A few nights ago, I went to see Super 8 at the movie theatre. As I watched the special effects, which made me gasp, I thought about how rarely I see movies on the big screen anymore and how wonderful it can be. Of course, there was only one other person in the movie theatre besides me and the two friends with me, so we avoided many of the things that annoy me about seeing going to the theatre--like people who can't put their phones away, so we get little glowing screens across the theatre.
What a wonderful movie. On some level, I agree with Ann Hornaday, who in this review says, "Set in 1979, this is a pop-culture nostalgia trip that feels as if it’s been beamed from a sweeter, more innocent time, when youngsters could tear around on bikes all night without texting home and when the height of technological innovation was a clunky, cassette-playing Sony Walkman." I wanted to see the movie because I always find it intriguing to see how movies set in the past that I can remember handle that part of the setting. This movie rewards that kind of viewing. At one point, the kids bring their film to the shop and ask if it can be developed overnight. The stoned clerk gives them a dismissive look and says, "Kid, nobody can develop film overnight." Oh, how things have changed!
I didn't expect the movie to be so much about the artistic process, about creativity, about how children grow up to become artists. By now, you probably know that the kids in the film are shooting a movie. I didn't expect them to be approaching it so professionally. They have costumes and make-up and a variety of special effects. They rewrite the script to take advantage of some of the background shots that they can use. Time and time again, I thought, wow, these kids are real artists, devoted to their craft, going to all lengths to make the piece of art they want to make.
But why should that surprise me? These kids are closer to the age of childhood than adulthood. It's adults, most of them, who have forgotten how to be creative, adults who have abandoned their artist selves. Children have a tendency to create, often rather exhaustively. My nephew who just turned five will create all sorts of things out of paper: pirate accessories and weapons and creatures and books and clothes. My nephew has transformed every old blank book my sister has into books of his own. I love his zest--the same way I love the children in Super 8.
But they're not just making movies. One of the kids creates explosions of all sorts, which might seem more like a destructive streak than a creative one, but he's more interested in the explosion than in destroying anything. The main character paints models (trains and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, for example). One of the plot points revolves around whether or not he'll let his best friend the filmmaker destroy one of his trains for the sake of the movie.
Ah, the eternal question: which art form gets to reign supreme? I've wrestled with this question my whole life, as a creative person who enjoys a wide variety of art forms but who only has so much time in the day.
I love the collaborative process that we see in this movie. I miss that aspect of my own childhood, where we worked on puppet shows. I miss that aspect of undergraduate school, where we had the same spirit of camaraderie as we worked on putting together the student newspaper, the literary journal, various plays.
I don't feel that same sense of camaraderie in my current work life, but maybe I'm just looking at it wrong. In twenty years, maybe I'll look back and say, "Oh how I miss that sense of camaraderie we had while we were working together to create the best school possible for our students."
Or maybe I just need to create some collaborative artistic projects as an adult. It may not be as easy as it was when I was younger and we went to school together and we didn't have the distractions/obligations that we have now. But it would be worthwhile.
An update: I can't leave this movie alone! For my thoughts on the theological aspects of this movie, go to this post on my theology blog.