Review: Super 8
There’s a tremendous bit of nostalgia wrapped up in Super 8, one of last summer’s most pleasant surprises. For adult moviegoers, it makes us long for the pre-Internet days when a movie can arrive and surprise us. The movie is clearly director J.J. Abrams’ homage to the movies of Steven Spielberg, the ones he grew up watching thirty years ago, movies filled with the fantastic including Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.
But, Abrams’ valentine is intended for today’s more jaded moviegoer and as a result, unlike the benevolent aliens who visited Earth in those two films, the ones seen in the new film are more terrifying, evoking an entirely different set of emotions. But, the innocence of childhood is retained as Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his pals set out to make a movie and wind up having the adventure of a lifetime.
Like the best of Spielberg’s work, this movie evokes happy memories of childhood and family so just as important as the friendship ties is the relationship between Joe and his widower father Jackson (Kyle Chandler) in the middle American town of Lilian, Ohio.
Given the setting of the story, it makes perfect sense that the young teens are using a Super 8 camera to shoot a zombie film as the previous cycle of zombie movies was just winding down. They witness and record a train wreck that unleashes a deadly secret, one the military and sheriff Dad try to contain. Unfortunately, and just like in a good Spielberg film, odd things keep happening: there are the missing dogs, missing metal objects, and then people go missing.
Abrams knows how to ratchet up the suspense and then lull you into complacency with all the family drama between father and son and young romance as Joe notices Alice (Elle Fanning) in a new way. And since this is a film about kids, of course they unrealistically factor into the climax in ways less organic than in E.T. Still, you don’t often get two top filmmakers collaborating on something that has this much heart and soul as opposed to mere pyrotechnics (although this offers those up, too). Abrams also benefited from another winning score by Michael Giacchino.They wisely spent their $50 million budget, turning out a compelling 112-minute movie that you can enjoy at home.
Paramount Home Video sent a DVD for review and the standard transfer is excellent along with superb sound. The extras available on this single-disc package include some fine Audio Commentary from Abrams, co-producer Bryan Burk and DP Larry Fong. There are tons of fun-sounding extras on the Blu-ray disc but we’re left without them, instead just able to see “Deconstructing the Train Crash”, a nice featurette complete with storyboards and interviews.