I asked my youngest daughter to pick a movie I could take her to this past Saturday night. Wanting to see Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights, she picked Super 8. Chandler plays the lead adult role in the film. I knew nothing about the film except that it received an enviable 83 percent Tomatometer reading over at Rotten Tomatoes site. I thought it should be good. (Warning: plot spoilers below.)
The first 15 minutes or so of the film are enjoyable. The film takes place in small-town Ohio in the late ’70s. The opening features an ensemble cast of teenage actors making a zombie movie to enter in a film competition. The kids are engaging and funny. But it turns out that the film-within-a-film is just the set-up to a science fiction plot featuring an evil conspiracy run by the United States Air Force. Kurt Schlicter explores the stupidity of the plot in his assessment of the film at Big Hollywood.
The Air Force officer who runs the conspiracy is a villain sent from central casting. As soon as he appears on screen it becomes apparent that the film falls into the genre of post-Watergate movies in which the United States government or United States military lies at the center of vast web of conspiracy. I think the genre goes back to Three Days of the Condor and includes enough movies to justify a sequel to Michael Medved’s Hollywood vs. America.
When a series of mysteriously bad things starts happening in that Ohio town, the folks convene a town meeting to discuss them. They are rightly up in arms, verging on hysteria. The citizens are certain that the Commies lie behind the mysterious doings going down in town. Fools! They should know that it is a giant monster from outer space who has escaped Air Force captivity. For the price of a ticket the viewer gets a vintage bit of liberal anti-anti-Communism in addition to all the other fun. Thanks, but no thanks.
This is a public service announcement. If you seek to avoid movies that portray the armed forces of the United States in an absurdly negative light, you will want to miss Super 8.