I wouldn't say this movie was incredible or anything. I mean, it was Spielberg and Abrams, so… it was pretty predictable, and the third act kind of fell flat for me. It tied things up a little too nicely. Like, oh, okay, I… guess I'm happy that the alien's going home? And… oh. That's the end. Um. Okay.
Despite this, I found the relationship between Joe and Alice to be handled very surprisingly well. Unusual for a movie trying to juggle two very different themes: coming of age and OH GOD MAN-EATING ALIEN AHHH. So I came home and wrote this. And now that I've gotten it out, I can finally go to sleep.
For accompanying music, I highly recommend you find The Gymnopédies, preferably the recording used on the soundtrack to "The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya." Youtube it. It should be under " The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya OST - Gymnopedies Dai 1-3 ban (Combo) ." You won't regret it. It enhances the experience.
(FYI, Preston was my favorite.)
I own none of these characters, nor the premise of the film Super 8. I'm sure the aforementioned characters are very relieved about this.
Nobody forgot what happened that summer.
Of course, they all pretended to be concerned with other things. Charles with his movie, Cary with the latest brand of firecracker, Martin with the most effective dose of Pepto Bismol.
It all felt like something of a hazy dream to Joe from the moment the glowing ship disappeared into the July sky, like something that had crept through his sleep and left him endeavoring fervently to recall its details. Oddly enough, even as he pedaled his bicycle past ruined houses and leftover bits of rubble and the occasional nauseating bloodstain, the only thing he could really remember was feeling the chain of his mother's necklace pulling against the midsections of his fingers, and, as though he was falling silently backward into an abyss, letting it go.
He would sit in bed at night and run his thumb absently over his left fingers, wondering if the imprints left by the chain would reappear, to leave him at least some trace of her face after he had let the last one he had leave him. Somehow, the events that had occurred then had transcended the limits of feasibility, of solidity. They were no more real to him than the flickering remnants of his mother that splashed across his bedroom walls in the night, accompanied by the careless whirring of his projector.
While everyone else rewound their moments of fleeing the creature, of watching its ship ascend, of seeing their houses destroyed, of finding their lost dogs again, he would awaken in the night with one hand outstretched, reaching for nothing, and he would wish with every fibre of his being that he could replay that moment, could tell himself to never release the locket, could hold onto it until it pulled so hard that it ripped his hand apart.
He wouldn't say that it had been a bad decision to let it go. Not at all. He just wished he hadn't.
People had tried to pretend that not much had changed following the train wreck and the subsequent chaos. They returned to Lillian quickly after the evacuation and many of them readjusted splendidly. Cary's family had wanted to move away at first, to somewhere where they didn't have to be reminded of a rampant alien devouring townsfolk, but Joe's father had managed to convince them otherwise.
That was one of Joe's constant reminders that nothing was the same, that nothing ever would be. It wasn't a bad thing, really. It was just taking a bit of effort on his part to get used to the idea that his father would ask him how his days were, how his friends were doing, whether he wanted to watch a movie. For a while, his father had even tried cooking dinners, but that didn't work out, so they usually just ordered take-out or pizza or went to the diner. His dad was coming around, being less of a turkey, as Charles said. He was being mint.
Yet somehow, it felt forced. It felt like his father was trying too hard. After months of a silent agreement between them to not discuss anything beyond something that could potentially cause an argument, Joe could easily say that his father knew as much about being close as he did.
Sometimes he'd lie awake in his bed, eyes wandering through the crevices on the ceiling, and he'd still hear muffled sobs coming from the bathroom. And he would remember that he still hadn't gotten around to crying for his mother. He would remember the murmured convictions among his friends that there was nothing in the coffin, and he would remember that he hadn't punched them. Then he'd hear a light switch click, and the strip of illumination under his door would dim, and his father would crack open Joe's door and watching him for a few moments while Joe pretended to be asleep. He would then close it, return to the bathroom, and cry again.
