I mentioned before that I watch movies very differently now. If I realize half way through that I am really enjoying it (or not enjoying it), I start to analyze why and I try to wiggle the plot into “rules” of storytelling. Wow, did Super 8 hit the mark!
Now, mild disclaimer… I am easily entertained. I love explosions and chase scenes. Put them in your movie and it’s pretty hard to put me off. I’ll even ignore bad acting. But recently I HAVE BEEN bored while watching big blockbuster movies.
Let’s talk for just a minute about the second and third Transformers movies, just to make my point. Giant battling robots… what’s not fun about that? Well, what was “not fun” was the poor storytelling, poor characterization, and really poor attention to plot. These movies were about the explosions. Period. I really didn’t care if any of the characters got killed, because I was not emotionally engaged with them. Also, the plots were not solid and easy to follow. There was no “meat” behind them to back up the explosions and action. Even with everything that was going on, I was bored and watching the clock… hoping it would be over soon.
Now, are there explosions and chase scenes in Super 8? Yes of course, and the special effects are great… but it was more than that.
The writers sat down and thought this movie over. They followed all the rules. Sometimes maybe unbelievably so, but for some reason it still worked for me.
General Plot: (No spoilers) This kid (not the MC) really wants to make a movie to enter a contest. He gets his friends to help him. While they are filming the movie, a train de-rails right in front of them. Something HUGE breaks out of one of the de-railed cars. The army comes and takes over their town while they try to clean up. Something nasty starts attacking people. The original kid pulls everyone together, and uses the chaos happening around as a backdrop to his film.
Okay, I can’t tell you much more without spoiling it.
(Forgive me, I’m not good with names)
MC lost his mother recently. His father, the deputy, is not really coping well with being a single father
MC meets a girl while making the movie. They like each other.
The girl’s father (a drunk) and the boy’s father (deputy) don’t like each other
The girl and her father don’t get along at all.
One of the friends likes to blow up things
One throws up a lot
One is a wimp and always gives in
The kid making the movie never gives up
The teacher who causes the train accident (the mentor, who inadvertently lets us all know what is really going on)
The General (might have title wrong) who is heading the crash investigation (bad guy)
The “Big Nasty” Attacking people
Now this is what I was mulling over after this movie… EVERYTHING gets tied up. Again, some I might not completely believe as a long-reaching emotional fix… But for the sake of this story, it worked… and I was left thinking “Wow”.
Also, almost every character has a concrete reason for being there, and being “the way they are”. The only thing that was unnecessary was the kid throwing up all the time. That served no purpose and could have been removed… but the others all dragged the story forward.
There were separate “real life” plots going on while this big event was ripping up their tiny little town. Every “Real Life” plot was sewn up, as well as the main “creature” plot. (Even the kid making the movie gets sewn up, if you stay for the closing credits)
Most of the main characters experience that “change” that is necessary in storytelling. This is one thing that struck me very hard.
The MC’s Father has a change (two, actually)
The Girl’s father has a change
The Girl has a change
The MC has a change
Someone else on the list has a change because of MC intervention. (Don’t want to give a spoiler)
Every stinking thing that was presented was resolved, and in a very satisfactory way. Everything that happens (except for the puking) has a reason for happening. Even the wimpy kid that “gives in” had a role in getting one of the main characters to where he needed to go… just by being how he is.
From a writer’s perspective, this movie is brilliant. Even if there were not any explosions or chase scenes, I think I would feel the same way. For the first time in a long time, I was left thinking, “Wow, I wish I wrote that.”
Now, to give it one negative, if the kids were not cursing all the time this would have been a great movie for my kids… great action, and a theme of overcoming your fear to do the right thing. (Among a family friendly theme that would be a spoiler if I told you) Unfortunately, my kids will have to wait until they are teenagers because of these kids’ mouths (Except for the MC, who didn’t curse at all. Kudos.)
If you’ve seen this movie, think it over. Every little thing was well planned. Everything used, everything sewn up.
If you have not seen this movie, jump up and rent it. It is not “all action” and it is not “really scary” and there is no gore. I think it is enjoyable across genres, because this is really NOT A MONSTER MOVIE. It is about interpersonal dynamics in a time of intense struggle.
I think everyone should give this one a watch, and pay very close attention to the storytelling. Personally, I was floored.
- Super 8 (2011) [Blu-ray] (takingtheshortview.wordpress.com)