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Super 8 ─ Review by Sting Lacson (Siege Malvar Remix)

[NOTE: The original review was written by Sting Lacson. Siege Malvar remixed it as an attempt to create a dialogue of reviews, in blog form.]

STING: Super 8 is the new Goonies. And it's not just because of the kids. The entire movie has the same Goonies feel. The entire film is actually an homage to Steven Spielberg's eighties flicks, specifically Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Goonies.

That yellow jacket on the fat guy is definitely a Goonies nod.

When I saw this, I had no idea what it was about. Well, I had some idea.

SIEGE: Super 8 is the new Goonies, and the new Lost.. And the new E.T. And the new Jaws. When I heard Spielberg is doing a movie with J.J. Abrams, I expected nothing less. Predictably, the movie reeks of the two auteurs' influence and style. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Super 8 feels like a signature film born of the two powerful storytellers that are Spielberg and Abrams. A collaborative dialogue that is indistinguishably neither Spielberg nor Abrams, but, like a mestizo Pinoy Big Brother hopeful from Olongapo, a beautiful bastard of both.

1. It was directed by J. J. Abrams.

STING: Not just directed. Written and directed. I've never seen an episode of Fringe. But I have seen Star Trek, and I liked it. But after watching Super 8, Abrams now joins my list of "Directors I Would Watch With No Questions Asked". Yes, Abrams might be guilty of excessive use of lens flares, but you'll get used to it. It doesn't diminish the beauty of his images in any way. Just try to think of it as Abram's own personal watermark. Lens flares are his signature move, anyway.


SIEGE: I, on the other lensflared hand, am a big fan of Abrams LOST, and could definitely parse out the movie in various J. J. Abrams trophes:

  • Blonde dude v. Dark haired dude. Totally Sawyer v. Jack, all throughout the movie.
  • The Monster Reveal. Abrams used the same cocktease technique in developing Smokey from Lost, and that giant alien from Cloverfield. It's like that Five Blind Pilgrim tale. We get parts and pieces of the monster, we hear it coming, we hear it groaning (in anger? in pain?), we see an arm grabbing one of the characters and shaking him all over the place like a rag doll. The intent is to create a horrible monster in our head in the spaces formed  between the parts and pieces: Is it a giant bug? Is it Cthulhu? Is it reptilian or robotic? We create the monster we're most afraid of, and that's what makes Abrams's brand of horror effective.
  • Composite Technology. Whereas Lost's Smokey is dark flecks of matter (that can either be self-aware nanobots or a swarm of possessed black bugs native to The Island), Super 8's Monster uses a similar composite technology that plays a pivotal point in the plot.
  • Scoring. Definitely a director's trademark here. Every highlight of the movie is punctuated by Michael Giacchino.
  • MUCH more. If you're a dedicated Lostie, you'll definitely want to watch this one. It's like Abrams is doing fan service.

2. There was a train crash.
STING: Yes, the train crash was the sort of centerpiece of the story. Everything revolved around it. The explosions might have been a bit excessive. But then again, I've never seen a train crash in my life.

SIEGE: J.J. Abrams is a big fan of EXPLOSIONS. As evident in the opening sequence of Lost (see here), and this M:I:3 sequence (see here). And as you can see, Abrams uses his explosions to propel the drama forward. More than spectacles of firepower, Abrams uses big bangs as opportunities to test his characters: What would you do when the train/plane/bridge you're on explodes?

STING: And these were the things I did not know about:

1. It had a love story. 

STING: Yes, that's right. A love story. One that had me giggling like a schoolboy. Elle Fanning is pretty. And for the record, she looks nothing like her sister Dakota.

I still don't know who's prettier, though.

SIEGE: It doesn't simply have a love story; it is the story about love: how the boy grieves for the mother he has lost, and what letting go means. It's about a father's love for his child (son and daughter). There is that romantic triangulation between the three kids, true. Still another Abrams trademark.

2. It was produced by Steven Spielberg. 

STING: And I'm not sure if the Goonies tribute was an ass-kissing move by Abrams as a thank-you to Spielberg for producing this film. But I think Steven's hand in the production is a sign that this guy Abrams is a great storyteller. Oh, wait. Spielberg also produced all the Transformers flicks. And I don't think it's because he thinks Michael Bay is a great storyteller.

"My multi-million dollar bank account says otherwise."

SIEGE: Yes, Spielberg's influence is strong on this one. The theme, the treatment. The director's trademark of tiny simultaneous details happening. The parent-child dramatic tension. The low height tracking shot. You know how Jaws scares you with the scoring even before you see the actual shark? They did the same thing with the Monster here.

3. This is the best movie I've seen this year. So far.

STING: I pride myself in having good cinematic taste, and I can say with conviction that Super 8 is one of the best original movies to come out of 2011. But the year isn't over yet, so we shall have to wait and find out. And maybe, if it weren't too sci-fi and alien-y, this should get a nod for a Best Picture Academy Award.

SIEGE: The amazing thing about this movie is its heart. It's a big, bad-ass movie about a giant monster from outer space, but it's not about that. It's about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and how the human spirit would persevere in those situations.

As supplementary viewing, I'm requiring you guys to watch this TED TALK by J. J. Abrams where he talks about "investment in character".

Super 8. USA. 2011.

Rating: Eight and a half out of ten.
Feeling like a schoolboy with a crush: Eight out of ten.

Rating: Eight and a half out of ten.
Feeling like a fanboy watching his two idols having a dialogue: Ten out of Ten.

You may also want to read the Super 8 review by Sting Lacson.


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