Prayer Focus
Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
Movie Review

Super 8

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and some drug use.

Reviewed by: Scott Brennan
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
Add to your list?
View your list
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Sci-Fi Thriller
Length:
1 hr. 52 min.
Year of Release:
2011
USA Release:
June 10, 2011 (wide—3,200+ theaters)
DVD: November 22, 2011
Copyright, Paramount Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures Copyright, Paramount Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Paramount Pictures

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer

Aliens (extraterrestrials)

What does the Bible say about intelligent life on other planets? Answer

Are we alone in the universe? Answer

Does Scripture refer to life in space? Answer

questions and answers about the origin of life

death of a parent

strains in parent/child relationships

military cover-ups

Teen Qs—Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens—Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.
Featuring: Elle FanningAlice
Amanda Michalka
Kyle Chandler … Deputy Lamb
Ron Eldard
Noah Emmerich … Colonel Nelec
Joel Courtney … Joe Lamb
Zach Mills … Preston
more »
Director: J.J. Abrams—“Star Trek” (2009), “Mission: Impossible III
Producer: Amblin Entertainment
Bad Robot
Paramount Pictures
J.J. Abrams … producer
Bryan Burk … producer
Udi Nedivi … associate producer
Ben Rosenblatt … associate producer
Steven Spielberg … producer
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Super 8 DVD cover“Mystery is the catalyst for imagination,” J.J. Abrams, writer and director of “Super 8”, once deliberated at a TED conference, and this film takes the audience back to the time when Abrams was coming of age himself—in 1979, in fact—armed with his own “Super 8” camera, a gift from his grandfather—who in some ways may be the muse for this film.

The clever marketing of this film’s release further plays into Abrams’ philosophy of intentionally withholding information in order to engage the potential audience, all the while encouraging “imagination expansion.” Hence the tight seal on the film, from start to finish, right up until this day, June 10, 2011. The trailer is short, intriguing, but, most of all, enticing—with an obvious tie to a plot just beckoning to be told. AMC channel’s recent slogan “Story Matters Here” really speaks to the dividing line between this sci-fi drama and others in the genre. Taking the lead from one of his mentors, Steven Spielberg, who is also an executive producer on the film, Abrams includes some much needed story and character development that seems to be disappearing from similarly themed films, as of late.

So the story line begins with a coming-of-age sort of film about kids in the fictional small town of Lillian, Ohio, who are, of course, making a zombie film together (a la 1970’s horror films), with a “Super 8” camera of their own. During the filming of a particular scene near a train depot, their Super 8 camera captures (frame by frame) a mystery to be revealed in the larger film—one with references to Area 51, secret Air Force missions, and even black and white footage of scientists in white lab coats—flashback to Dharma Initiative Footage from “Lost.” An Air Force train derails during one of their takes, causing all of them to run for their lives, leaving the camera running on its own. And so the mystery begins.

The film is a mix, of sorts, with the feeling-tone of “The Goonies,” “Stand by Me” and “E.T. …,” but with the suspense of “Poltergeist,” to keep you on the edge of your seat. Throw in some “Transformers-esque” CGI and voilà, you have “Super 8.” This PG-13 “story within a story” really becomes a tribute to a genre and an era simultaneously. It’s unfortunate that a distracting number of profanities and adolescent-potty-mouth-verbiage prevent it from becoming a better than average moral rating. However, the absence of sexual situations or innuendos, in addition to the positive pro-family outcomes in the film, keep it from falling into an abyss of superficiality.

The casting is superb (April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg) with several newcomers definitely making a mark for themselves, both as individual performers and with their ability to work together in a tightly wound cast. Elle Fanning (younger sister of Dakota Fanning) is a “stand-out,” along with newcomer Joel Courtney who plays her boy crush. The original music of Michael Giacchino is great (a friend who Abrams really likes and uses frequently for his projects), and he, also, has a small role as Deputy Crawford in the film. Veteran actor Kyle Chandler (“First Edition”) portrays the role of Joel’s grieving father—grounding the film with finesse.

