Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler
Running time: 112 minutes
By Robert O’ Reilly
J.J. Abrams follows up his 2009 hit Star Trek with this Steven Spielberg produced sci-fi nostalgia-fest, a sure-fire hit with adults and kids alike. Although Super 8 is not likely to top any Oscar winning lists, it’s an audience-friendly, wholly entertaining romp, the type of movie that only Hollywood seems to be able to do just right.
The scene is 1979, and a group of kids in Lillian, an average middle-American industrial town, are out filming their own Super 8mm version of a George Romero zombie gut-cruncher, when they are witness to a spectacular disaster, one of their local school teachers driving bumper-first into an oncoming freight train causing a monumental wreck.
Promising to their barely alive biology teacher to keep what they have seen to themselves, the group attempt to go back to their normal everyday lives. However, it’s not long before the U.S. military come snooping around the scene of the crash and it soon transpires that they are more interested in the actual contents of the freight train than any damage it might have done to the area. Pieces of an alien spacecraft, captured by the U.S. Government and being transported from Roswell, and more importantly, its inter-galactic occupant, were on the train at the time of the crash, and now an angry, homesick extra-terrestrial has been unleashed on the unsuspecting townsfolk of Lillian.
Using elements from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Monster Squad, E.T. and The Goonies (along with countless references to other horror and science fiction films), Super 8 is a laser blast of a movie that contains all the elements to make it one of those films that is destined to be shown endlessly on Saturday afternoon TV. And that’s certainly not any kind of a put-down. With smart dialogue, impressive special effects, a super-sweet childhood romance and the feeling that you’ve been transported back to the early 1970’s, the film ticks all the right boxes in all the right places. Of course, this being a Hollywood blockbuster movie, there are the usual obligatory scenes of excruciating corniness and perhaps a few too many miraculous escape scenes for its own good, but if you’re willing to forgive the movie these discrepancies, Super 8 is guaranteed to leave you exiting the cinema with a smile on your face.
The acting performances of the young ensemble (especially Fanning and Michalka), are absolutely terrific from start to finish, and they’re supported by a more than capable adult cast too. Cynics might point to the unrealistic elements of the story and perhaps too neat a wrap-up at the film’s conclusion, but this is not the sort of movie to be endlessly analysed but just to be enjoyed for what it is: a superbly made, at times hilarious, bitter-sweet, nostalgia-inducing, popcorn-munching, sci-fi rollercoaster. Also, make sure not to leave the cinema as soon as the credits start rolling, as they contain the finished version of the kids’ zombie masterpiece, which is a treat in itself. Highly enjoyable and highly recommended.