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3.8 out of 5 stars
Super 8 [DVD]
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JJ Abrams has had some good ideas - he invented Lost and Alias, the TV series, but often his films tend to be '4 star' rather than '5 star' - see the Star Trek reboot as an example.

This may be an exception - inspired by the 1980s films about childhood adventures, such as ET and The Goonies, this manages to capture the same energy, with a likable cast of young actors who stumble upon a big secret whilst making their own zombie movie on an old Super 8 camera (there is also some nostalgia for the first video cameras here, no doubt the writer was remembering some films he made).
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 17 May 2012
Adults weaned on '80s-era Steven Spielberg classics will no doubt experience a sharp tinge of nostalgia while watching Super 8, and the younger viewers will get an exciting version of those films to call their own thanks to writer/director J.J. Abrams, who stays faithful to both the style and tone of movies such as E.T while slyly infusing them with his own contemporary style. And in an age where children are needlessly shielded from realities of the world, even in fiction, it's undeniably refreshing to see a new fantasy adventure that both refuses to sugar-coat the childhood experience and possesses an actual air of danger.

Not only do the kids in Super 8 swear, but they also have a gun pointed at them by a teacher, run for their lives from a massive train wreck, and make a treacherous dash through a suburban war zone amidst a deafening barrage of military firepower. Yes, parents, this is definitely one instance where you'll have to judge for yourself as to whether this film is suitable for the younger kids.

Long before the Internet, some films actually possessed an aura of mystery in the run-up to opening day. We were never quite sure what we were going to get it was really nice to relive that feeling once again when I finally got round to watching this film. With Super 8, Abrams and company have successfully managed the unique feat of re-creating that experience by crafting an intriguing teaser trailer and ensuring that precious few details of their film were leaked before the release date.

Super 8 is so effective in capturing a very specific moment in time, including the look and tone of the movies released then, that aside from Abrams' trademark lens flares and advanced special effects, it's nearly indistinguishable from the real deal. The youngsters in Super 8 look like real kids instead of glossy imitations; the sense of community harks back to a time before people withdrew into their homes to play video games and surf the Net; and sensitive issues like the death of a parent are handled with a refreshing honesty that doesn't discount intelligence. A conversation between the main character and his father shows Abrams' talent for revealing telling details about his characters through more than simple dialogue, and a confrontation between two friends over a girl later in the film displays the writer's keen understanding of the complex dynamics of adolescent friendships.

As the young lead, Joel Courtney does a commendable job of balancing his character's devastating loss with his devotion to friends and growing feelings for Alice, who is played to perfection by Elle Fanning. It's easy to get cynical about favouritism when it starts to seem like every movie star's relative wants a chance to shine, too, but it's obvious from Elle Fanning's performance here that she would have likely succeeded even without her famous sister, she is just wonderful.

Our bad guy is played by, Noah Emmerich and he achieves Spielbergian villain perfection; early in the film we're told just how far he will go in order to keep his secret safe, and after seeing how he handles his enemies, we have little doubt he has the capacity for true ruthlessness.

And while the effective score may never soar to the majestic heights of John Williams' iconic work in films like E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark, it still manages to capture that same distinctive tone in a manner that echoes those great works without straining to re-create them.

If there's any major fault to be found in Super 8, perhaps it's the fact that it traces the structure of Spielberg's own E.T. just a little too closely for comfort. Still, there are enough key differences to make Abrams' take on the material a completely original story in its own right, and anytime a filmmaker chooses to tell his or her own story rather than working from existing material, movie fans have something to be thankful for.

Which leads to one of the last, and perhaps best, ways that Super 8 calls back to the era before every movie was a potential franchise in the making: in the end, we're left not with a cliff-hanger or a sudden sting that indicates the entire story has yet to be told, but with a sense of wonder and amazement as both the emotional and fantastical story arcs draw to a tidy, satisfying close. It's funny how such a simple concept like creating a self-contained story can seem so bold; then again, it pays to remember that Abrams is taking his cues from an experienced master, rather than an eager upstart seeking to ensure career stability for years to come.

