For his directorial follow-up to the smash hit reboot of the Star Trek film franchise, J.J. Abrams has decided to pay homage to the adventure movies of the 80’s; The Goonies, Stand By Me and in particular, since this is his first collaboration with Steven Spielberg, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. The result? Super 8.
Super 8 introduces us to a group of kids who get together to make a zombie movie. There’s Charles (Riley Griffiths) the director, his buddy Joe (Joel Courtney ) who takes care of makeup and special effects, and 3 other kids. Joe is the son of the town’s deputy Sheriff (Kyle Chandler); his mother had died in an industrial accident 4 years before. Into the fray comes Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning, Dakota’s younger sister), whom Charles invited to play a part in his movie. Whilst filming a scene for the movie, the kids witness a horrifying train accident which unleashes an unknown terror on to their town, and which calls for a military presence, escalating things from bad to worse. It will thus be up to the kids to uncover the truth behind all the cover-up to make sense of what is really going on.
I found the story to be smart, emotional and beautifully structured. While it is packaged as a creature feature/adventure/sci-fi flick, Super 8 is actually more of a family drama, concentrating on the relationship between Joe and Alice and their respective fathers rather than centering on the mysterious creature. This results in the alien plot being rendered a bit thin, with some lazy sci-fi explanation late in the film and disappointingly two-dimensional bad guys in the form of the military .
The one thing I was thankful for was Abram’s decision to cut down the periodic lens flare (which was used in abundance in Star Trek to the point of blinding). His directing approach in Super 8 was more subtle, in his effort to evoke the simpler look of the films of the era.
In the end Super 8 is a decent heartwarming summer movie. There is plenty of action (and for you Michael Bay fans, there are plenty of explosions too!), but not at the expense of the story (hear that Michael Bay?). So if you’re feeling a bit nostalgic for a good old 80s style movie involving a group of kids on a fun, mysterious and scary adventure, then Super 8 is the movie for you.