20 July 2024

Film Review: Super 8 (2011)

Set in the summer of 1979, Super 8 follows a group of friends in small town, Ohio, who whilst filming an amateur horror short, witness a catastrophic train crash. Afterwards strange things start to occur, objects and people start to inexplicably go missing, whilst the military take an unnerving interest in searching for whatever was in that crash.

Super 8 is J.J. Abrams homage to the producer of the film, Steven Spielberg & his classic films of the 70s/80s from the likes of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind & E.T to his produced films like The Goonies. It combines elements of both Abrams sense of an intriguing mystery (and love of lens flare) and Spielberg’s classic story telling. The cinematography and film score also feel in keeping with the aforementioned films.

The main heart of the story is in the bond of these children which is well established, in a coming-of-age arc. Much in the same way that Goonies set up great friendships. Abrams replicates this with infighting, crude in-jokes, running to each others houses and talking on walkie-talkies. He also absolutely nails on the head the awkwardness of a first crush in the often comical reactions of lead actor Joel Courtney and Ellie Fanning.

The monster element in the film is played out slowly, actually rarely making an appearance, but revealed in reflections and brief glimpses, terrorising people at night; adding suspense to the story. Unlike E.T. in which there is some empathy for a stranger in a foreign land, the alien here is very much removed, a menace with desperation who has become a monster. He is the anti E.T. if you will. But, the journey is never of the kids assisting the alien’s escape but rather finding acceptance, letting go of emotional attachment.

As the two different age groups of parents and children, try to piece together the events in their own way, they humorously inter cross. The seriousness of the army and police investigations is offset against children who are shooting a zombie film and pretending to be adults.

There is very much strong grasp of overall scope and scale which comes to a stunning climax in a third act, which manages to also sneak in a final heart string tug.

The action is very well handled and interspersed sparingly, the train crash being one of the most impressive destruction scenes I have seen, combined some intense sound design which really gets the heart racing.

Super 8 is a solid film that taps in to a nostalgia for kids adventure films, which is lacking in modern cinema, though this is mostly due to JJ. Abrams extreme reverence towards Spielberg.


Sci-Fi, Mystery | USA, 2011 | 12A | August 5th, 2011(UK) | Paramount Pictures | Dir: J.J. Abrams | Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Ron Eldard

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