Plot: What’s it about?
With each year there comes the anticipation that each and every movie released will be the “next big thing.” Such is the case with the J.J. Abrams movie “Super 8” which, with Steven Spielberg on board, it’s clear to say there was some pressure for Mr. Abrams. For those that don’t know, Abrams was the creative force behind television’s “Lost” and “Alias.” Both of those shows have now run their course, suffice it to say that they’ve made a lasting impression on the pop culture circuit. He jumped to the big screen with the reboot of the “Star Trek” franchise as well as “Mission: Impossible III”, directing both. He’s once again behind the camera in “Super 8”, obviously an homage to the hand held devices that he and a generation of filmmakers grew up on. But this begs the question…do we need another movie about aliens? Abrams produced “Cloverfield” a couple of years ago and we’re constantly inundated with so many alien films that they’re nearly a dime a dozen. Then again consider the names attached to this project.
The story is set in 1979 in a rural Ohio town. We meet Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) whose mother has just died in an accident at the local factory. His father (Kyle Chandler) is the town deputy and both are trying to get their lives back to normal. Joe and his posse of friends are aspiring movie-makers with Joe being the special effects guru. So, in the midst of a scene, they witness a train derail and consequently destroy everything in its path. The government quickly comes in and assesses the situation and the town tries to get back to normal. However people start disappearing which leads Joe and his group of friends to investigate further. Joe and his friends must not only fight the forces of the government, but also try to convince Jack (Chandler) as to what’s going on.
I’d heard mixed reviews of “Super 8” and after seeing it I can say that I liked the film, though I think it stands up there with some of the better “alien” movies. The majority of the cast are relatively unknown save for Ellie Fanning (Dakota’s younger sister). The plot is somewhat interesting and unique and it is a well-thought out film, I just didn’t get the feel that there was a lot of action and about half way through I essentially knew what was going to happen. Still, I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill here and as much as I wasn’t too big of a fan of the movie, I wish more movies were as well written as this one. I don’t know about the repeat watching for me, but I’m sure that at least a few of these pint-sized stars will have a future in film.
Video: How does it look?
The movie is one of Paramount’s bigger titles for the year and as such, anything less than stellar on the video front will yield a lot of disappointment. Thankfully the 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer is nothing short of perfection. A majority of the movie takes place at night, but the image is never compromised. Black levels are strong and consistent and the detail is second to none. When you can make out the individual hairs on someone’s face or see the makeup lines, it’s a good definition of clarity. The overall palette is a bit muted, I’m guessing due to the film being set in the late 70’s. Still, I’d find it very difficult to believe that anyone could find fault with this transfer. It’s a top notch effort.
Audio: How does it sound?
In general a science-fiction movie will usually have a good soundtrack associated with it. In this case “Super 8” lives up to that and at times this movie is loud, I mean real loud! Early on the train wreck sequence is an 11 on a scale of 10 putting the one from “The Fugitive” to shame. It was a real train used and I think I literally felt the room shake. This is good in the sense that I’m getting the most out of the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless track, but bad in the sense that it woke my wife up, so be warned! Dialogue is very crisp and rich as well. Surrounds are almost always humming along and the LFE have more than their fare share of time during the 112 minute running time. There’s a lot of destruction in this film and the robust mix gives way for every speaker to lend to what is a great-sounding track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Seeing as this is one of the marquee releases for Paramount for the year, they made sure to load this down with plenty of supplements. We start off with an audio commentary by director J.J. Abrams and his producer and cinematographer. The trio discuss the more technical aspects of the film, the shooting locale and what it was like to have Steven Spielberg on board. It’s a very good, thorough, commentary that should give fans what they want. Next up is “The Dream Behind ‘Super 8′” as we hear Abrams reminisce about his childhood and his passion for making films. We also get a look at a few of his buddies: Larry Fong, Bryan Burk and Matt Reeves (director of “Cloverfield”). “The Search for New Faces” focuses on the casting of the child stars complete with some audition footage. “Meet Joel Courtney” focuses on the actor who played Joe Lamb and his dedication to the lead role. “Rediscovering Steel Town” shows the location used for shooting and features a brief history of the town. “The Visitor Lives” gives us some in-depth looks at what it took to create the alien for the film from concept to completion. “Scoring Super 8” is just that, a look at the composer for the film, Michael Giacchino. “Do you Believe in Magic?” is a segment with cinematographer Larry Fong (aka “Buddy of J.J. Abrams”). And the segment I found most interesting was “Deconstructing the Train Crash”, which lets you select between the pre-production shots, production and finally post production in somewhat of a “train schedule” arrangement. It’s interesting, though a bit confusing. Finally we have some deleted scenes as well as a digital copy of the film on the other disc.