Why Joel Courtney is a Boss (Movie Review: Super 8)

“Bad things happen, but you can still live.”


Super 8 PosterOoh, the film for which I named this blog. The pièce de résistance of my movie reviewing. If you’re a faithful reader, you probably saw this coming.

I’ll jump right into it: For those who don’t know, Super 8 is a sci-fi action thriller directed/written by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, released in June 2011. The premise: six kids are filming a super-8 movie when they witness a train crash, with something dangerous aboard (spoiler alert: IT’S AN ALIEN). The military is rolling into town, dogs are running away, people are disappearing, and no one knows why.

I saw trailers for this back in June 2011. I didn’t go to see it. To be honest, the movie looked just mediocre, and I’m not one for alien invasion flicks, anyway. But it was still interesting enough for me to put a library hold on the DVD, and when it came in a year ago to the day (I’m writing this on December 28th) I sat down and popped it in. I wasn’t expecting a reaction like “holy goodness that was the best movie ever”, but I hoped it would be decent.

Holy goodness that was the best movie ever.

Okay, well, I’m not going to say it was the best movie EVER. But it was (and still is) my favorite.

Here’s why.

First of all, the train crash scene is sick. Yes, it’s a little excessive. Yes, the prequel to this movie should be called “And They Said I Was Crazy to Build a Railroad out of Dynamite.” But this is Hollywood, and you could do much worse than everything blowing up like crazy for a minute or two.

I firmly believe that in any form of storytelling—books or movies—action doesn’t mean much unless we care about the characters. Luckily, this movie is perfectly cast. Every character does great acting like a genuine teenager, but the one who really stands out is the lead, Joe Lamb. As a boy who just lost his mom in a factory accident, he’s the mellowest—yet coolest—of the bunch. He’s the definition of the dork role that most of us fall into, all while falling for the girl of their group, Alice Dainard, whose dad is hated by Joe’s for an unknown reason.

And make way for my second-favorite scene of the entire movie: the part where Joe and Alice are watching a projection of Joe’s home movies, and Alice tells him that the morning of his mom’s accident, her dad missed his shift due to drinking, and Joe’s mom covered for him.

From there it’s action. The military sets fire to the town as an excuse for everyone to evacuate; meanwhile, the monster kidnaps Alice. When the kids learn this, they go back into the empty town, break into their middle school to find info their biology teacher had on the creature, and run through their neighborhood as it’s blown up street by street.

And it’s incredible.

To finish it all up, Joe rescues Alice, the monster gets back to its ship, and as it flies away, we have my single favorite part of the movie: the part where Joe’s necklace—a locket his dad gave his mom the day he was born—flies out of his pocket, and he holds it in his hand. Then he looks at it and, while the ineffably beautiful music plays, lets it go.

Don’t ask me why that scene is so incredible; I’m not a good enough writer to explain it. Just go watch for yourself.


I should address the title of this review, though: why Joel Courtney, the actor who portrayed Joe Lamb, is so awesome.

Because he’s genuine. Not only his acting, but his personality, which shines through even past his on-screen character. The dude is just cool, and because Joe Lamb is so much like that, it’s fun to watch him and the others running away from aliens and exploding houses.

That’s why Joel Courtney inspired the main character of my book. Because mellow, honest, genuine personalities are—as I now believe—the most likable, and those characters pull the most emotional strings.

I could be totally wrong. But that’s why I love Super 8, think its main actor is awesome, and used that as inspiration for my book.

We’ll see where that gets me.


In conclusion: this movie delivers quite a bit more than expected, as does its cast. It’s not the most mind-blowing film you’ll ever see, but it’s handled with such quality and acted so genuinely that it’s hard to walk away unsatisfied.

Rate: 10 out of 10.