Super 8 directed by J.J. Abrams (Amblin Entertainment, Bad Robot, and Paramount Pictures, PG-13. 112 minutes)
Starring Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, and Riley Griffiths.
Shrouded in mystery, the trailer for Super 8 reveals very little plot. From it, we get a clear picture that J.J. Abrams is interested in telling a story through concealment. Much like Ernest Hemingway’s writing style, this form of narration builds suspense as the human mind fills in the blank spaces.
Super 8 is a science fiction film that depicts a small town’s encounter with a dangerous unknown being. The protagonists of the film are a group of children who are filming a Super 8 zombie movie. While filming a scene at the local train station, they encounter a treacherous and mysterious train derailment.
Having survived the incident and slipped away before the Air Force arrived, the youth start to experience strange happenings around town as dogs run away, people disappear, and appliances malfunction. Coupled with an overbearing Air Force presence, it is clear something is afoot.
But, that is all I shall say in summary. J.J. Abrams intended for this movie to be mysterious and who am I to rain on his parade.
The Importance of Concealment
So let’s discuss the importance of concealment in movies. For me, the most impressive portion of Abrams’ film is the way in which he portrays the narrative without explicitly revealing it.
As an example, Super 8’s opening scene illustrates a factory that carries a sign advertising the number of days since its last accident. As the shot focuses on this sign with its numerals suggesting over 2 years of safe working conditions, an employee removes the digits and replaces them with the number 1.
While an over-the-top, Michael-Bay-like movie would depict the character getting crushed by a steel beam, Abrams communicates the same idea with the removal of a number. As Super 8 unfolds, Abrams’ tendency to unveil the plot in small portions develops suspense and makes for a better movie.
Although the suspense created a fun viewing experience, Super 8 lacked strong dialogue and, at certain points, relied on special effects. As such, the movie is entertaining but not emotionally moving. Twenty years from now, I doubt we’ll look back at Super 8 and label it a classic in the mold of E.T. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie enough to recommend it.