Osage's Review of...SUPER 8 (DVD; Paramount/Bad Robot) - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #1 of 3 Old 11-27-11, 07:08 PM Thread Starter
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Osage's Review of...SUPER 8 (DVD; Paramount/Bad Robot)

Releasing Studio: Paramount/Bad Robot
Disc/Transfer Specifications: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Tested Audio Track: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Rating: PG-13
Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring Cast: Elle Fanning, Amanda MIchalka, Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Ron Eldard


From the moment I saw the Super 8 teasers I was admittedly intrigued, but for the life of me couldn’t figure out what this film was about…it looked like the gang from Stand By Me got together with…well…what’s the difference. I missed it in theaters and going into it at home last night as a rental, I had absolutely no idea that this was about aliens – or an alien, to be more specific – but you wanna know something? After the creature that acts as the headliner in Super 8 shows itself, I had the strangest intuition that this was a Cloverfield spin, or rip off…lo and behold, Mr. J.J. Abrams’ name was attached to the director’s chair here. You can feel his influence all over this film.

Further, in the way the marketing department for Paramount – G-d bless their rotten souls – advertised Super 8, it was easy to believe Steven Spielberg was behind the camera here as director…I sure did. His name was splashed all over every clip, banner, teaser and poster during the promotion period, and I went into this actually thinking Spielberg directed. Alas, he was wearing the producing pants here – nevertheless, you can definitely feel the War of the Worlds-meets-Cloverfield vibe even when watching Super 8 on a smaller screen in your home theater/media room.

Abrams – whom I don’t necessarily care for as a filmmaker especially after the disaster, in my own opinion, that was the Star Trek reboot – melds a story that mixes a classic science fiction monster angle a la Cloverfield with a narrative revolving around a group of middle school graduates in what ultimately does feel, in the end, like a direct-to-cable production in many ways; add to that the fact that the cast encompasses a group of nobody’s, for the most part, save for Ron Eldard (Ghost Ship) and Super 8 becomes a strange film in that it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. The angle of the plot concentrating on the middle school kids, in particular, gives it that aforementioned Stand By Me feel that would be more at home as an after-school special or something produced by the Lifetime network instead of their usual “rape of the week” film…if it weren’t for the mild violence injected by the sequences involving the monster.

To be fair, Super 8 had some standout moments of suspense – Abrams builds the tension nicely, allowing us to wonder exactly what is going on with the plot and what this group of boys and one girl have to do with the events about to unfold around them, and it’s not until a good depth into the plot that the science fiction/alien angle is revealed. The time period in which Super 8 takes place is circa 1979, and the costume designers did a good job conveying the era through the polyester clothes, music and language; from the very beginning, you wonder if the clothes the kids are wearing are merely decisions by their own brains to throw on polyester flowered shirts and flared trousers or shorts that have that awful 80s-like thick trim around them (although a couple of the girls look real cute in their crop tops and ridiculously short denim Daisy Dukes)….but, eventually, you make out that they’re definitely in the late 1970s. A pack of kids that have just graduated middle school, as I mentioned, in the peaceful town of Lillian, Ohio, have a peculiar fascination for making their own film – one heavy set, specifically annoying one in particular who appears to be the leader of this group of misfits. But this kid is no joke – almost like a Scorsese in training, he sets up lights, cameras, sound and makeup artists to accompany the little “films” he does with his friends, most of which are of the horror genre dealing with zombies. Who this kid is going to market these films to if they ever see the light of day is anyone’s guess, as in the end, it’s just a bunch of whining middle school wussies wearing amateurish makeup jobs to simulate zombie infestations and the like, but as fatso and his group of servants go to what appears to be an abandoned train station to film a scene one evening, their lives change forever.

As a train approaches in the distance while the group is practicing acting out a scene before filming, the gang scurries to set up the cameras and sound so they can film the scene as the train passes for what fatso calls “production value.” But as the train wooshes by at a rapid pace, one of the kids – the son of the sheriff’s deputy of the town – witnesses in the distance a white pickup truck drive wildly onto the tracks and ultimately into the train itself, causing a massive explosion and corresponding derailment of the entire cargo train. What follows is one of the most violent, nail-biting and eye-widening train crash sequences ever put on film, as every container of the train rips off the rails and is thrown wildly into the air and around the group of kids trying desperately to run away from the disaster unfolding before them. When the fireballs and explosions finally end, the kids discover someone they know behind the wheel of the pickup truck that ran into the train – it’s their black science teacher from school, now bloodied and brandishing a gun. Mumbling something to the kids about never mentioning what they saw and if they did their parents would be in danger, the kids run off in total fear of being shot by this nut who used to teach in their school. But eventually, a group of U.S. Air Force soldiers arrive on the scene and chase down the kids – of course, we have ourselves a good old fashioned government alien/monster/whathaveyou conspiracy going on here…and the people must be silenced, as usual. Makes you wonder exactly what our useless government (the U.S. government that is, for those of you out of the Americas) has been hiding from us all this time and what they know exactly….doesn’t it? And, oh yes, we also witness something very powerful but unseen smash through one of the fiery containers and escape into the night…

Unbelievably, as the Air Force and military create a blockade and quarantine of the small town on the outskirts of the train wreck, all the fat kid director cares about is continuing to finish his film. All around them, soldiers march through the streets, going through houses and questioning people, and yet still, all the kid cares about is fixing his broken camera and finishing the film. Meanwhile, a subplot develops involving the one girl that’s part of the group and her drunk, degenerate father (Ron Eldard) whom is regularly getting arrested by the sheriff’s department. The girl and the deputy’s son have a thing for one another, but they’re both told to stay away from the other by their fathers. Something happened between the deputy’s wife, who passed away (we witness scenes from the funeral in the opening sequence), and Eldard’s character, supposedly having something to do with Eldard getting drunk or stoned and some accident that occurred; since then, there has been bad blood between the families.

