Super 8 Has Nothing To Do With Aliens or Soviets

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen the film, stop reading now!

Are you still reading? Then either you’ve seen the film or you’re the kind of person who reads the last page of a mystery novel to see “who done it”.

A number of critics have suggested that “Super 8” falls short because the alien is really a metaphor far a larger threat, most often the Soviet Union. And in today’s climate, that metaphor doesn’t resonate with audiences. Well they couldn’t be more wrong.

The only part they got right is that the alien is in fact a metaphor.

It’s not a metaphor for the Soviet threat. Yes, a woman at the town meeting emphatically states her belief that the alien is of Soviet origin. This is simply contextual accuracy. The film is set in 1979, the height of the Cold War. During the Cold War, the Soviets were blamed for just about everything. If the film didn’t have at least one character thinking the Soviets were to blame, there would be something wrong.

Yes, the military is pursuing the threat. What does the military represent? For most Americans, it represents security and domestic tranquility. When we are children, it’s our parents who provide a blanket of security. Domestic is another word for home. Jackson Lamb is a deputy, also a protector. Perhaps the military is simply a manifestation of Jackson’s superego, trying to protect his son Joe.

But protect him from what?

Before the alien arrives, there was a tragic accident that resulted in the death of Joe’s mother, Elizabeth, for which Jackson blames Louis Dainard. This accident tore apart the small town, pitting the Dainard and Lamb families against each other. The alien arrives in a train wreck, another terrible accident. Train wreck is a metaphor that is often used to describe someone who is a drunk, like Louis.

So perhaps the alien represents the death of Joe’s mother, the result of a tragic accident.

Or maybe the alien is Joe’s mother.

It lives underground, precisely where we inter the dead. It is desperately trying to get home. A home that is located in the heavens. But something is keeping it here on Earth.

As the alien’s ship is nearing completion, notice that Jackson and Louis have set aside their differences to save their children. In fact, they have forgiven each other. Before Elizabeth is ready to go home, she needs to ease the guilt that both Jackson and Louis have over her death, mend their broken friendship, and ensure her son’s happiness by removing the obstacles to his relationship with Louis’ daughter, Alice.

But the ship needs one more thing before it can lift the alien to the heavens, something beyond Elizabeth’s control. The last piece is the locket that Elizabeth left for Joe. The locket is a symbol of Joe’s reluctance to move on. He isn’t ready to say goodbye. Whenever he’s scared, Joe holds the locket. It represents his mother, his security, his love.

It is often said that until a loved one lets go, a soul cannot be free to go home. It is a stirring moment, when the alien ship is pulling on the locket, and it isn’t ripped from Joe’s grasp, rather he lets it go so the alien can return home.

If the alien is in fact a metaphor for Joe’s deceased mother, I can think of nothing that has more universal appeal. Nothing resonates with humans, regardless of their culture or beliefs, like the loss of a loved one. The alien in “Super 8” might just be one of the most resonate metaphors ever filmed.

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One comment on “Super 8 Has Nothing To Do With Aliens or Soviets

  1. thgangelo on said:

    Thank you very much for this analysis.
    The movie has a very special meaning for me and this summarized pretty much all that I have been thinking about it and gave me new insights about it as well.
    Again thank you very much.

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