Joe liked to think that his father was making an effort. He liked to think that he loved him. He would occasionally glance at the corner of a dirty pamphlet for baseball camp under some of his modeling paints and wonder what would have happened if he had gone.
The stars would look like a field he could sprint in, like he could hit a home run and it would rocket up amongst them and stay there and glitter like light from a candle.
Martin used to call her "All Ice." It had taken a while before they realized that Alice wasn't the ice queen they had made her out to be. When images of a vanishing locket weren't blotting themselves through Joe's head, he would close his eyes and remember a warm splash of lipstick on the side of his neck, would think of himself mapping out her face with his fingers rather than a secondhand maquillage sponge that he'd found in one of his mother's perfumed toiletry boxes.
Charles had let him have a copy of the first run-through of the train scene, when her voice had been quiet and tearful and her blue eyes had held drowning galaxies in them. He had always preferred that version. He'd always thought that he would never see a single tear run down the cheek of Alice Dainard, and it wasn't until she was sitting with him in the dimness of his bedroom, until he saw her reddening eyes and dampening cheeks as she told him about her father's involvement in his mother's death, that he realized he'd been wrong. He'd always been wrong about Alice.
He was always pleasantly surprised when she tagged along with him, Charles, Cary, Martin, and Preston as the summer dragged on, even though she was practically one of the boys by that time. He was past the point of feeling guilty whenever he noticed how Charles looked at her, mostly because he had decided that he would give her up for Charles if he had to. He would want to stand on a mountain and tell the world what love was, though, when she would throw her head back and laugh, sometimes with a french fry still dangling between her teeth. But it was no big deal, really. Charles had always been a bit more articulate about that kind of stuff anyway.
What happened between him and Alice was unscripted.
It was like the sidekick finding himself with the beautiful princess, or the extra bursting onto the scene and kissing the heroine.
It didn't happen. It wasn't supposed to happen.
She was an epilogue, a figure against the sunset waving good-bye.
His dreams would go from her to the alien, the alien to her. His fingers would twitch and he'd wish they were still entwined with hers, that he and she could go back and decide that pretending was wrong.
But she was an actress. He couldn't have asked her for anything more.
And somehow, keeping secrets made him feel less alone. There was something to hide with him.
"Do you ever wonder where it went?"
She would always sneak over besides his warnings that there might be witnesses, and tonight was no different. They were lying head-to-head opposite each other on his still-warm roof, watching the stars flash and flicker and fall. Her hair was fanned out around her head like a sunrise or a pair of wings.
He sighed, hands resting on his stomach, feet pointing in two opposing diagonal directions.
"Yeah," he answered truthfully.
She shifted, air sifting through her nose like a breeze.
"I hope it got home okay," she murmured. "I hope it didn't get lost."
"I'm pretty sure it knew where it was going," he replied dryly, smiling a little.
She let out a quick sigh through her nose that sounded like laughter, and he felt immensely satisfied. He inhaled and he could, for a moment, smell her – she carried the scent of hay and motor oil and blueberries. Summer.
"It feels like it's been such a long time," she said. "But it's only been a month."
"We'll be going back to school in a couple of weeks."
She exhaled. A zephyr skirted over them and off over the rooftops and telephone poles. A dog barked in the distance, briefly quieting the buzz of the cicadas.
"I'm glad I met you, you know." She whispered it so quietly that, for a moment, he didn't even think he'd heard anything. But then he felt her head turn against his and she said, "I really am."
"I'm…" He swallowed. "I'm glad I met you, too."
She rolled over onto her stomach then, holding herself up by her forearms. He didn't mirror her, but tilted his head slightly to show he was listening. His eyes were still fixed on the stars.
"I never really said thanks."
"Oh," he said, trying to sound breezy and instead sounding like he had the hiccups. "That? That was nothing, really."
He swore he could sense a smile on her face at that, but he didn't look to see if he was right.
