Hi all,

I haven’t done a movie review in some time, so I decided to do another one after having seen J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 today.  I happen to particularly enjoy monster-and-alien movies (people create new species, and I think that’s really creative).  But I’m going to keep this review short, and like my last reviews, this one will be less about stars and more about sociopolitical implications.

The shorthand–this story is about the crash of an Air Force train in Ohio in the late 70’s, which happens to be filmed and observed by a group of kids, themselves in the area filming a zombie movie for a film festival.  Inside the crashed train is. . . GASP! an alien, who *ZOUNDS!* escapes, and strange things happen.  The military comes in, all secret-like, pushing around the town authorities, trying to control the situation while keeping everyone in the dark, failing, and when truth does come out to some parties it turns out there were some dirty State/military secrets involved.  If it sounds formulaic, that’s because this particular film is not, in fact, the most original alien/monster movie I’ve ever seen.  The movie is pretty much a nostalgic romp, and you can count homages to various films in the genre as you go.  Bunch of kids are the first to witness the crash/accident? Check.  Vow of secrecy? Check.  Shady military presence? Check.  Secrets? Check.  Trouble? Check.  Etc., etc., etc, and I’ve certainly given away nothing that wasn’t in the previews or couldn’t be assumed from a basic knowledge of how movies are structured.

That said, unlike most movies, it doesn’t feel like a money-making regurgitation. . . it seems intentional, as though Abrams it trying to invoke memories of the great summer alien blockbusters of yore.  And that seems to match his M.O.–as though he aims to reinvigorate classic Sci-Fi subgenres from mindless regurgitation or obscurity.   Reinvigorated Star Trek? I liked it (except, while I loved Quinto as Spock, I couldn’t help but think “Why would you let Sylar on the ship? HE WILL KILL YOU ALL!!!” *Comment if you get that nerdy reference*  After few interesting monster movies since the 80’s, I appreciated his co-reinvigoration of the genre with Cloverfield (and alongside the film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist, which I liked, and the South Korean movie The Host, which was great).  And this? He wasn’t trying to be new or cutting edge here, just. . . good.  And it was good.  I enjoyed it, and I don’t think you’ll regret it if you see it and just expect to enjoy it and let it bring to mind all the old Sci-Fi movies you’ve loved.

That said, in one of the reviews I read from the Atlantic City Weekly:

“One of the more annoying aspects of Super 8 is the one-dimensional nature of the military presence. Even the “men with the key chains,” a group of government types who took E.T., had some compassion for the plight of the people involved. In Super 8, they are just here to represent the worst of human nature, so that the kids can represent the compassionate, likeable side of humanity.”

The review is correct in that the military is presented as a personality-devoid, compassion free force.  But where I disagree is that this portrayal, the military-as-obstacle, the government-as-cruel-shadowy-figure, is largely accurate.  Perhaps the movie was, if anything, too watered down.

We live with the government that has disposed of democratically elected leaders in Guatemala, Chile, Nicaragua, Iran, Venezuela (though it failed) and Honduras, directly or indirectly, and supported numerous dictators.  The U.S. government has performed LSD experiments on its own citizens, sterilized Native and African Americans, used Napalm on Vietnamese villages, and is the only country in the world to have used nuclear weapons on another, and twice at that.  The U.S. ‘perfected’ the most horrific system of slavery the world has known, and was founded on a campaign of genocide that Hitler couldn’t top–and then reinterpreted those travesties as hiccups on the road to freedom, and whitewashed the Founding Fathers as new Jesuses.  Our current government seriously entertains Right Wing social engineering, racist immigration laws, discrimination against GLBTQ folk, secret wars in Libya, Yemen, and Pakistan, torture, indefinite detention, repression of peaceful protesters (how many environmentalist and antiwar activists have been arrested, maced, or had their offices raided).  But who gets strong government protection? Corporations.  We are living under a shadowy, unresponsive government, and benefit from the thinnest veil of pseudodemocracy.  The main problem with the portrayal of the military in Super 8 is that Abrams was going for cheery, memory-lane summer blockbuster–his dark-shadowy military is not one tenth as shady as ours is.  But then again, it took place in 1979; shady? Yes.  Compared to today’s shady? Not as much.  And this is not to say every individual member of the military is some dark murderous sociopath–there are, indeed, good soldiers who are very good people–but they are good because they are good people, despite the military and its training.

That aside in place, I did enjoy the movie, and I’d recommend it.