JJ Abrams is best known as the creator and intellectual cock tease behind one of television’s most overrated shows of all time -Lost, which also described the writing style of the show after the first season. Lost was basically a ponzi scheme for the brain. Instead of delivering on many of the secrets and teases in each episode it merely kept doubling down, promising more and more to deflect from the fact that it could not possibly have satsifying answers and returns on the investment people had made in the show. That’s right, JJ Abrams was the Bernie Madoff of television.
But movies for JJ Abrams have actually been more satisfying. I enjoyed Cloverfield and was pleasantly surprised by the Star Trek reboot. Mission Impossible 3 was not good, but as Meat Loaf said, two out of three ain’t bad. So with Super 8 coming out I felt confident that it would be more Cloverfield and less mystery island. Well, it is both.
The movie, which follows a group of kids who are making a film on their Super 8 camera, who then witness a devastating train wreck (the standard for great train wreck scenes is The Fugitive – this one is loud and overbearing – it feels like the train had about 200 cars all which exploded in CGI glory. All I was struck by watching the first hour of the movie, which was entertaining, thought the humor only felt one grade above Michael Bay-level shtick, was how JJ Abrams was making an homage to Spielberg movies, largely ET with a touch of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But it sort of feels like going one step beyond homage. It feels like someone who is mildly obsessed – like instead of Single White Female, JJ Abrams could star in Married Jewish Filmmaker.
The movie goes along revealing little details about the mysterious creature/government secret/alien/etc. that appears to be wreaking havoc on the small town that is being policed by Coach Eric Taylor of Friday Night Lights. But as the movie reaches its conclusion all the things I hoped for came crashing down in a Lost-like ending. The last ten minutes of the movie are incredibly disappointing. Like Lost, the movie gets you excited because it is making promises, that although difficult to deliver, will be outstanding IF delivered. But then, like Lost, the movie produces a highly mediocre and tidy ending to wrap up the film under two hours. It is like JJ Abrams is Hollywood’s version of LeBron James in these NBA Finals – he awes you with all the promise and flash of talent and then when it is time to finish the job he sort of vacates and looks for a quick and unsatisfying conclusion.
Maybe JJ Abrams should review his Spielberg movies again, because he knew how to start and finish a movie.
Grade – C+