young cast, creating that elusive empathy. It takes elevated skill, not only with camerawork and post-production, to foster such connection. I’m seriously impressed.
I once asked a movie executive what type of movie was the hardest to pitch. He replied: “anything original”. Thus, I distrust the movie establishment: their marketing machine has systematically pointed me towards crap. I’m quite willing to punch a guy in a suit for stealing, from me, a couple of hours. Wouldn’t you?
In Cloverfield, by way of comparison, I was grimly looking forward to most of the characters dying, and was morbidly delighted when they did. I never once forgot I was watching a movie and these people were acting, often quite badly.
In Super 8 I sympathized with all the subplots, and became quite immersed, especially in the first act, which is what’s supposed to happen.
Upon leaving the theatre I got notes of Stand by Me and The Goonies in my cinematic aftertaste. Though not quite in the same league as these iconic movies, Super 8 is certainly sitting in a similar ballpark.