A real gem in a sea of mundane if you haven't watched this yet then you should, because until you do, we might not be able to be friends anymore.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 October 2014
Loved it. Great film. Perfect balance between fast pace action and serious emotional moments. Enjoyable for all, some great performances also.
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on 16 July 2015
When I first watched this movie there were a few parts I liked but overall I found it quite boring. When I watched a few months later however I absolutely loved it. This one is a film that grows on you the more you watch it. If you want to watch a film about a bunch of kids obsessed with making zombie movies and like anything sci-fi, there's a good chance you'll like this. This film kind of reminds me of the classics like ET. It's not as good as that, but it's got a certain charm about it.
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on 27 May 2015
Fantastic family film (though children do need to be close to the 12 certificate to really enjoy - probably 10+ to be on the safe side of the film not being too scary, too verbose). Anyway - I'd forgotten just how great this film is - the child actors are fab, the standard of their performances are almost uniformly excellent and the dialogue between them is in turns - realistic, hilarious, endearing - and central to the success of the film.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2011
Summer 2011 was not a bad season for blockbuster films. Massive titles came out, but for me it was the little film that could, that was one of the best. `Super 8' has no franchise to sit on, no vast archive of history and characters to draw on. Instead director J J Abrams took his childhood love of Steven Spielberg and tried to create a film in the style of the master at his peak - did he succeed? Almost.

`Super 8' is a great summer family film that deals in character, as much as in special effects. A group of young boys (and one girl) get mixed up in an adventure that reminds you of `Goonies' or `ET'. The banter between the actors is fantastic and feels like real 14 years olds would. They grow from being naïve at the start, to a little wiser towards the end. Relationships evolve and people learn. These concepts may seem like the basics a film needs, but in a world of `Battleships' and `Transformers' I am more used to paper thin characters standing around whilst CGI stuff hits other CGI stuff.

This is a film with real heart and great performances at its centre. The action is thrilling, because you are made to care about the characters. The film is a 12A and like many films in that bracket it is a little unsuitable for younger children as moments are scary. `Super 8' works wonderfully until the very end when Abrams buys into the modern phenomenon of massive CGI endings. Compared to the intelligence and subtlety that leads up to the final 20 minutes, you feel a little let down. However, even the misjudged finale cannot stop this from being one of the two films I would heartedly recommend to everyone from summer 2011 (the other being Apes).

Sammy Recommendation
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on 11 January 2015
One minute we have a genuinely funny and touching coming-of-age story about a group of teenagers in smalltown America. The next we have the worst excesses of the Hollywood blockbuster: everything blowing up, Bad and Anonymous people dying in horrible ways while Our Heroes evade death again and again by pure luck. The end result is a film that's too scary for kids, too silly for adults.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Five Star movie. Absolutely - however I will be the first to acknowledge that this has it's own unique niche audience, and won't be for everyone. This is a love letter to the movies of the late 70's and 80's, the movie of Zemeckis, Dante and yes, most of all Spielberg. For in this feature J.J. Abrams has created a love letter to Spielberg's era of moviemaking, a movie that both celebrates and emulates the styles and tools, the moviemaking grammar, and particularly the tone of movies from that era.
It's all that, but still wrapped in a story, one that has a set of familiar elements, but wrapped up in a new enough arrangement. A bunch of kids in 1979 bond while making home movies with their Super 8 camera. They are filming one night when they witness a terrible train crash.. but when the dust settles, there is something from the cargo of the train that has been released, and it is about to have a major impact on the town. Scratch beneath that relatively simple skin though, and you'll find elements of the Goonies (bunch of kids coming of age through shared adventure), Close Encounters (paranoia, alien contact affecting ordinary small town folk), Gremlins (the black humour), and E.T. (adolescents coming of age in damaged families). And if this is an homage to Spielberg, then it's earlier Spielberg - the guns, deaths and occasional mild swear words aren't airbrushed out. It is very much a story first and foremost about real kids, living real lifes, and much less about the fantastic events happening around them. Yes there is spectacle towards the end, but only as a pay off to the emotional journey of the characters.. if it's just the action or effects you want, you will likely be disappointed. In fact, if there is any off note in the movie, it is the appearance of cgi - a very modern tool to tell an old fashioned story, and taking you out of the nostalgia trip somewhat. But it's not enough to derail the journey.
It's not just the director; the look, the feel of the movie, down through sets, period detail and even the musical score, also celebrate that early 80's feel. And let's not forget those lead roles - kids who actually come across as real, likeable, believable - the scenes where they have to emote, particularly Elle Fanning, are amazingly genuine, and the relationship between the leads is handled in a delicate way which uses visuals and acting more than it does clunky exposition or awkward dialogue.
So yes, it is my own personal 5 stars.. Maybe it's too nostalgic to appeal to today's kids, maybe its too much about kids to appeal to today's adults. But for me, I am just at that age that when I was young and impressionable it was Spielberg and Dante and the rest that stirred my own passion for movies, that made that first mark, that created those moments that would be my first love of cinema.. and it is precisely that feeling that has been captured and celebrated here. This is what happens when movies about kids are made by mature filmmakers. Watching it, I felt like that young wide eyed kid in the cinema again, and it was a glorious feeling.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2012
Am astounded by some of the poor reviews of this. If you want to watch this expecting 'Cloverfield' or a dark, modern Sci-Fi story then you want to watch the wrong movie...move along.

