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Some Ramblings - Super 8
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla
super 8

Stepping out of the throes of innocence and standing at the door step of adolescence, shedding the tag of 'child' once and for all and assuming the role of 'young adult', kids go through an amazing transformation where the stark reality of life suddenly comes into sharp relief of heightened awareness to shock and awe them, at once. There is more understanding and adjustment at this stage, not to mention, a certain resignation that their worlds can never go back to being unburdened by responsibility of knowledge, than at any other during their entire lifetimes. It is at this point that suffering brings along with it a valid reason, and emboldened by the patronage of bitter truths, sorrow leaves a lasting impact on their impressionable minds. The age introduces to them the concepts of consequences and fall outs. But not everything is doom and gloom in the land of growing, with plenty of cheer and mirth to be passed around. The opposite sex, who till then had either been one among them to hardly notice any difference or an entirely different species to be shunned altogether embracing hard the 'us vs them' philosophy, starts appearing under a strange light with a softer hue, making them aware a whole new side of themselves that they never knew existed before. This single discovery opens the door on a whole lot of other emotions - loss and longing, pain and pining - in effect, making them 'human' for the first time. If someone wants to put a finger on that point of time in one's life where it all started, how a person turned out the way he did - for better or worse - this period is it.

In contemporary culture, two artists, albeit in different mediums, explored this period with quite some enthusiasm, reaping results that ranged from spectacular to grim. The first one, in print, is Stephen King and the second, in celluloid, is Steven Spielberg. Both of them had time and again returned to that rich area of small town kids from normal backgrounds confronting circumstances that were way beyond their comprehension levels, and yet emerging at the end, a whole lot changed and grown up. The paths that these two artists took, dealing with a similar theme, were quite different. Spielberg's impression of those times were of wide-eyed innocence and the extraordinary events happening around the kids were steeped in magic and wonder, and the way the kids approached the issues and resolved them can fondly be termed as adventure. King's approach was polar opposite. Here, the kids are suffering from angst stemming from some sort of loss and the ensuing pain, and what surrounds them is not magic, but pure malevolence. The kids are not seeking an adventure while trying to figure things out, so much as they are running scared for their lives having gotten themselves enmeshed deep in the bowels of the paranormal. Metaphorically, in both these approaches, the act of growing up is what constantly confronts, confounds and troubles these kids as represented by wonder, in Spielberg's case, and vexation, in King's case. Both of them, equally valid and equally powerful. Both of them render the deliverance in equally satisfying ways; Steven - uplifting, Stephen - cathartic. But one thing remains constant in both of their works that the kids that make it to the other end of the transition end up looking back on the ordeal with a certain sense of profoundness (and less fondness) that this moment turned out to be their defining moments of their lives. Unscathed, in Steven's case, or deeply scarred, in Stephen's.

'Super 8' is a deliberate attempt at blending the horror of Stephen King with the adventure of Spielberg. Though the theme is the same 'ordinary kids thrown into extraordinary circumstances', how the script decides spending more time where, in adventure or in introspection, determines in which realm the movie falls under - King's or Spielberg's. And 'Super 8' is certainly in King's territory, despite its adventure spirit and the sentimental tug. Here, the key kids deal with the loss of family and the emotional impact of it and the bond that forms between them is not the usual 'kid-camaraderie' kind, but one that has roots in pain and sympathy. The movie, like King's works, spends more time setting up the interplay between the kids, than in the usual 'run around, solving the mystery and finding the adventure' routine and so when the movie switches gears in the final act and launches itself to delivering the adventure-adrenaline, the result is not as thrilling as in Spielberg's stuff (which is also a constant complaint with King's works, that the setup never lives up to the execution). However, the first two acts more than make up for the final one, which leads one to question, whether two genres (King's and Spielberg's) can ever be fused successfully and satisfyingly within the same setup. Can that movie be deeply introspective and yet deliver a heart warming and thrilling ending? Though the idea holds a lot of promise, the results till now, including 'Super 8', are not satisfactory. But for a promising future of a movie with adult sensibilities and kid's adventurous spirit, 'Super 8' is a confident step in the right direction.

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This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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