Review: Super 8


Directed by: JJ Abrams
Written by:JJ Abrams
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, Bruce Greenwood
Released: June 9, 2011
Grade: A

I’ve always felt that the best way to see a film is to know nothing about it beforehand.  That’s very difficult in today’s information age however.  It’s hard to avoid the trailers in cinemas, commercials on television and posters at bus stations.  Let’s not forget that all of the above are readily available on the internet to view at any time.

In putting together Super 8, director JJ Abrams wanted to “preserve the experience for the audience”.  Instead of giving away the entire story, he chose to slowly leak information and build a sense of intrigue.  This is best illustrated by the film’s posters.  They describe the movie as being “from writer-director JJ Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg”.  That’s about it.  If you can discern much else then you’re more astute than me.

What I can reveal is that Super 8 is set in a small American town in the year 1979.  A tight-knit group of kids are spending their summer making a zombie movie with the hope of entering it into a film festival.  They sneak out late one night to shoot a key scene on the platform of an old train station.

It’s a night that will change their lives forever.  A train comes through the station at high speed and smashes into a pick-up truck being driven along the tracks.  It causes one hell of an explosion.  Debris is strewn everywhere and the kids are lucky to survive.  Shocked and shaken, they quickly grab their equipment and flee the scene before the authorities arrive.  They wish to maintain the illusion that they’re all sound asleep at home.

I won’t say much more about the storyline but Super 8 is one of the best films of the year.  It’s so much fun to watch these cheeky, loveable kids pull together and navigate their way through this extraordinary adventure.  It reminded me of movies I watched repeatedly growing up such as E.T. and The Goonies.

All of the abovementioned films have one key ingredient – kids acting like kids.  I’m not sure what process JJ Abrams went through with the casting he has managed to find an amazing group of youngsters.  They all look so relaxed and natural in front of the camera.

Despite having no previous acting experience, Joel Courtney is wonderful as the film’s central character, Joe Lamb.  He starts out as a shy, reserved kid trying to cope with the death of his mother.  As the story develops, Joe will be forced to “come out of his shell”, confront an unbelievable situation and fight for the people he loves.  The list includes the pretty Alice Daniard (Fanning), his long-term crush from school.  The scenes shared by these two are adorable.

I’ve seen a few critics/bloggers who weren’t sold on the ending but let me say, without giving anything away, that I have no problems with it.  First and foremost, this is a coming of age story.  I’m glad it didn’t generate into something that took the attention away from Joe and his friends.

From the poignancy of the first scene (such a haunting shot) to the laughs during the closing credits, Super 8 is everything I could ask for from a motion picture.  You must see this... if only to feel young again!

You can read/listen to my interview with director JJ Abrams by clicking here.