Sunday, June 12, 2011

In Thy Image

The master crane shot overlooking Spielbergia from the hill top above.

The mysterious other that enters into the life of the characters just when they need it most. The sinister men in flashlights who will do anything to carry out their secret agenda of control and manipulation. Even a wonderful shot of a utility worker having a mysterious encounter, ala Roy Neary.

Yeah, Super 8 is a homage all right. And a wonderful one, impeccably crafted on every level, right down to the carefully chosen period color schemes, the lighting, and Michael Giacchino’s nod to John Williams.

Oh you bet it is a homage. But is so much more than that.

This is not an exercise in style alone. This is not Brian De Palma doing Hitchcock.

This feels like a deeply personal film. And without knowing anything about what J.J. Abrams went through at that age, the experiences of the main character feel very real. As if Abrams may have been shaped by similar events, in the same way Spielberg was by the divorce of his parents. The details feel personal too, the model making, the monster make-up, even the period songs. The approach Abrams takes with Super 8 reminds me of Joe Dante's most personal films, Explorers and Matinee.

The two main character in this movie are wonderfully written and acted. Played by Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning, they are the heart and soul of the film. The best scene in the movie is a quiet scene. It involves two kids and super 8 film that helps them come to terms with a tragedy and begin to heal. It is one of many scenes where Abrams demonstrates that if there ever was an heir apparent to the bearded one, it is the creator of Lost.

Elle Fanning is simply astonishing. She takes command of every scene, line of dialogue and gesture in such a natural way. She brings to mind other actresses who were great at that age, Natalie Portman, Jodie Foster, and of course her sister Dakota. Time will tell, but Elle just might be better than all of them.

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