Oh, Abrams, how you taunt me. First all the secrecy behind Cloverfield, even Lost, and now Super 8. Although there were probably plenty of spoilers hanging around for me to discover about all of these, I think I owe it to the man to go into these things with nothing in mind, and wait for him to surprise me.
All I knew about Super 8 was that it's about kids filming something, and then there's a weird thing that comes out of a train. So I went into the cinema with no idea about what could happen. Thankfully I wasn't disappointed.
Super 8 follows a gang of kids, with our main character, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) trying to keep up with the antics of his best friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) as he tried to film a movie using his Super 8 camera to submit to a festival. To complete it however, they need female talent, so they manage to persuade Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) to act in some scenes. Apparently she's quite something, as Joe quickly attempts to get to know her better. However, while filming a scene at an abandoned station, the boys are caught in the midst of a massive freight train wreck that leaves carriages and weird objects scattered all over the place. But that's not all that got out... Over the next few days strange things start happening in town, and in the face of secret military presence it's up to the gang to figure out what's causing all the strange events.
This movie is signature Abrams. The train wreck is magnificent and seems to go on for ages, reminding me immediately of the plane crash in the first few minutes of Lost. The thing that escapes from the wreck is deliberately and carefully hidden from view, just glanced in puddles or out of focus, which is pretty much a continuation of the techniques used in Cloverfield. Also there's a ridiculous amount of lens flare, so that's Star Trek covered too.
Super 8 really is a hark back to the 80s sci-fi movies. It's no mistake that it's set in this time period, the feel of the era is really captured through the use of older gadgets, even if it does get a bit in your face at times ("I'm listening to a Walkman, it's a brand new thing. Look!"). There are definite comparisons with beloved 80s movies to be made, it's very much a cross between The Goonies and E.T. with a large dollop of Cloverfield thrown in for good measure. But while it references and borrows from the era constantly, it manages to be a very entertaining movie in its own right. The modern suspense shots and explosion effects slip nicely into the movie, instead of standing out obnoxiously.
The actors help to keep this a good movie the whole way through. The kids all do a great job in their roles, and managed to get many laughs out of the audience throughout. You have the lead who's obsessed with the girl, his friend who's obsessed with his film, another who's obsessed with fireworks and yet another who's obsessed with... being cowardly and puking I guess. Despite their wildly extreme personalities they all play off really nicely with one another, and actually seem like an authentic group of friends trying to have a good time, despite all the weird shit going on in town.
Super 8 is a wonderfully shot, nicely paced movie. Abrams employs all the techniques he uses masterfully, and while this movie is an amalgamation of many different inspirations, it all pulls together to make a great movie. The ending does tail off a bit into not-so-great territory, but personally I liked it, and the scene during the credits made it worth my while anyway.
My rating: 5/5