UPDATE: The site “Basement Jockeys” is no longer in existence. You can read a reproduction of the original review below.
J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 is a throwback to classics like E.T. and The Goonies in that the main characters are a bunch of kids in way over their heads. The kids of Super 8 are trying to make a movie of their own (recorded on Super 8 film), which is a zombie-detective story. The main protagonist of the group is Joe Lamb, who’s just recently lost his mother and does make-up and sound for the movie. His best friend, Charles, is the director. Alice Dainard plays the leading female role, and there are a few others to go around. When the kids are filming a scene at a train station, they witness the sabotage and wreck of a train carrying Air Force cargo. That’s when the catalyst of the film is released from the train.
What’s interesting is the role communication—or lack there-of—plays in the movie. As stated before, the train crash and the thing that escapes from it is really just a catalyst for the characters and their actual problems, which existed before its arrival. These problems are then exacerbated by the train wreck, the Air Force snooping around the town, and especially by the lack of communication.
For instance, ever since the death of his mother, Joe and his father (Deputy Jackson Lamb) don’t really talk to each other beyond shallow communication. Deputy Lamb—thinking he has to be a role model and a “strong man”—never expresses any of the pain he’s feeling to Joe. While Joe is able to pick up on some of his father’s suffering, he’s left to feel ashamed of his own pain and (mirroring his father’s example) doesn’t want to talk about what he’s feeling, either.
The person Joe can talk to, however, is Alice Dainard; daughter of the town vagabond Louis Dainard (who Deputy Lamb has a grudge against). At first, Alice wants nothing to do with Joe, seemingly because she thinks he’s going to be just as uptight as his father. But, she gives him a chance. They start communicating in simple ways (Joe offers her a Twizzler, for example), before they start talking. They form a strong relationship over the days the movie spans, and even grow to “like” each other. Because of their openness and their ability to talk to one another, they’re able to take solace with each other.
There are many examples of this to be found in the movie. Any relief the characters are able to find in the chaos that is gradually released in the town is through communication—either with or without dialog. It’s when communication isn’t to be had that problems take longer to fix, mysteries longer to solve, and people really start suffering.
I can’t make any real argument supporting that communication is the main theme without spoiling the movie. If you’re not convinced, then I suggest you watch Super 8 and—after seeing what was on that train and what it can do with touch—I think you’ll be convinced.