[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=7395&w=l[/img]Title: Super 8
Starring: Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Elle Fanning
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: J.J. Abrams
Runtime: 112 min
Release Date: 11/22/2011 (Blu-Ray)
HTS Overall Score:95
Tragedy strikes the town of Lillian, Ohio with the death of a steel worker who happens to be the mother of Joe Lamb and wife to his father Sheriff's Deputy Jackson Lamb. Joe and Jackson are are both grieving and attempting to cope with their loss without truly understanding one another. While this is happening Joe attempts to escape from his grief by helping his best friend Charles work on his Super 8 zombie movie, along with several other friends. When Joe learns that Charles has asked a girl from school named Alice Daynard act in a particular scene, he's eager to get to know her. Late one night Joe and Charles sneak out to meet their friends Martin, who plays the leading man, Preston who is an extra, and Cary who is raving pyromaniac but also plays the zombie.
When they do their practice take of the scene, Charles is floored by Alice's acting ability and just as he's about to do another practice cut, he sees a distant train approaching. Thrilled by the prospect of "production value", Charles rushes the group into place and starts filming. As the train is barrelling past, Joe sees a pickup truck swerve onto the tracks and cause a massive accident as the train derails. When the smoke clears and the friends find themselves shaken but unscathed, they locate the truck and hear a warning of danger from the seriously injured driver. The driver pulls a gun to scare the children off and they run just as a large convoy of military trucks and troops arrives.
Over the next few days strange things start to happen in the town, power flickers on and off, people and appliances go missing. The town starts to grow extremely paranoid and the Sheriff himself disappears. With Jackson Lamb trying his best to quell a town in uproar, Joe and his friends begin to question what exactly was on that train, and whether their video footage might be the key to understanding what's happening.
Those who have strong memories of their first viewing of Close Encounters, will likely find a strongly resonant experience when they watch Super 8, J.J. Abrams' latest creation. In many ways, Abrams pays homage to Producer Steven Spielberg, yet he does so without diluting his own vision. Abrams discusses his childhood film making at length in the extra content, and his personal connection with the characters in this film is readily apparent. Super 8 is a film of wonder, of discovery and a rather touching nerdy coming of age story. Abrams is as adept as a writer as he is behind the camera, deftly telling a rather complex story and simultaneously investing the viewer strongly in the characters.
By the end of the first act (see train wreck) the viewer can't help but care about the kids on screen and what happens to them. That said, this is ultimately a thriller/sci-fi film and it delivers on that original premise in spades. Action and backstory are skillfully blended and pacing is just right - as a viewer I never felt like the film was moving too fast or too slowly. Everything about this film ultimately works because Abrams never allows action to supersede story, or for story to bore the viewer, instead he allows the opening tragedy of the film to become the real star. Super 8 is about two families learning to move on, learning to forgive, and the importance of moving past the bad things in life. The performances across the board are superb, with Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney in particular giving stellar performances especially given their age.
As well as the story works in Super 8, this doesn't stop Abrams from paying homage to all his favorite classic monster movies and childhood sci-fi films, instead Abrams allows some of that campy old school style to permeate his film, without letting it go too far. Make no mistake, Super 8 may have all the trappings of a bad science fiction movie, but this is a quality film with great acting and an expertly crafted story. Once again, J.J. Abrams has impressed me, and I believe he will impress you as well.
Super 8 comes to Blu-Ray in a gorgeous 1080p AVC transfer that perfectly conveys the presentation from the theater. The image is always in focus, with excellent detail and sharpness. Color balance leans slightly toward the warm end of the spectrum but only slightly, resulting in a rich, warm picture that helps convey the period. Contrast is superb from start to finish with pure whites, expansive grays and deep blacks that are absolutely free of any crush. Lighting in the film is excellent as is shadow detail - with a plethora of dark and low light scenes that surrender little to no detail to the lack of light. Film grain is even, film-like and never distracting yet remains present in just the right amount to indicate an unmanipulated image and demonstrate just how good 35mm can look on Blu-Ray.
Please note that reviews from this point forward will be ranked using Transformers: Dark of the Moon as a reference level comparison - thus films that would have scored higher in the past will now be ranked relative to our new reference standard and may as a result have slightly lower audio scores.
Yet again it appears that Dolby is doing everything it can to prove that TrueHD is not the inferior codec, and they've made another compelling argument with Super 8. The lossless 7.1 channel track is authoritative from the start, with crystal clear dialogue that is perfectly level matched with the remaining channels regardless of activity. The mains are brilliantly engaged to deliver an extremely deep immersive soundstage with excellent spatial imaging, though perhaps slightly less so than Transformers. Surround activity is ample when called for and well integrated with the mains while LFE content is but substantive and articulate. The train wreck scene in particular features some truly demo worthy material that is sure to make our resident bass-heads rejoice.
Overall this is a superb release that very nearly measures up to Transformers - though it focuses less on action. Comparing the best moments of Transformers to Super 8 I would say that Transformers is marginally better, if only because Super 8 at times exhibited slight sibilance in the high frequencies that wasn't present in Transformers. I doubt that many of you will notice it as it is a very high frequency issue, but take not in the train wreck scene and some later action scenes for some slight harshness in the upper range of your hearing. Surround pans and overall immersiveness is also slightly better in Transformers but make no mistake, this film would easily have been a 5 star reference title prior to our scale changing, and is well worth a listen.
J.J. Abrams remains one of the few directors who will get in front of the camera for extra content and really speak to the viewer, and he gives tons of excellent insight into how the film was developed and his own attachment to Super 8 film making when he was younger.
- Audio Commentary: An excellent commentary from Director J.J. Abrams, Producer Brian Burke and Cinematographer Larry Fong that is both insightful and inspiring. Well worth a listen for the fans out there.
- The Dream Behind Super 8 [ [HD],16:28 ]: Abrams discusses his childhood Super 8 films and the process of creating the Super 8 story.
- The Search for New Faces [ [HD],17:46 ]: Casting the child actors and Abrams decision to cast relatively unknown actors.
- Meet Joel Courtney [ [HD],14:35 ]: A nice introduction to the star of the film.
- Rediscovering Steel Town [ [HD],18:24 ] A small feature on Weirton, West Virginia where the film was shot.
- The Visitor Lives [ [HD],12:22 ]: The process of creating the creature from start to finish.
- Scoring Super 8 [ [HD],5:29 ]: A brief but fascinating feature on the life and works of composer Michael Giacchino.
- Do You Believe in Magic? [ [HD],4:29 ]: DP/Cinematographer Larry Fong happens to be a magician and shows some tricks.
- The 8mm Revolution [ [HD],8:15 ]: A neat little feature on how Super 8 played a role in the lives of young film makers and how it has affected current films today.
- Deconstructing the Train Crash [[ [HD] ]: An interactive feature that gives a ton of insight into how this scene was created.
- Deleted Scenes [ [HD],12:47 ]: 14 deleted scenes that were cut from the original film.
- D-Box Motion Code
- Digital Copy
Super 8 is a fantastic summer film that captures the wonder of youth and the unknown. The film tells a touching story while still managing to pay homage to the campy monster movies of our past and deliver great action, audio and video. J.J. Abrams has taken yet another step to cement his reputation as one of the best filmmakers in the business, and has delivered a delightful, touching, funny, thrilling and most of all enjoyable movie experience. Super 8 is a rare combination of all the things that I love about the movies, and in some way I think it speaks to the kid in all of us. Highly Recommended.