Ours is a divided household. We have the endless bookshelves of books that look like truffle boxes and over-sized valentines and the smaller shelf of books announcing the end of mankind as we know it. While I spent my teen years snuggling with Catherine Coulter, Mr. Cloudy spent his time deep in the cannons of Star Wars and Star Trek books. But, ours is a union forged in compromise, and I sit through Aliens and Things That Go Boom and Men That Grunt II so that I have a free pass for Legally Blonde IV and Jane Austen The Musical With Bonus Extra Long Glances. But, every so often, we find a movie or TV show that truly works for both of us--the Sci-Fi geek and the Die Hard Romantic. Super 8 fits the bill admirably.
Now, I admit that I agreed to see Super 8 when I learned that Kyle Chandler was in it. Can you say no to this guy? Really?
I knew this movie had a high probability of getting both of us to like it as his stint on Grey's Anatomy moved both of us, and he made King Kong watchable for me. Now, unfortunately, if you are checking this movie out because of him, I'm sorry to report that A) he keeps his shirt (and all other clothes on) the whole movie and B) only has a half-dozen scenes or so because the focus is really on the pre-teen actors. But he is wonderful as the grieving widower trying to figure out single-parenting and as the protective deputy of a small town battling unseen forces. We even get some very manly tears.
It's all good because the young actors are what sells this movie as a winner for me. Now, as a YA romance lover, I just adored the interplay between Alice (played by Elle Fanning) and the group of nerdling misfits trying to make a zombie movie. The very tentative love story between her and Kyle Chandler's motherless boy is both touching and realistic. One of my absolute favorite scenes is actually between the boys, who realize for the first time that they're going to be competing for girls. My heart broke for the bossy movie director kid who has to realize that life isn't so easily aligned as a movie plot. The fact that the movie is set in the late 70s, and I saw many icons of my youth, made their interactions resonate with me even more. It's a fabulous young actor ensemble and made me want to go rewatch Goonies.
Now, for your partner or movie date who needs explosions and orders being grunted to leave the theater happy, I am happy to report that the movie delivers one of the most horrifying train wreck scenes ever with enough firepower to make even the pyro kid stand in awe. And things only progress from there. Orders are barked. People are stalked by unseen evil. Really, really terrifying things start happening. The action escalated until I left finger marks in Mr. Cloudy's thigh as I tried to keep from covering my eyes. The fact that I really cared about the young protagonists made me feel more emotionally invested in the action sequences. I also liked the balance of character development of the group of friends with plenty of dialogue and the boom-boom-"we're screwed!" - terrifying scenes.
The ending is one that die-hard Sci Fi fans will love. And Romantics will cheer as well because it's uplifting without being cheesy. We don't get a HEA--that's a bit much for pre-teen characters (and an epilogue scene flashing forward would have ruined things), but we do get the sense of lives being irrevocably linked. Character arcs are fulfilled, which isn't always the case with Sci-Fi movies at all. We had a pleasant discussion post-movie on the way to collect our own little predators about the motivations of . . . Well you'll have to take my spoiler-free word for it, but there's plenty of re-hashing to be done. And hey, if nothing else, you get to spend the evening with Kyle Chandler. Everyone wins.