They were rehearsing the lines and Alice (Elle Fanning) had stunned her friends with the delivery of her part from the script. And then Charles (Riley Griffiths), the director, spotted an oncoming train comes by. He breathlessly said, “production value” and immediately yells to his crews, all twelve to fourteen years old boys to get the equipments ready for a shoot. What entails then, is a pure excitement as only boys could ever had when the crews went into a beautiful, organized chaos. I was hooked immediately, and this single scene, which actually happens right before the movie’s first explosions (which was also one of the movie’s high point in term of entertainment value) had stood out for me until the end.
“Super 8” was driven out from and around the six middle-schoolers kid. I normally don’t like kid actors, but damn, augmented with fluid scripts and conversational deliveries, these kids were awesome. It was a summer vacation for these kids and they were shooting a movie. Charles was the control freak, the director, the script writer, and he was obsessed with the film-making, undoubtedly a reminiscent to this movie’s own mastermind. Joe (Joel Courtney) was the crew’s make-up artist with a healthy obsessions on plastic kit modelings. Cary (Ryan Lee) was the crew’s explosion expert, who never leaves house without a backpack full of firecrackers, to whom parents had warned about to his kids of his penchant on fire and things that go boom. Martin (Gabriel Basso) was the crew’s main actor, prone of throwing up whenever something even slightly amiss happened around him. Preston (Zach Mills) was the crew’s all-around guy, movie’s extras, and had a plenty of ideas on suicides. And there’s Alice, the only girl in the crew, naturally becoming the one to have a crush on for at least one of the crew. Oh, young love, how I had missed it. Together, they went sneaking out on midnight to shoot their scenes. But of course, it wasn’t long before an event took place that put them in crossing paths with worried (and skeptical) parents, a secretive Air Force, a mysterious cargo, a town’s evacuation, and a scientist with a not-so-proud history.
I had a very boring childhood. No life-changing experiences, no significant memories that I could put into a time capsule and then reopened twenty years later with a knowing smile and a blossoming chest, and absolutely no adventures. Therefore, I often compensate by making things up, imagining that I have a secret fortress under a not so concealed bush in the middle of an empty lot, crafting an ingenious plot to topple an Evil (with a capital ‘E’) force, and so forth. I have a pretty good imaginations back then, probably still is. But before long, with the lack of friends (a problem I still suffered even now) I withdrew to books and it was books like “the Famous Five,” “STOP,” and “the Three Investigators” that shaped most of my childhood memory. Theirs are the memories that I’d love to have. Ones that I didn’t have.
In a way “Super 8” is a prominent example of one of those make-up memories that I wished I had of my childhood. And I had slipped in, rather effortlessly to the movie’s designated lead role, Joe’s shoes and relive his on-screen experiences as if that they were mine. Even down to a crush on Alice which in real life, given my age, is probably going to sounds very wrong. Therefore, I think it was a no surprise that I enjoyed this movie a lot and probably ended up as one of my best experience at the cinema for this year.
It was not just the love, the obsession, the passion form this movie that resonates with me so very well. But it was also the not-having part that even maybe, screams a bit louder at times. These kids in the movie had discovered their passions, and they had nurtured it through a simple project that was at least a fundamental experience that would kept them going or having a fond memory of. Something that I didn’t have and wished that I had.
I was maybe, once, a creative kid that early on, took a liking of sketching with every flat surface, from blank papers, to my parents’ house’s walls as my canvas. I’m still sketching, but it was merely an idle doodling during a boring meeting or the likes. I was also once, obsessed with airplane models, that I had remembered spent many many hours after school, not just building airplane models from the kit or from an example, but actually create a complete model from nothing but a spec. Sketching, designing, drawing, cutting, and finally painting it with meticulous care. It was a bulky C-130 with four engines and an extractable cargo door tail section. It was probably the first project that I had ever completed from start to finish, and very very satisfied with. From it, I had no praise, no reward, but just me, a twelve year old kid seeing his creation came to life and it still is one of the best memory I had from my childhood.
But then school, and expectations ruins me. I had stopped sketching, and I had stopped creating, simply going through the motion. This movie pulled me back, and makes me wonder on what would happen had I rebelled.
“Super 8,” as a movie will definitely work on a different level for you than it was for me. When I slipped into Joe’s shoes for the majority of the movie’s running length, I could see myself in him and there’s this feeling of longing, of regret, of remembrance that mixed and swelled inside my chest. Oh I wish I had seen this movie when I was a kid, I’m sure I could draw an inspiration from it, and probably going into a slightly different path than this one I’m walking on. No point of regret really, but somewhere along the end credit, where it plays the fruit of labors from these kids, I’ve made a solemn decision that if someday, I saw my kid expressing interest in even a slightly constructive process, I would never said no. Heck, I would even do his homework to let him squeeze a few more thoughts to his passions. Might be a wrong parenting for some of you, but I tend to start from there, and adjust accordingly.
Again, this movie would probably have a different impact for you than it was for me but I’d say that this movie was probably in the same vein as the classics “E.T.,” “Gremlins,” and “The Goonies.” A bunch of spirited kids on an exciting adventure. Adults? They’re just on the way and they would never understands. I’d love my kid to see this movie. Over and over and over again. Hopefully brainwashed him with some positive values on passion, and maybe, just maybe, enticed him to take an interest to film-making as well. All in a good time, all in a good time.