In keeping with J.J. Abrams’ purpose to promote the mystery, especially for those who plan to see the film, not much more of the plot will be revealed here. Let’s just say there is plenty of story and lots of quality—particularly in set decoration and design—besides the obvious CGI exhibitions of the train wreck and the monster. There are some excellent “Spielbergian” shots in the film, reminiscent of ones from Steven’s early successes like “Jaws” and “Close Encounters…,” techniques well-honed by Abrams. Even the credits have the perfect dénouement embedded in them, something a number of people missed in the showing this reviewer attended.

Content of concern

As was mentioned above, profanities are prevalent and difficult to count. There are at least 11 uses of God or OMG, Jesus (7). The teen vulgarities included SOB (2), dumb a**(1), WTF (1), d*ck (1), hell (2), another name for cat (2), and over (35) uses of “sh*t” or a variation thereof.

The train wreck produces some frightening sequences (a little blood with a head injury), in addition to the mystery monster (much scarier than the smoke monster from “Lost”) which becomes increasingly visible, as the film progresses—think the “Bad Robot” icon on steroids, come to life! There are additional macabre scenes in the monster’s lair, the fake zombie shots which could, also, be too much for some children. These sections, along with the profanity, more than likely contributed to the appropriate PG-13 rating.

There is one scene of a 70’s long-haired hippie-type smoking pot in a car and another where he asks someone if they want some pot. There are a few scenes in a local bar where alcohol is being portrayed as the medicinal comfort and solution to life’s problems, a staple for almost all films in the 21st century.

Amanda Michalka, who plays Charles’ older sister, is portrayed in a midriff top that exposes some tantalizing skin on back and stomach, for a couple of scenes, but other than that, the sexual overtones are, happily, virtually non-existent. She, also, exhibits some defiant behavior and backtalk toward the parents, which is certainly not projecting biblical standards for any young viewer.

In the face of such adversity, and with the fearful situations rooted in this story, it is astonishing that not one child or adult calls upon God or any higher power, as part of their character in the film. One boy remarks aloud, “I don’t want to die!,” but, surprisingly, doesn’t appear to be directing it upward—just outward. The entire film is devoid of any kind of spiritual perspective—promoting only a secular worldview—which is not an accurate portrayal of the majority of Americans, even in the late 1970s.

Final thoughts and spiritual significance for the Christian viewer

Granted, this film is science fiction, but the subtle influences—i.e., the rewriting of societal perceptions which are devoid of a “spiritual values system” for a given time period—are more than slightly disturbing. They allude to the current and constant barrage of media influences that seek to wash away the knowledge of God in our culture—in its entirety. Another point is with regards to the use of fear as a manipulative element in films, for “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

That notwithstanding, there are some wonderful themes of forgiveness and reconciliation which are present in the movie—especially needed in the development of the principal characters—which can easily be used as “jumping off points” for discussion with your non-Christian family members or friends.

J.J. Abrams likes his audience to think they are going to get one thing, but end up getting something else. In his TV series “Lost,” the audience found the shape-shift monster or the “moving island” was not really the important thing, but instead it was the character(s) that emerged as the “something else”—treasures the audience grew to know and care about as the series unfolded.

The intent was probably similar with “Super 8.” Instead of just the something, a mystery alien, we got the something else: the growth and change of the characters we grow to care about in the film. It should be noted here that Abrams’ story is less than convincing about why anyone should care about this mysterious, but misunderstood, creature—especially one capable of such destruction. It has a whiff of the now ubiquitous dogma of “tolerance” permeating nearly every facet of our society today, begging the question, “can’t we all just get along?”

Back in 1976, as a 10 year old boy, J.J. Abrams purchased a box of magic tricks from a mid-town Manhattan magic shop that he still has to this day. He paid only $15 for it, but it supposedly had $50 worth of magic tricks inside. There is a large question mark on the outside of the box originally intended to inspire the buyer to purchase it—along with its mysterious contents. J.J. has never opened the box, but he keeps it in his office to remind himself that “stories are mystery boxes,” and a good one has to be just that: a carefully packaged mystery.