When the sheriff of the town attempts to fill up his car with gas at a local station and is attacked by some unseen, but very powerful and fast, creature of some kind and his car is found destroyed, the deputy begins questioning exactly what is going on since the military arrived and this train crash occurred – especially since the sheriff has gone missing. As he and his officers meet and try to figure out what is going on and what the military is hiding, we learn a couple more things – one having to do with the strange white Rubik’s Cube-type thing the deputy’s kid took from the crash site that appears to be moving on its own now, as well as exactly what the science teacher who drove his truck into the speeding train had to do with this whole thing. Clinging to life and being held at a military command center set up in the town, the man is questioned by one of the Air Force commanders about his role in something that happened years before he was a middle school teacher…it seems this guy used to be a scientific advisor to the military in some capacity, and years ago they stumbled upon this massive, multi-legged alien (that looks almost exactly like the main thing that attacked New York in Cloverfield…thanks, J.J…) whom they captured and tortured and now the science teacher wanted to free him...in so doing, he decided to ram his truck into the train containing the creature, which was being transported for further study and torture by the military. Ultimately, as our military will always do, the man is put to death via injection for knowing what he does and for going against the plans of the government regarding this creature.

The remainder of Super 8 revolves around the group of kids breaking into their middle school to obtain whatever information the science teacher left regarding his research about the creature (all while our director-in-training continues to moan and whine about finishing his zombie picture) in an attempt to do what they could to find Eldard’s girl who has been yanked away by the alien, as well as an exciting sequence involving the group of kids who eventually are arrested by the military at the school and who are attacked in the bus they’re being transported in by the creature itself. Eventually, the tiny, geeky brace face of the group and the deputy’s kid discover a massive labyrinth below the ground which the creature carved out, and once they descend into it, they find tunnels leading to bodies the alien has collected, hanging upside down and entombed in a strange material – they also discover a bunch of machinery the alien has collected in order to rebuild his ship so he can escape Earth finally. All this is kind of hokey and makes Super 8 go from suspenseful to nonsense-full, but there is a redeeming moment when the deputy’s kid finds Eldard’s daughter and the sheriff of the town in the creature’s alcove below the surface, and once freed, confronts the alien as he’s picked up by its long tentacles and comes face to face with it…ultimately, the kid is able to “talk” the creature into leaving Earth peacefully and apologizes to it for what has been done to it through the torture and all that. While a bit stupid and beyond far-fetched, it was also a bit uplifting especially compared to the endings of, say, War of the Worlds or Independence Day. In the end, the alien rebuilds his ship as a “model” collected from the town’s metal objects and the hundreds of Rubik’s Cube things and flies off, back home. You could definitely feel Spielberg’s influence at the end here, as the whole closing sequence feels like ET meets Close Encounters.


Set in the late 1970s, Super 8 has that same kind of period-esque tint to the color timing that Captain America had, with a beige kind of overtone perfectly suited to conveying the time period; unfortunately, the 2.35:1 widescreen transfer came off looking more than a bit soft in lots of places, perhaps due to this photographic decision. Some areas of black exhibited not black crush per se, but twitchy zones of digital noise that was a bit distracting; colors appeared muted and on the quiet side as well, although this could have been to accurately portray the flashback-in-time Abrams was going for.


The standout moment on Super 8’s audio track was the train crash towards the beginning – the mix goes from relatively quiet to overtly rambunctious and ear-splitting in a matter of shocking moments. When that pickup truck hits the front of the train and the containers begin flying off the rails, hold on – the slamming, walloping LFE…the wildly aggressive throwing of debris and metal into the surrounds…the startling jumps from quiet to smashing, loud blasts as the train comes apart in exploding pieces…it’s a wondrous experience in surround sound. This sequence alone can be a definite demo moment for showrooms or trade show booths as the bass here nearly took my walls down and the enveloping experience was beyond what I was expecting – you really do feel like you’re in the middle of that wild train derailment with those a-hole kids running for their lives as debris falls around them in exploding fireballs.

The remainder of Super 8’s audio track was average at best; nothing more to really mention save for some ‘70s rock and disco tracks spreading through the front main channels (which sounded a bit harsh and hollow in reproduction) and little surround usage outside of the aforementioned train sequence.


A rental at best; although, I can see those who enjoyed Cloverfield wanting to own this – I happen to own Cloverfield and thought that was a clever, albeit goofy and unrealistic, telling of a modern-day monster attack a la the blueprints from Godzilla, but there was something about Super 8 that didn’t quite blow my skirt up the same way...perhaps if I would have seen it on a massive screen at my local multiplex, as I did Cloverfield, I would have wanted to buy it on Blu-ray or DVD.

Last edited by Osage_Winter; 11-27-11 at 07:14 PM.
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post #2 of 3 Old 01-03-12, 11:31 PM
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Re: Osage's Review of...SUPER 8 (DVD; Paramount/Bad Robot)

Great review. We do own it, my kids love it. They like Cloverfield, too!

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post #3 of 3 Old 01-04-12, 12:17 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Osage's Review of...SUPER 8 (DVD; Paramount/Bad Robot)

smjens wrote: View Post
Great review. We do own it, my kids love it. They like Cloverfield, too!
Thank you for the kind words! Glad it could be informative.
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