Jan 6, 2013

Super 8: Four Boys, a Girl, and a Monster

An homage to filmmaking, Steven Spielberg, and J.J. Abrams' childhood, Super 8 (2011) is set in the distant past year of 1979, where high schooler Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is working on a zombie movie, along with his best friend Preston (Zach Mills), the pyromaniac Cary (Ryan Lee), and the skittish Martin (Gabriel Basso). They need a female lead, so Preston calls a girl he likes, Alice (Elle Fanning).  Unfortunately, Joe likes her too.

While they are filming at the train station, they witness a train crash, which releases thousands of small white cubes.  To their horror, they discover that their science teacher, the cliched intuitive black guy (Glynn Turman) crashed into the train deliberately to stop it.  "They'll kill you!" he exclaims, mysteriously.





Meanwhile, Joe's dad, Deputy Sheriff Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) is despondent after the death of his wife in an unrelated factory accident.  He blames the town nogoodnick, Louis Dainard (Ron Eldard), who was supposed to take her shift that day.

By the way, Louis just happens to be Alice's father.  Her mother "ran off."

The Peyton Place-like soap opera unfolds as unexplained events bedevil the small Ohio town.  All of the dogs run away.  People disappear.  The army arrives and takes over.  The weird cubes start pulsating and changing size.  There's a monster.

And a lot of gay subtexts.

1. Joe is a quiet outsider boy who does all of the makeup for the actors.  He has numerous gay-coded interests: makeup, art, design.  And his father assumes that he is gay.  Most parents, upon discovering that their teenage son is hanging out with a girl, would assume hetero-romance, but Deputy Lamb doesn't, not for a moment.  He consistently refers to the relationship as "a friendship," and to Alice as "one of your friends."

2. Though Joe and Preston both like The Girl, they get a scene in which they discuss their feelings for each other.

3. Martin (left) and Cary express no heterosexual interest; they don't even gawk at The Girl or make sleazy comments about her breasts, like nearly every other movie teenager.


4. Louis and Deputy Lamb apparently were close friends in high school, mirroring the relationship between Joe and Preston.  Then they had an unexplained falling-out.

Why does Deputy Lamb blame Joe for his wife's death?  Maybe Louis was interested in the Deputy, and unconsciously wanted her "out of the way" so he could move in?  Maybe Louis married in the first place only because the object of his affection was marrying.

Now, as they work together to save their kids, there is a palpable erotic tension between them.  One expects them to kiss at any moment.

They don't, of course.  The resolution, which draws on E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, involves a heterosexist rescue of The Girl.  But it's a nice ride.



In 2013, Joel Courtney will be playing Tom Sawyer to Jake T. Austin's Huck Finn.