The PlotWritten and directed by J.J. Abrams, Super 8 is a mix of The Goonies and Close Encounters with a nasty streak. The film opens with a group of kids who are shooting a movie. The asthmatic kid wants the hot chick, but he’s forbidden from talking to her because her father skipped work, which resulted in the asthmatic kid’s mother taking his shift and thereby dying in a drunk driving incident which soured the relationship between their fathers. The fat kid also wants the dream girl and gets upset that the asthmatic kid stole her. The director kid is obnoxious. The dream girl’s father probably beats her. There are some other kids too, but honestly, neither I nor the film cared enough about them to remember who they are.
Then the Air Force arrives. They refuse to talk to the local law enforcement or anyone else and they act like an invading force. They clean up the wreckage and then search the town for the notes of the man who drove the pickup track. He just happens to have been one of their scientists who told them they were evil and he now teaches at the local school.
What This Film Does WrongThis film is just really poorly thought out... kind of like Abrams’s prior projects. The motives are hopelessly muddled and everything is more complex than it needs to be. For example, rather than being a scientist on the run, the scientist needs to have first gotten a job in this town for some length of time... which raises the question of how he knew the train was coming or why he waited to do this or why the military waited to arrest him if he stole all the records he stole. The drunk driving death wasn’t just a drunk driving death, it was complicated by the whole “didn’t go to work” element that isn’t needed and which absolves the characters of real blame and creates confusion about why there is so much anger. For no reason I can see, the sheriff isn’t the sheriff, he’s the deputy until the sheriff is killed by accident.
The monster is a mess too. It’s invisible so you never really see it until the end. When it first appears (after escaping the train), it steals electrical equipment from around town in some manner that can’t be explained, but is suggested to involve magnetic power. It also kills several innocent bystanders. So it’s an evil monster right? Well, maybe. But near the end, we see film footage from the teacher who started everything and he claims it’s just a lonely monster trying to get home, i.e. ET, except that the big bad military guys have been making it angry... hulk angry... and we wouldn’t like it if we made it angry. A few minutes later, in a heavily manipulative scene, the monster sucks up the pendant worn by the asthmatic kid and suddenly we’re supposed to believe it’s a wonderful happy creature and we should feel sad about it leaving... ignore the bodies of the innocent people it killed. None of this is set up or consistent with the actions of the monster. In fact, we know nothing about the monster, except that it kills, until right before the moment we're supposed to suddenly fall in love with the monster.
To give you a further sense of how poorly thought out this film is, the film takes place in 1979 for no apparent reason whatsoever. The fact it happens in 1979 never once comes up or means anything. You might not even notice it, quite frankly.
Incidentally, the film is called Super 8 after the type of film the kids are using, and they do film the train wreck, but ultimately their film is irrelevant to the plot. There’s no discovery from the film and the fact they have it never moves the plot.
In all honesty, this is how J.J. Abrams rolls. He’s all about false potential. He takes well-known images but abandons their substance. Then he puts them into uninteresting knock-off stories. The one time he didn’t, i.e. Lost, he set up false mysteries with no clue how to pay them off. Abrams is a pretentious Michael Bay.