Super 8

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Super 8 Movie Poster Image
Teens save town in action-heavy sci-fi film with retro feel.
  • PG-13
  • 2011
  • 112 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 52 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 184 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie's overall message is that communication is essential in understanding others and can help avoid violence and promote understanding. Also, that isolation, loneliness, and cruelty only breed anger, bitterness, and revenge.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Joe is a fantastic kid. Yes, he sneaks out of his house to help his friend make a movie, but he's also kind, generous, loving, and brave. He risks his life to help Alice when no one else will and treats her with reverence and respect rather than an objectified prize he should earn. Deputy Lamb is willing to investigate the Air Force's shady doings even when the naive sheriff tells him it's nothing to worry about. Even though Lamb isn't the most understanding father at first, he later shows just how much he loves and is willing to sacrifice for Joe. All of Joe's friends are great boys who stand by each other even during horrific, life-threatening situations.

Violence

From the huge, terrifying train crash that starts the action to the heart-stopping climax when lives we care about are at stake, there's a lot of action that's likely to scare younger viewer (a couple of scenes may literally leave viewers jumping out of their seats or gasping aloud). The alien is unseen for most of the movie, but he wreaks havoc by making scary things happen. A man bloodied in an accident pulls a gun on teenagers to get them to flee; several characters are grabbed by the alien. The Air Force is led by a sadistic colonel who thinks nothing of ordering a scientist killed by a poisonous injection or sending his people out on near-suicide missions. The troops start a fire to force a town to evacuate. The alien squashes people, but there aren't any lingering shots of blood or guts (the way there would be in an R-rated movie). A mother's death via a horrible steel mill accident is talked about throughout the movie.

Sex

Joe and Alice flirt with each other, exchanging furtive glances and then having heart-to-heart talks. They eventually share a couple of embraces, and it's clear they "like each other."

Language

One humorously depicted use of the word "f--k" (said by an older teen), as well as several uses of "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," and "bitch" by the middle-school protagonists. Other words include "p---y," "d--k," "hell," "ass," "damn," "dumbass," "idiot," "stupid," "oh my God," and a few exclamations of "Jesus!" and "God!"

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Deputy Lamb and his fellow officers drink beer after their shifts. The camera shop salesman asks Charles and his middle-school friends if they want to buy pot; he's later shown smoking a joint and admits that he's high. The kids react to his inability to drive during a crisis by saying "Drugs are so bad." Mr. Dainard is usually shown drunk, drinking, or smoking cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this exciting, 1979-set sci-fi drama -- which follows a group of young teens who witness a horrific train accident while making a homemade movie and get caught up in a military cover-up involving a mysterious and dangerous beast -- has some intense action violence, especially the truly terrifying train wreck. There's some blood and weapons use, and some scenes may make you jump out of your seat, but gore is minimal. Also expect some drinking/drug content (including someone trying to sell the kids pot) and swearing (including one use of "f--k," as well as "s--t," "a--hole," and more). Director J.J. Abrams manages to perfectly capture the feeling of similar movies from the period, largely by drawing shamelessly from the works of producer Steven Spielberg.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bytville June 11, 2011

Fun Film. But plenty of bad language and a couple violent scenes.

Fun summer film that has good child role models. And the bad adults come around in the end. Great acting and story-line. Good movie making. Cons: Swearing is th... Continue reading
Adult Written byClintD June 11, 2011

Super bomb

The use of the "F" word was a downer for us. My kids did not need to hear it. It ruined the whole movie for us.
Teen, 13 years old Written byTim2814 June 10, 2011

Good movie Bad language

Super 8 is a Heavy action flick, but is not all that scary there is some blood but not allot of it. It does however have language that is very inappropriate for... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old June 9, 2011

Super 8

This was 'Super Gr8'. Abrams kept the storyline too secret, so it has danger in the box office. This is a sci-fi epic, so tons of action violence. The... Continue reading

What's the story?

Summer 1979, Lillian, Ohio: Six teens are making a zombie movie that they hope to submit to a festival. For Joe (Joel Courtney), it's a chance to bury himself in a project that might help him move on from his mother's recent death ... and avoid the tense existence he shares with his father, the town's deputy sheriff (Kyle Chandler). Alice (Elle Fanning), a relative newcomer to the troupe, wants a respite from the home she shares with her tortured, alcoholic father (Ron Eldard). Wannabe auteur Charles (Riley Griffiths) longs to see a finished product, and so do their three other friends. But while filming a pivotal scene, the teens witness a mysterious train crash of monumental proportions, one that unleashes a military crackdown on their once-tranquil town, as well as a newcomer of extraterrestrial proportions.

Is it any good?

Let's forget any attempts at originality, why don’t we, because SUPER 8 won’t stun with innovation. It definitely feels like an homage to great movies past, particularly E.T., Stand by Me, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (Producer Steven Spielberg’s guiding hand is definitely felt.) And the bare bones of the plot are certainly familiar, as is much of the dialogue.

Yet, Super 8 is entertaining -- despite some overly obvious grabs for viewers' heartstrings -- because the personal stories that root the action-heavy film matter to the audience. We feel for Courtney’s aching Joe and Fanning’s compassionate Alice. We even care for the bossy, foul-mouthed fledgling director Griffiths plays because his friendship with Joe feels grounded and true. Abrams captures the tumult of adolescence, especially when buffeted by very grown-up insights ... never mind the intergalactic space monster threatening to tear this nostalgic town to pieces.
 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages about communication and peaceful negotiation. How does the movie's violence tie in to this message?

  • For those familiar with Spielberg's movies -- how is this an obvious homage to his films? What elements of Spielberg's movies are evident in the heroes, the story, the cinematography, the music?

  • How would this movie have been different if it was set in the present day? How does Abrams include '70s technology in the storyline?

  • Why are the kids so devoted to making Super 8 movies? What purpose does the activity serve? Do kids these days get to indulge in creative pursuits like these in the same way?

Movie details

For kids who love sci-fi

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