Aug 062011

Having watched Super 8, I can’t help thinking of how far Hollywood productions have fallen in quality in the past decade. Super 8 tries to be a little of everything: a homage to old-school monster movies, a teen drama, a not-so-subtle homage to E.T., and to film makers who started out in the 70’s, probably with super 8 cameras.

The problem is that it tries to be too many things, and consequentially fails having its own identity. There’s absolutely nothing in the movie we haven’t seen before, only better; the monster that fails to be on camera for more than a few seconds at a time? Cloverfield. The teen adventure/drama? E.T., Goonies, and a gazillion other movies.

The movie feels like a checklist of clichés. And not even good clichés. How many times have we seen a monster movie taking place in Littletown USA? how many times have we seen an expendable character hear a suspicious sound, only to get killed when he investigates its source? and the whole ‘single father/mother-son/daughter relationship problems that miraculously get resolved by the end of the movie’ plot device has been done to death.

Monster movies are supposed to be, well, about monsters. Also about how the main characters’ lives are affected by them. Super 8 treats the monster as a subplot, which has almost nothing to do with the main plot, except near the very end of the movie.

A fat kid wants to make a home-made horror movie for a competition. His friend is experiencing relationship problems with his bereaved father, while also having his first crush on a girl. And basically that’s the entire movie plot. Oh, there’s a monster in there somewhere, but if you walked in the movie theater a few minutes after the train crash scene, you wouldn’t know it for the next 40 minutes or so.

I can’t help but contrast Super 8, which is a full Hollywood blockbuster with a budget of $50 million, with Monsters, an independent film with a budget of just $500,000. Both films rely heavily on character dynamics and show very small glimpses of any actual monsters. Yet where Monsters manages to show how the characters’ lives, emotions and even their personalities change through their experiences, Super 8 feels more like an episode of an 80’s Sci-Fi TV show, where everything is resolved and reset to normal at the end of the story.

My advice to you is, if you want to see a good monster movie with mature themes, rent Monsters from your local video store. If you want to see a ‘family’ movie which has all the emotional impact of a soap bubble and enough clichés to sink the Titanic, wait for Super 8 to come out on DVD and rent it. It’s not worth paying a full-priced movie ticket to see.

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