Jun 08

Review: Super 8

Every now and again a film comes along and you know that you have just witnessed something special, “Super 8” is just such a film. In an era of sequels, superheroes and remakes, director J.J. Abrams has delivered something that is familiar, yet completely fresh.

In the summer of 1979, a group of kids witness, while shooting a scene for their Super 8 zombie movie, a terrible train accident. Bizarre things start happening in their small town and it soon dawns on them that something escaped from that train and the military want it back.

To say anything more about the plot would be an insult to Abrams, who has kept an amazing level of secrecy about this film and its plot. Abrams has said that he loves it when, like from his childhood, an audience discovers a film and I have to agree with him. There is a really neat feeling to seeing a movie that you know very little about. We tend to know a little too much about movies before going to see them these days, so an Abrams event is fun and unique.

What I will talk about is the experience and the quality of this film. Abrams, a confessed fan of the early Spielberg/Amblin productions of the late 70s and early 80s, has put together an amazing homage to that time. The film has big deep vistas of suburbia (“Poltergeist” & “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial”) matched with tight close up hero shots (“Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Jaws”) and our lead kid comes from a broken home, a Spielberg trademark of the time. There are even camera shots that look like they have come straight out of Spielberg’s playbook. None of this should surprise anyone, aside from the fact that Abrams is paying homage, the film is also produced by Spielberg himself. This idea at first concerned me, could Spielberg himself produce an homage film to himself? The answer is a resounding yes because this is not Spielberg’s film, this is J.J. Abrams’ film and it is like a love letter from a fan of that time to the master filmmaker of that time.

The casting in this film is great with Kyle Chandler as the grief struck father trying to balance this work as a deputy sheriff and his home life as a single dad, headlining the adult cast which also includes Ron Eldard and Noah Emmerich. But it is with the kids that Abrams excelled, he has assembled one of the finest group of child actors I have ever seen on screen since “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial”. Theses kids are not ‘Hollywood’ kids, they are real kids with real emotions. They are pitch perfect and I immediately recognised myself and my group of childhood friends in each character. Riley Griffiths as Charles the filmmaker, Zach Mills as the hypochondriac, Ryan Lee as the Pyromaniac and Gabriel Basso as the serious actor guy. As good as that group is, special notice has to be given to the remaining two kids, Joel Courtney as Joe Lamb and Elle Fanning as Alice Dainard. The film hinges on the relationship between these two kids and their growing friendship and tender feelings towards each other. The third act of this film relies on you, the audience, believing their relationship, and you do without reservation. This is no small task for kids that are only 12 or 13 years old. These two kids are stars in the making and ones to watch out for in the future.

I am a year younger than Mr. Abrams and it is obvious that we grew up loving the same films. The love and attention to the story and performances is match by the care taken with capturing a unique period of cinema. With this much heart and soul “Super 8” is, in my opinion, an un-missable event and will leave you wanting to see it again.

I have nothing bad to say about this film, so let me finish by borrowing a phrase from the film’s filmmaker character, Charles, this film is mint.

– David McVay

Click here to listen to a twenty minute round table discussion with J.J. Abrams and a group of bloggers (including myself). It is a great discussion and you can hear Abrams talk about the “Super 8” performances and period detail, amongst other things. It is a really good listen.

  • Lisanne624

    I saw a sneak preview last night, and my overall reacation was “meh.” It took way too long to get started, and when it did, the cliches flew fast and furious — Bad, bad military and their secret projects! Mean, mean parents who just don’t understand us kids! A huge disaster which destroys all in its path — except for the main characters and their mode of transportation (just like the plane crash in “War of the Worlds”). And there were so many illogical, inexplicable and downright dumb events in the last 10 minutes (which I won’t go in to for spoiler purposes). And were there really that many women working on the floor at steel mills in the 1970s? Somehow I find that hard to believe . . .

    The film was OK, but not something I’d especially recommend. But glad you guys enjoyed it and I enjoyed the special ep with the director!