"Super 8" or Super 168

J.J. Abrams, left, writer/director of "Super 8," arrives with his wife Katie McGrath at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles, Wednesday, June 8, 2011. Chris Pizzello / AP Photo

With no (on screen) stars, J.J. Abrams’ and Steven Spielberg’s "Super 8" made over $35 Million on opening weekend.

The film's central quest is the goal of the school-aged kids to finish their Super 8 zombie film.

The success of "Super 8" gives pause to think about the dramatic impact it could have upon youth. Currently, there are kids out there all around the world running around every week making short films like the kids in "Super 8." After this movie, there will be more.

Like it or not, life imitates art and imitates celebrity, especially at the kid level. Don't believe it? Just go Bieber-spotting at your local high school. Go see how many kids are sporting the Justin Bieber wanna-be doo. Or the look of the latest TV show cast. If kids are sponges, then the media is a giant cranberry juice spill on aisle 9. And grown-ups are the pimply-faced shop clerks running to clean up.

So, what?

So 168. The annual 168 Film Project is a grassroots way to help these artist kids who will soon shape culture with such a big megaphone.

That is the reason 168 is such a passion for it’s participants, festival-goers, sponsors and others.

Please consider supporting 168 by clicking here and making a generous donation.


The "Super 8" production budget is listed at $50 million. The marketing budget could be twice that. On an indie-level marketing budget, figure $10,000 per theater to put a film out, times 3,379 theaters and you get a minimum of $33,790,000 to market the film, which obviously has great behind the line obligations with names like Abrams and Spielberg attached to the gravy train.

It is a very enjoyable film, though it is by no means a great film. It has action, danger, intrigue and many of the ingredients necessary for a fun, exciting film. What it lacks in logic and character development, it makes up in cute kids whom you want to see succeed.

Talk about a tough day of production. The lead actress (Elle Fanning) shows up with an attitude, the film loader is happier blowing off explosives on the set and there is a huge train derailment in the background that nearly wipes out the entire cast and crew. But wait, that's "production value."

In true indie film style, cast doubles as crew when not on camera. How very 168.

It's like STAND BY ME meets CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, E.T. and a few other films. Its mixed genre message is diluted by flawed logic and all-too-convenient devices within the story. But, the cast performances are great and do much to help the audience gloss over story weaknesses.

Indie filmmakers take heart. Though you may not be able to equal this film's budget or production values, you can make a far better story.

You might be surprised to hear some of the language in the film. The name of Jesus Christ is prominently featured by both kids and adults. Profanely, unfortunately.

Oh, for the sweetness of Spielberg's "E.T." But wait, didn't 7-year-old Elliot scream "penis breath" at his older brother at the dinner table. Yeah, he did. Romantic kid movies push envelopes too. It's just a fact.

Is it in the quest for "realism" that "Super 8" director/screenwriter (both Abrams) felt the need for the kids to swear in the name of Jesus? Don't the filmmakers know this is offensive to 70 million Christians? Is it?

Is Hollywood really just about making money? Because if it is, then presumably, there would be less offense to the largest faith group in the country.

Maybe they just know that no one probably will say anything and they'll go see the film anyway. Maybe it's just that the public has allowed them to get away with it. Try substituting the name Jesus with the name Muhammad and see how far the film gets.

1 comment:

GRDunlop said...

Thanks John. Having been a public school teacher, I very much appreciate your perspective.
As it stands one might come to believe that doing what's unchristian is far more effective in getting the viewers engaged than doing what's christian. On the contrary we, who are school teachers, preachers and film makers, have been called to demonstrate otherwise. We might at times have to look deep and long to uncover ways that engage our viewers with wholesome values, but we've learned that good values ARE engaging and worth the quest.

Blessings to you and 168,
Glenn Dunlop
Hollywood Presbyterian