"Now I know why Charles didn't originally cast you in the movie," she jibed. It's no longer "Charles's" movie. It's "the" movie. A collective venture. A shared catharsis. "No offense."
Joe laughed, and he couldn't have been further from offended.
"Yeah, well, I was always a lot better at stuff behind the scenes."
"You're good at it," she said, and it made him feel more proud than anything ever had to know that she thought he was "good" at something.
Her eyes wandered back up to the sky, and Joe heard a slight swish as her hair cascaded down over the back of her shirt. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see goosebumps forming on her arms.
"Are you cold?" he asked immediately, sounding almost incredulous. It was nearly eighty degrees out even at night.
"Huh?" She looked down at her arms as though noticing them for the first time. "Oh, no. I just get chills sometimes, thinking about stuff. Doesn't that ever happen to you?"
The brief recollection of the lipstick on his neck sent a shiver up and down his ribcage. "Sometimes."
The two of them lapsed into silence for a while, and eventually he found himself sitting up and facing her, studying her. The stars were reflected so vividly in her eyes that he could count every colour in between them. A streetlamp flickered on and off and its yellow light played off of her left cheek, igniting and dousing her, turning her into a fickle firefly. The corners of her glossy pink lips were upturned as her gaze wandered through the constellations above them. He could see a freckle on her collarbone that he hadn't noticed before, and could count the freckles that were scattered over her shoulders. She blinked, and he could almost see the world ending and beginning again in her irises.
"Alice?" It took a moment to realize that he had said her name. She blinked and withdrew from her space expeditions, her eyes sliding onto him. Oddly, he felt no fright, no dread.
"What?" She was watching him expectantly, her head infinitesimally bowed, her eyelashes curling out toward him. He felt a rush of cool air in his lungs and he didn't know where it had come from.
"Can I kiss you?"
Her eyebrows went up, and Joe saw another wave of goosebumps go over her arms, prickling up over her elbows. Another slight breeze went by, dragging a few strands of her hair with it. They looked iridescent, like strings leading to the moon.
"I've, um, kind of wanted to for a while, but I mean, if," his voice tapered off. "It just… seemed like a good time."
"Like in a movie," she whispered.
"Yeah," he said, his tones equally hushed. "Just like…"
She had leaned toward him before he could finish, and her lips touched his so lightly at first that he thought a moth landed there, or a stray flower petal from a cherry tree. He wondered if he was part hummingbird as he felt his heart drumming to the beat of a hundred war marches in his suddenly weak-feeling chest.
"I," he started to say, but she silenced him again, gently and smoothly. He raised a hand to her cheek, feeling his fingers barely brush against it. He couldn't believe how soft she was. How did girls always stay so soft?
He flushed as he remembered that he'd forgotten to put on chapstick this morning, and that his lips are dry and chapped. She scooted a little closer to him, putting her hand on the one of his that isn't up on her cheek. He brought his lips down against hers, trying not to be so rigid and unmoving and blushing, and he vaguely understood that she was something like a mermaid or a gemstone, a bloom from a faraway land.
He noticed that she had pulled back by a couple of centimeters, and that he had closed his eyes. He opened them dazedly, and saw hers right in front of him, half-lidded and blue, bluer than any ocean or sky or sapphire or bottle of paint.
"Joe," she said. His eyes closed again and he sighed in contentment. His name had always sounded so boring, but when she said it, it was perfect.
He opened them and went to kiss her again, and she obliged him. He wasn't shaking anymore, and her goosebumps were gone. He wanted to tell her everything that he was supposed to, everything that he always heard them say in the movies – that she was beautiful, that she was a dream come true, that she made him feel like he could do anything, anything for her, anything to keep her by his side. It was all so hokey, so scripted.
But they weren't, he thought, and suddenly nothing else mattered. They never had been.
She closed her eyes and he closed his and all that seemed important was a distant, lullaby-like imprint of the first time he had heard her voice.