I was personally hoping for a bigger mystery than what is in this box of “Super 8” film, but for a ticket cost of less than his $15 dollar box of magic, I guess I can say it was worth it. I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more if I was only 14 or 15, and hadn’t ever seen “Close Encounters….” Only time will tell whether or not “X-Men: First Class,” “The Green Lantern” or another film will have the longer legs to defeat “Super 8,” and secure the number one slot for the summer of 2011.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This movie had everything you could ask for in a fun summer blockbuster! The many characters were fun to watch, the suspense kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire film, and the effects were simply amazing. Some families won’t like the smattering of s-words, most of which were spoken by kids. Also, the homemade zombie films were a little disturbing, as was one short vomiting scene. Overall, though, I enjoyed it very much.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Gloria Burbank, age 19 (USA)
Positive—When 2 of the most bankable names in Hollywood, Stephen Spielberg and J.J. Abrams, collaborate to bring entertainment to the big screen, the odds are it’s going to be a huge blockbuster. “Super 8,” with its excellent storyline, great cinematography and acting, coupled with fast paced chills and thrills, does not disappoint. This film will certainly be the biggest hit of this summer.

“Super 8” centers around a group of teenagers in the fictional small town of Lillian, Ohio. The teens are shooting an amateur film on a Super 8mm camera for entry into a local contest. While filming at night on the platform of a local train station, a horrific train crash ensues. In the aftermath the teens regroup scratched and bruised but otherwise fully intact to discover the cause of the crash was intentional. Upon further investigation they learn by being eyewitnesses to this amazing scene of destruction, that their very lives are in danger.

From this point the film is an exciting ride of action and intrigue as we the viewers along with the teens, try to unravel exactly what happened and what the consequences will mean for the town of Lillian and its citizenry. Perhaps aided by its circa 1970’s backdrop, “Super 8” does an excellent job of capturing the magic and mystery of early Spielberg films like “E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial.” As such it is destined to be a classic film from the start. “Super 8” also contains elements of an M. Night Shyamalan kind of style and feel to the film very akin to “Signs” and “The Sixth Sense.” more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Lewis Mcneely, age 45 (USA)
Positive—My wife and I enjoyed this film. It is a funny and entertaining option and generally is safe if you liked earlier movies such as Goonies or ET. The content is pretty tame, though like other earlier Spielberg teenage themed movies, the kids swear a little bit too much (mostly trying to act cool), well I’d prefer it not be “Christ” centered words, Hollywood doesn’t care about my opinion obviously. For those who didn’t like this because of content, I wonder if you’ve seen Goonie’s or ET?, its pretty similar, though perhaps a touch scarier and for a 10+ audience.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Ryan, age 35 (Canada)
Positive—This is a well made film. It reminds me of “The Goonies”. Unfortunately, it has a plethora of offensive language, but not the worst words. It is an enjoyable film. When my daughters were 13 up, I would have been prepared to take them to it. But you should see it first, to see if it is acceptable to you. Less than 13 years of age, it is a scary film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Blue, age 53 (Australia)
Positive—WOW, I watched this movie, and it would have been super, if it would not have been for all the strong AND I DO MEAN STRONG language, mostly used by kids, but a wonderful movie, no doubt about that, just way too much swearing.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Chris, age 22 (USA)
Positive—…a really good movie. I had wanted to see this film for a while now, and I finally decided to rent the movie, once it came to DVD. I was impressed by all the aspects of this film, from the camera work, the acting, the action. All of it was very impressive. The language was my only concern, in this film. Still, language and excessive violence aside, this was a really good film. Highly recommended, but only for teens and adults, definitely not for children.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Alexander Malsan, age 21 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—I had no expectations when I went to this film, and was therefore QUITE surprised by the high quality of the film, endearing character portrayals and engaging plot line (Not to spoil anything, but think “Goonies” or “Stand by me” meets “Independence Day”)! Unfortunately, I have to go with a “neutral” rating because of the large quantity of bad language. True, it was fairly accurate for worldly teenagers, but it is always best for Christians to avoid such language so we don’t become calloused to its harshness. Certainly young people should NOT attend this film, parents! I will definitely watch this on a Clearplay DVD player when it comes out though! Phenomenal acting by the young actors!!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Adam, age 32 (USA)
Neutral—I am writing this to warn parents not to take their children to see it. The movie itself is like a big budget B-movie from the 1950s. There are homages (or rip-offs) of just about a dozen different films, but “E.T. …” is not one that comes to mind, despite a bunch of kids fighting the military to protect an alien.

