“You’re Gonna Need a Better Plot”

Actor, Roy Scheider uttered similar words in his role as Chief Brodie in the iconic movie, Jaws, as he was chumming for the 25- foot long aquatic omnivore.  It emerged, quickly submerged and scared the already scared lawman even more.     He backed into Quint’s wheelhouse and proclaimed in that now famous deadpan manner, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat…”.

Jaws was Steven Spielberg’s first epic motion picture.   His first cinematic oeuvre,  Duel awakened the movie going public.   Sugarland Express dazzled them, while Jaws damned near put beach resorts out of business in 1975.   Spielberg is indeed a one man tour de force.   He’s a brilliant director and worth all the accolades he’s received.  

This summer, Spielberg is the Executive Producer of just  about every film in theaters.   One of those movies is Super 8.   

It was directed by J.J. Abrams and is nothing but an homage to big blockbusters….big blockbusters made by Spielberg, more specifically.  Now,  is that because Spielberg’s style is so recognizable and copied OR….. is it because by this time, when it comes to sci-fi flicks that feature space aliens and the normal everyday  kids who somehow, understand them, Spielberg’s stuff is a bit hackneyed and well, done to death?????

I’m not sure I know the answer to that, but perhaps it’s because I’m something of a cinematic nerd and I watch the entire screen, not just who’s stalking that I  saw a substantial number of well, let’s call them nuances of so many Spielberg films in Abrams’ effort….from Goonies, Jaws, the Indiana Jones series,  Close Encounters, War of The Worlds and, had it mentioned the Holocost, I would’ve stood up and screamed,  BING!!   BING!!   BING!!!–Abrams wins the Spielberg trifecta, but mercifcully,  it didn’t.    Even the ending,  the very last scene in the film (you’ll know it when you see it) absolutely reeked of  Paranormal Activity which ended the same way.   If you remember, Spielberg was asked how he’d end the horror flick which made a zillion dollars a few years ago.  It was the one that took Hollywood by storm…shot for something like $58 dollars over a ten-day period.  The ending was re-shot as per Spielberg’s suggestion and it’s evident in Super 8’s ending.

Abram’s film is ambitious but over zealous in parts.   Dare I saw Swiss Cheesy, even?   Yes, there are holes in the plot, timeline issues and inexplicable events that happen, that make you think, what the hell?   Yes, I know it’s a movie and yes I know some alien that looks like it’s part bat, part rat and a smidge  like Jonathan Frid  ( TV’s Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows) and has a penchant for small town water towers (see the movie…it’ll all make sense)  is pure  fantasy, but  for those of us who like sensical flow and at least a semblance of truthiness and plausibility in our sci-fi, Super 8 is sorely lacking.  

Great effects;  lots of incredible crashes and real looking, Vic Morrow-esque explosions, but for me, personally,  I have to care about the characters who are chased and risk death at the hands of the evil kill…kill…die…die military who just can’t and won’t understand the alien as the caring, feeling entity is really is under all those scales and eyes and tentacles.    I found it very hard to muster ANY emotional connection with any of the characters.    Even the misunderstood alien.

Super 8 is entertaining enough–I’ll give it that, but it isn’t completely satifying.   I walked out the the theater disappointed (as did Martha Martinez, my ‘date’) because we both really, really wanted to love this movie. 

But we couldn’t.  

And it’s not like I’m Roger Ebert’s love child and Rex Reed I’m not (thank God) but for the serious cinema lover who goes to films to revel and wallow in their subtext as much as anything else, this movie isn’t for you.  It lacks an amazing amount of heart, which is something very uncharacteristic for a film with Spielberg’s name on it.  

But if none of that matters, and you feel the need to prove me wrong AND you want to see cool special effects, to witness trains destroyed, cars blown to bits, mindless explosions and kids who try too hard to be kids as adults think kids would act, then hightail it to your nearest theatre and plop down your money on the counter before the acned, gum smacking, braces-wearing 19-year-old attitude with pigtails named “Brie” at the ticket booth.

But take it from me, go stoned.    Swiss Cheese is always MUCH more appealing when one is in an altered state.

I give it two out of four bags of popcorn….unbuttered; children’s size..


  1. Good review Laurie. What does the title “Super 8” mean?


    Super 8 is the name of the type of camera these amatuer filmakers used in their production..It used 8 mm film, hence the name. It’s also same camera Spielberg used when he was a kid and shot films while dreaming of being the next Cecil B De Mille.


  2. I think the kids in the movie are shooting their movie on Super 8 film, but it’s also a subtle hommage to Spielberg, who as a kid shot his earliest movies on Super 8 film.

  3. “TV’s Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows.”

    Sweetie, you are NOT old enough to remember Dark Shadows unless you either a.) own a wayback machine or b.) someone gave you the complete series on CD.

    Nuff said!

    Careful gettin’ down off that high horse, Hon.

    I’m 52 GM. I know I write younger, but I’m 52. I used to watch Dark Shadows after getting out of school (first and second grade) in 65 and ’66. I’d watch with my mom at 2:30 every weekday afternoon. It aired on KSAT-Channel 12. . I remember Angelique…Willie…Dr. Julia Hoffman, Josette, Quentin (played by David Selby…by the way, I LOVED the magical “Quentin’s Theme” which was played on the harpsichord). Other names escape me adn I remember how they’d go back in time and there were two houses at Collingwood–and old one and a newer one.

    Yes, but I remember it very, very well.

    ‘Nuff said.


  4. >And it’s not like I’m Roger Ebert’s love child and Rex Reed I’m not (thank God)

    But you could be *their* love child. In fact, that would explain a lot — intelligent, funny, a little snarky… 😉

    I’ve heard Abrams interviewed, but haven’t seen the movie yet. It does sound like an homage to the 1970s/early 80s. I’ll probably wait for NetFlix.

  5. Well then, to think we watched it on the same channel at the same time. However, I was in my sophomore year in college (now I’m feeling old). And yes darlin’ you DO write YOUNG.

    ‘Nuff said.

  6. Thanks for the review and the rating. It might save me a few popcorn bags – I appreciate it.

    I believe it was Spielberg who, after winning a lifetime achievement award, made open comments about the fact that the original movies considered to be outstanding were inspired by great novels and literature. Over the years, the inspiration of newer movie makers became other movies, and as a result, a gradual deterioration in plot and character was occurring even with great strides in the cinematography and special effects. He urged the profession to return and discover a love for the written word if this great art form was to survive another century. I wish I could remember when he made this speech, but I found it quite insightful.

  7. I would have to be stoned to go see a movie. I am just not into it. For some reason though, I’m interested in hearing everyone’s opinions of them. This was perfect. Thank you.
    It made me happy to hear about you and the “muchacha” hanging out. Also, your use of the words “wheelhouse” and “chum” brightened my day.

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