Super 8 Movie Review

Paramount Pictures’ Super 8, directed by J.J. Abrams, is an homage to Steven Spielberg’s classic blockbusters, and one of the best films of 2011. 4.5/5

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Remember when Steven Spielberg ruled the blockbuster roost with movies like Jaws, E.T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Based on original ideas – no remakes, reboots and re-imaginings of comic books – Spielberg’s movies mixed thrills, chills, humour and pathos into classic popcorn films that made you laugh one moment and jump in your seat the next. I sure did, when I streamed it at 123movies.

J.J. Abrams remembers them too, and with Super 8, he’s summoned that magic for a new generation. With the Great Beard himself as producer, and a pack of relative unknowns in front of the camera, Abrams has crafted a movie that goes toe-to-toe with those classics.

J.J. Abrams Directs Paramount’s Super 8, Starring Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler

The year is 1979, and Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is trying to forget his mother’s recent death by helping pal Charles (Riley Griffiths) make a zombie movie. Charles has cast comely Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) in the flick, and there’s instant chemistry between them – never mind that Joe’s deputy sheriff dad (Kyle Chandler) blames Alice’s drunken father (Ron Eldard) for his wife’s death.

Filming at midnight on a deserted train platform, the gang captures a crucial scene just as a train goes by. But Joe sees a pickup truck drive onto the rails, slamming into the train. When it derails in a hail of explosions and flying metal, the kids vow never to discuss it . . . especially after the US Army shows up loaded for bear.

But when people and things start disappearing, the kids start to wonder: what was on that train? Why is the Army playing hush-hush with extreme prejudice? And did Charles’ Super 8 camera record an important clue?

With its depiction of childhood awkwardness, tense atmosphere and suspicion that Something Is Out There, Abrams has made countless nods to Spielberg’s Jaws, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, plus a side helping of Stand by Me. Luckily for us, it’s not mere imitation; Super 8 has its own thing going on. Everyone involved is having fun and it shows – look for a nod to HBO’s True Blood, since a four-footed member of that cast appears in this movie.

The performances by the relatively unknown cast (only Fanning and Chandler have any previous profile) are flawless and Abrams’ witty script captures the strange world of childhood friendship as the strange occurrences take over the town. Special nods go to Courtney for his portrayal of teenage awkwardness, Fanning for her nuanced performance as a girl struggling with her alcoholic dad, and Ryan Lee’s foul-mouthed pyromaniac.

Abrams is also smart enough to recall Spielberg’s biggest rule of monster films: don’t show the monster! For 90% of the flick, it’s a shadowy source of mayhem, dragging screaming victims off-screen and hurling objects into the middle of the frame. It’s an old – but rarely followed – maxim of horror flicks, and this film is all the better for it. Okay, Super 8 slips slightly in the climax, but that’s a minor quibble against what is otherwise a highly satisfying film.

J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 a Winner

Think you can’t make an effective monster flick with a PG-13 rating? J.J. Abrams farts in your general direction and taunts you for a second time! He’s not only captured the essence of what made Spielberg’s classic blockbusters so enduring (that is, before he started replacing guns with cell phones), but has crafted a film guaranteed to put a big ol’ silly smile on your face.

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Super 8 is the best film of 2011 so far, and it gets a 4.5/5.

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