Thursday 11 July 2013

Super 8 (2011)

The guys survey the wreckage of a CGI explosion
When somebody presses a DVD into your hands, it's probably a movie they really think you should watch, and really think you should watch.  Ian, a photographer of my acquaintance (whose name seems to appear alongside Pencilton's in the name of this blog) recommended 'Super 8' to me and passed me a copy.  He and I help to run a holiday camp each Summer, at which, among other things, the young people get to make their own motion-pictures.  I'm a great advocate of amateur movies, and tend to be heavily involved in the holiday's video activity, so I've naturally harboured a curiousity toward this recent blockbuster, which begins with five youngsters trying to make a short film.

They have a film-camera, (which, in our age of video, is a beautiful technological inconvenience I've never had the chance to use) a very short script (which is absolutely the best kind for an amateur work), and a visionary young director keen to get good production values without spending any money.  They're making a zombie crime film with models, prosthetics, make-up and a period setting, and extremely varied acting ability.  It's exactly what I wanted to be doing at that age (which seems to say, early teens), and exactly what I do too little these days - and the film has left me gagging to fire up my camcorder, round up a few friends and a dozen hats and cry 'action' and 'havoc'.

I can't help feeling that the film might have carried on just fine had the film-making plot not been derailed at the twenty minute mark by the sudden arrival of a CGI train full of mysterious and terrifying cargo.  Once this mystery becomes the main plot, and special effects the majority of the draw, the kids-make-movies story falls away, and I felt we'd lost sight of the film's most interesting facet.  Perhaps I wanted to be watching 'Son of Rambow' (2007) instead.

A still from 'The Case', the film the kids are making on Super 8.
Gabriel Basso as Martin as Detective Hathaway and Elle Fanning as Alice as his wife.
The gang of kids at the centre of the film are a fun and likeable bunch, and reminded my of 'The Goonies' (1985), except here we only get one girl in a gang of five, while the earlier film was marginally more balanced with two out of six.  It's disheartening to see that adventure-movie gender-balance hasn't improved at all over the twenty-eight years of my life, and has in fact got worse; adventure is still a club for boys, unless you're a feel-good love interest.

The film is amply exciting, and ends well enough.  It being Spielberg-produced, the story is well-told, though pondering it over the last day or so parts of it begin to make less sense, and the heroes seem to have had too many strokes of luck.  Either way, the CGI (well animated but, being animated, rather insubstantial and unreal) goes away and the film ends immediately.  I'd count this as a bit of a pity, as I wanted it to get back to the more important business of the eponymous Super 8, the film being shot by the kids.  As I hoped, their movie plays during the end credits.  I'faith, it's the best bit!

P.S. The antagonists are all male, and so are the major allies, and so are all the parents, except the dead ones.  The only girl among the heroes gets captured, is helpless and has to be rescued.  Will films still be like this when I'm old and dead, I wonder?

The film on disc, if you yearn for it.

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