However, if you want an ode to the wondeful 70s/80s Spielberg Sci-Fi & adventure movies like CE3, ET, Goonies etc then read on. This film is for you as JJ Abrams homage to the great one is worthy of Spielberg himself.

Set in a small American town at the end of the 70s, the teenage cast do a terrific job (Elle Fanning in particular is superb) in portraying a group of friends teetering between the end of childhood & start of adulthood, who are dragged into a series of bizarre, dangerous incidents after a military train crashes on the edge of town & a none-too-happy occupant decides to go for a stroll.

Cue a mixture of chaos, disappearances, explosions, tension, mild scares & lens flare amidst some effective, touching coming-of-age drama & enough misty-eyed nostalgia to bring a lump to the most cynical of throats.

The film looks great (the train crash sequence is absolutely spectacular) & sounds great, mixing period songs with a score that owes more then a little to Spielberg's old musical companion John Williams in many places. More then that though, there's also a real sense of old-fashioned wonder about it, a innocence and oddly fairytale-like nature that seems sorely missing from much of todays cinema.

Undoubtedly those people familiar with Spielberg's work pre-Schindlers List will get the most out of this (it is an unashamed love letter to him after all) but 10-13 year olds will find this a perfect introduction to move sci-fi to.

As for everyone else? As long as you don't expect an action epic, monsterfest or scare-laden adrenaline ride then give it a go. You won't regret it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 December 2011
Just when i thought 2011 hadn't delivered a single decent sci-fi film, half way through December i watched Super 8 and was totally blown away! What a relief!

This is one of those films that kids of today will be talking about 10 or 15 years from today, much like me and my friends remenice of films like the goonies, back to the future, ghostbusters etc. Films that truely capture the imagination!

There are just so many good aspects to this film, most notably the child actors who are superb and totally believable! Granted this kind of disfunctional group of friends has been seen before in previous outings by Speilberg... But not for a very long time!! It's so refreshing, and great to see that Speilberg can still pull out another magical, fun film for the family... And in a different class to any other film maker! - Although this film really isn't for very young kids, the 12 rating should be heeded!
The effects are also amazing, the train crash was awesome!!
It is a real bonus too that the film is set in the past, it really gives the film a nostalgic feel!
There are a few gaps in the plot though which is a shame but in no way detrimental to the enjoyment of the film, as a kid you wouldn't pay much attention to these anyway!!... Also plenty of 80's classics have holes too but it doesn't really matter.

I must say I'm shocked at some of the negative reviews this film has, but i guess you can't please everyone. This really is a character driven masterpiece which draws you in to the character's individual issues and circumstances, not focussing fundamentally on action or special effects... Which in my opinion is dumbing down modern cinema and maybe why so many people couldn't get to grips with it - coming at it soley as an action sci-fi film (which it isn't).

I am so happy that this film was made, so far Abrams is totally smashing it for me! he hasn't put a foot wrong so far!! Can't wait to see what he comes out with next, hopefully another Speilberg collaboration!
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