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 Super 8 

ThemeThe power of love vs. the love of power

Insights:

J.J. Abram's new movie Super 8 is similar in many ways to Steven Spielberg's smash hit ET. A young boy who has lost a parent goes on an incredible adventure which includes battling government powers and setting free an alien from another planet. It is a wonderful movie, powerful, moving, tender and funny, capturing the heart of the audience. The overall theme of the film is the power of love vs. the love of power, and how "everyone has a choice, we all do" between them.1

The Accident

A prologue introduces the story and sets the stage telling the audience all they need to know. An accident has happened at the steel mill in Lillian Ohio. Elizabeth Lamb wife of Jack, mother to Joe, has been crushed to death. Her mourners convey to the audience the dynamics of the family relationships. The mother was "everything" to Joe and the father never had to be one. Young Joe is left alone with only his mother's locket. Death has come to this town and to the Lambs with all its separation and loss.

Summer Vacation

The adventure begins with Joe having to make an important choice. He has been invited to help his friend Charles make a super 8 zombie movie for a film festival. His father wants him to go away to a six week baseball camp, telling him it is what they both need. Joe is a creator (model maker) and he chooses his friends and creativity over being sent away. This choice opens the door to another world.

Crossing the Threshold

The door to the new world opens with a loud bang. Charles and company, which now includes "the beauty" Alice, head out at midnight to the Lillian train station to film scenes for the movie. Scrambling to get shots of an incoming train they become eye witnesses to a spectacular train crash. Only Joe sees that this is no accident but rather an intentionally set train derailment. The theme of sacrificial love confronting raw power intensifies here with the introduction of Dr. Woodward laying his life down to set a captive free.

Chaos

The crash propels the story forward with the effects of its aftermath. Lillian is invaded not only by an alien but more importantly by the Air Force, which becomes the symbol of malevolent power. Joe's father Jack until now a symbol of power in Lillian finds himself being threatened by an even greater force. As all hell breaks loose in the town the only time Jack has for Joe is a time to threaten him. He wants him to stay away from Alice Dainard because he blames her father for his wife's death. Joe takes the heroic step of confronting his father with truth; "we're not clear about anything".

The Locket

The locket is all Joe has left of his mother Elizabeth. It is a symbol of her love and connection to him, and becomes his source of strength. The closed locket appears when Joe needs strength or when strength is removed from him (the Air Force man confiscates it). The film he watches with Alice of his early childhood reveals the locket's deep meaning. It has tied him to his mother since birth like a visible umbilical cord. She was the one person who truly knew him. "She used to look at me, like really look---I knew I was there, existed". The power of this kind of love brings Alice to a tearful confession. Her father Louis drank the morning of that fateful day and missed his shift at the mill. Elizabeth (Consecrated to God) Lamb took his place and died.2

The Return

Having discovered from Louis that Alice has been taken captive by the alien, Joe makes the choice to return to Lillian and rescue her. The road back is fraught with all kinds of perils as any hero's journey is. Finally it is left to Joe and Cary to make the descent into the alien's subterranean cave under the town's water tower. It has all the symbolism of a modern day fairy tale; the hero and the sidekick go down into darkness under the water to face the monster to rescue the princess, and in order to save her they must be willing to sacrifice their lives.

Facing Death

Having brought Alice back from the sleep of death not with a kiss but with a slap to the face and a great line "I'm trying to save you", Joe Alice and Cary get cornered in a tunnel by the angry alien.

The movie reaches its dramatic climax as Joe steps forward and confronts death square in the face. Death who stole everything from him could not take one thing...his mother's love. For sacrificial love has a power that transcends all other power even death's, and that power now comes forth and declares to the alien "we understand". Joe knows what has happened to the alien, why he became a monster and not a model maker. Power has abused him and made him into its image; but there is still a choice to be made. Joe tells him "I know bad things happen, bad things happen...but you can still live, you can still live." In response the eyes of the alien are opened and he chooses life.

 

Resurrection

Joe, Alice and Cary come up out of the grave (the cemetery of course!) and emerge into a new life. The alien is back to model making having been set free by a young model maker. He is constructing his ship to take him home. As the two reconciled father's arrive and are restored to their children they all watch with fascination the miracle of new creation. The ship needs only one thing to blast off... a key. The locket on its chain comes out of Joe's pocket and after a moment's hesitation he releases the now fully opened locket to ignite the ship. Love has been the key all along.

The moral of the story is: The sacrificial love of a consecrated Lamb of God can restore a life, a family, a town, a universe.

 

 

 

Notes:

 
1. This is one of Alice's lines in Charles movie.

  2. The name Elizabeth means "Consecrated to God".

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