First, I am tired of Steven Spielberg films getting kid gloves from the MPAA. This IS an R-rated film under a PG-13 label. There is more cussing (most by little kids) than I can ever remember in a PG-13 film and more than in most R-rated films I have seen, including the f-word. I want to emphasize this. One kid cusses everytime he opens his mouth. There is, also, some gore, as a man is splattered against the movie screen and lots of drug abuse, which makes drugs sound amusing and funny.

As for the film itself, it is okay, but not particularly logical and packed with plot holes (can you really make a space ship out of household appliances?). Adults should wait for the DVD. Children should not see it at all. A huge disappointment in my book.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—D. Criswell, age 44 (USA)
Neutral—Being a concerned father, I quickly read a couple of lengthy Christian reviews (which emphasized a lot of language and I mean “a lot”! Why are Christian reviews so long?!) When I discovered a group of teenage boys from various, church youth groups were going to see it together, some for the second time, I tagged along and became an unofficial “cool dad critic” and “designated driver”! “Super 8” was very well made and mostly hugely entertaining and could have been described as “SUPER”… but for some “R” rated inserts, though scruffy pubescent boys, monsters and Spielberg usually equals a lower rating, perhaps because the rating gods have an awe for him and his work.

Surprisingly, the raw language and peppered cussing is mostly lost in the soundtrack, because of the high level intensity of the story and is often masked by dramatic sound effects throughout.

The boys in our group commented on how tame the language was compared to playing XBox360 for an hour on any given day, but that still leaves me with some alarm bells going off in that these teens are used to such language, see it as a normal part of life and Hollywood, and are perhaps becoming desensitized to it. One concern is they may find themselves resorting to using the same words in mouth or mind when they are in difficult situations. Parents use caution. Talk. Pray. Buy Clear Play.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Christopher Winter, age 56 (USA)
Positive—Many have complained about language in this film, which is fair, but also partially not thought totally out. I’ve worked in youth ministry for 5 years and can tell you that this is the way a lot of kids in broken families talk outside of the church setting. True it can be offensive and has resulted in me not telling younger kids to see it, but, I think the movie was totally worth watching.

The film making quality is what you would expect from such big names and the acting of the kids is excellent. On the actor side of things—Joel Courtney, the lead character, does a fantastic job for his first movie and is a cool person in life. He goes to a classic learning Christian school that is top notch and recently had a great interview with Christianity Today that he posted on his Facebook. I’ve also been able to ask him a few questions on Twitter, and he has been very polite and informal.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Patrick, age 24 (USA)
Negative
Negative—Having been a HUGE fan of Spielberg films as a kid, I was really looking forward to taking my 12 year old son to “Super 8” to experience some of the movie magic I did at his age. Fortunately, I saw the film with a friend first, and, sadly, my son will not be watching the film.

I cannot recommend parents with Christian values to take their kids to “Super 8” for the following reasons: The dialogue is full of unnecessary profanity—almost like Abrams (director) went out of his way to offend Christians (I lost count of how many time “Jesus” name was misused, for instance). Apart from the language, some of the scenes are extremely frightening and the horror/violence is borderline for a film that I’m sure many parents will take their tweens and young teens to.

