When the alien is loosed upon the town and is using its powers to turn the military’s weapons against themselves the small mid-western town becomes a warzone. Whether or not it was intended, I couldn’t help but think of children in the real world that suffer in warzones.
The ending of Super 8 left some people unsatisfied. In this age of fear when, to quote Paul Theroux: “Popular culture — books, films, music – has never seemed more philistine and trivial and escapist” as in the Speilberg executive produced Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) which is a blatantly militaristic, borderline racist and sexist assault on the brain that exemplifies victory in terms of complete destruction. The resolution of Super 8 may not have satisfied the bloodlust of those conditioned to expect the good guy to annihilate evil (the unspoken values of Hollywood) but I for one was truly impressed with what I realized was the most subversive summer popcorn flick since WALL*E. In the end our hero, Joe Lamb, cornered by a terrifying alien creature, bravely confronts this incredibly dangerous entity head-on. And instead of the usual myth of redemptive violence we witness a resolution through an amazingly courageous act of radical empathy. JJ Abrams has made the decision here to subvert the typical “might is right” conclusions that we see in entertainment and in the real world for a “love your enemies” solution. Acknowledging the suffering of the alien and illuminating the option of an end to violence and a return home, Joe shares his pain and his hope in spite of that pain with the alien creature: “Bad things happen, but you can still live.”
a version of this essay was originally posted at BlacRen