With temperatures rising, kiddos out of school, and blockbusters a coming, it must be Summer time and of course you’ll spend a majority of your time in the ol’ Cinema. Well this weekend Director J.J. Abrams and Producer Steven Spielberg put their bid out for best summer flick with the release of Super 8. Is it the best?
A week ago I would have said Matthew Vaughn’s re-boot of the X-Men series was my early pick for best film of the summer. That was until Tuesday night when I got to see a sneak peak of the best film this summer, Super 8. Most other reviewers have already correctly called this film a wonderful mixture of Spielberg’s ET and Close Encounters with JJ Abrams’ Cloverfield monsters. This is all very true and enjoyably so! The element though that really stood out to me was the dynamic of rogue kids running the show. Spielberg has always showcased children a little better then anyone else. It might be because he chose to “film from their height” or that he’s just cast some of the finest young actors ever (Drew Barrymore, Henry Thomas, Christian Bale and lets not forget “short round” Jonathan Ku Quan). Either way it’s obvious Spielberg has an incredible ability to showcase youthfulness better then anyone around. Spielberg has had a unique ability to not only Direct some of the best films ever, but his producer’s credits give him a full grasp on the title of one of the Greatest Filmmakers ever. One of those producers credits was in Richard Donner’s classic, GOONIES. Like most kids who grew up in the 80’s this movie is forever implanted in my DNA. Goonies had an ability to allow you to just go on an adventure with your pals. Super 8 captures that same quality and honestly gives it a new spark. The similarities don’t stop there. Super 8 has 5 boys who are locked together in trying to make a “mint” horror film, Goonies has 5 boys who are locked together in the search of that damn treasure (Josh Brolin may not have been a ‘Goonie’ but he still was fully part of the adventure). In fact these 10 kids share similar traits. There’s a fat one, one with glasses (or nerdy one if you will), a wild one, a kid who always jokes around, and then the adorable lead character. The archetypes are a little skewed in that the “fat one” is more a leader in Super 8 while the joking kid (Corey Feldman’s correctly named ‘Mouth’) is a bit more involved in the story line of Goonies. Overall though the premise is simple in that you take a group of kids and you put them in outrageous scenarios that they still manage to overcome. Super 8 has a wonderful premise that pulls in the kids a bit better then Goonies’ final treasure hunt. These kids are making a film!!
Both films utilize the element of a “journey” to not only cause our hero’s turmoil but to eventually bring them closer together. People with guns (big ass ones in Super 8 ) are chasing after these kids too. Both journey’s took us underground for pivotal scenes. Both journey’s also establish love stories that last till the end of the film. Another interesting note about these two films is that both the directors went into these films after completing pretty epic films. Richard Donner had done Superman (and the second one too for that matter but I digress) while JJ Abrams rebooted Star Trek. Both films have the hero archetype perfectly fitted into the storyline. So transferring that hero quality into a group of kids just takes a bit more introduction and funny one-liners (pretty much). Even the main love interests have similarities. Both Kerri Green’s ‘Andy’ and Elle Fanning’s ‘Alice’ (ha the lovely leads both have A names!) have a little more backstory, Andy’s relationship with Troy and her cheer-leading and Alice’s broken family and wheels off father. The girls both are introduced as un-attainable and out of reach of our dorky leads, but obviously that doesn’t stop our heroes from falling in love. Even the epic “cave kiss” from Goonies is similarly captured in this lovely scene from Super 8.
I’m not sure if Super 8 will resonate as much as Goonies, the creature is my one and only hang up about the film. He’s a big ass alien and his story is tough to fully sympathize with. In Goonies we completely fell for Sloth because his family are just so damn mean. Now the military is awfully mean to our creature from Super 8, but the continued building of him as a scary creature always keeps us on edge. Sloth may have scared us up until the moment that Chunk gives him that darn Babe Ruth…Babe…Ruth! We don’t get that scene in Super 8 until damn near the end. Overall though it’s really easy for me to say that JJ Abrams has given us the new look Goonies for the 21st century kid.
And a little shout out to Ryan Lee who plays the awesome fire-cracker loving character Cary in Super 8. The native Texan also played Jerel Floyd in The Legend of Hell’s Gate: An American Conspiracy ,which just played at the Dallas International Film Festival.