Yes, “Super 8” has some redeeming qualities, but not enough to warrant a Positive or even Neutral review, IMO.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Symon Drake, age 37 (New Zealand)
Negative—I viewed this film with the thought in mind that if it “passed muster” I would view it with my 14 year old granddaughter, when she comes over to visit Grandma—that is, me. What a huge disappointment!!! Sure the special effects were fun and exciting. (The train derailment had me on the edge of my seat.) Sure the story line was pretty cool. (I enjoyed the various characterizations. The kids” acting en total was pretty remarkable.) Sure, the ending was “is at it should have been.” (Shades of ET “Go Home.”) But, these young kids using foul, extremely foul, language pervasively throughout the film was so unnecessary, so flagrant, that I would totally not recommend this film to my even older than PG-13 year old granddaughter. I would not want her to think that this was, by Grandma’s standards, and I hope by any Christian parents” standards, to be considered ok movie watching. A terrible influence from these producers and directors—and IMHO—Shame on them!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Marilyn Geary-symons, age 73 (USA)
Negative—Bad idea to take any child to. Special effects are decent but the language is so bad nobody sees the special effects. I can't believe that Mr. Abrams thinks that this is the way we behaved in the late 70s. None of my friends cussed like that. If the movie could lose the cussing, it wouldn't be too bad to watch at 13.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Lonnie, age 51 (USA)
Negative—I had a ceramics teacher once tell me that art evokes emotions. These emotions can be either good or bad, if you feel something, it did its work. I left this movie feeling nothing. If you like Abrams, like some people really do, you will like the movie making quality (“Cloverfield”). If you like a good plot that leaves you thinking, you will be let down.

I agree a lot with a previous comment that this movie can really be pointed back to a lot of different movies. The plot is not only predictable, but it has been done. Over and over again. I really couldn’t help but think “Transformers” movie quality, meets “Signs” aliens and civilians, meets “Goonies” children! I admit I think Abrams lacks originality in his stories, it’s not to say he doesn’t try hard to make the used plots new, because he does.

I, also, think God is not to be found in much of Abrams’ work. Many try to find it, but it’s not there. A lot of people give movies credit for morality, when it really isn’t due. While there is compassion and forgiveness in the story line, the language was offensive, and I really do mean offensive. As an adult, I know I tend to compromise based on language in a movie, but I wish I had not this time. It’s time I start to monitor that as well.

This movie did not glorify God, and, as a Christian, that is what my life is set to do, and I hope others, as well. I found myself asking why do I watch movies that were not intended for Christians? We don’t eat meat offered to idols, not because we think that the idols are relevant, but because those who believe in the idols are watching us, as Christians (1 Corinthians chapter 8).

These movies are not intended to water our spirits. We all know they don’t. I went with my friends to this movie, believers, and we all should have listened to the comments and abstained. We brought each other down, because while the language may not have offended someone, it did offend almost everyone. This movie has made me realize I need to compromise less between my movie going and my faith. I hope people looking to see this movie take to heart the commentary and understand, yes, it isn’t the worst movie you’ll see, but it will leave you dry.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Jessica, age 21 (USA)
Negative—I am confused by the accolades being poured out on this movie. If you have seen the trailers, read the synopsis on various sites and seen other alien movies, you have already seen “Super 8.” Wait for the release on rental.

The kids do a good job acting, I am sure we will see them again. Cute idea that they are making their own movie, but it dives from there. The relationships between the parents and kids are not developed enough to warrant the grand get together at the very end, basic ugly alien wanting to get home, profanity, explosions… that’s it. And, if you saw it on IMAX, you are out $15 a person and concessions. You just can’t take away a great Biblical teaching on family issues from the small amount of family time given to the subject on the screen. More time is given to coming of age and alien tracking. The bikes, big eyes on alien, and army are vaguely familiar, yet hardly as heartfelt.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—D. Proshek, age 51 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—“Super 8” is a great action movie with a great soundtrack and awesome performances from young actors. Not only was this movie exciting, but it also had quite a bit of humor in it. There was some language, violence, and drug content, but overall the content wasn’t nearly as bad as most movies these days. I think that “Super 8” is a good movie for anyone 10 or older. This was a very good summer movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—C, age 13 (USA)