DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
Early Spielberg has always been one of my most favoured eras of film, with the like of Jaws and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind standing out as some of my favourite films from the 70’s. Another film of this era would be E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, but this is one of the most overrated, in my opinion, films of all time! But it is this which is clearly the basis of the Spielberg homage that is Super 8. Even though Steven Spielberg has a producer role in this, this is clearly a J.J. Abrams film, but Abrams is doing a brilliant Spielberg impression.
Set in the summer of 1979, Super 8 follows a group of kids trying to make a film to enter into a film festival, but in the course of this, they witness a spectacular train crash, which is caught of the eponymous Super 8mm camera. I think it’s pretty much common knowledge as what happens next or what it as about the train that drives the plot, but I will leave that a mystery for those who don’t.
This is very much though, a human drama, focusing of the lives of the children, in a similar vein to The Goonies, one with a 12 certificate for violence, adult themes and mild horror, rather than a few rude comments as with The Goonies. As an homage to Spielberg at his height, Super 8 fits the bill perfectly, with a real sense of nostalgia, not just for the time but for the style of film making.
This is filled from top to bottom with suspense, thrills and spills, but its main selling point has to be the character studies. The realistic portrayals of the children as humans rather than characterised. Sometimes, this can lean too far into shmaltz but only slightly, but again, this is consistent with Spielberg, note E.T.
My only other real complaint would be the “Spectacular” train crash sequence. It was indeed “spectacular” but this was the only sequence that I found unbelievable, in a Sci- Fi/Fantasy! It was just over the top and the least authentic moment in the film, whether it be true to the film of the Spielberg roots.
Some would argue that I’m basing my entire view on this comparison and that I’m missing the true value of the film as J.J. Abrams vehicle. Well, I would dispute that. The homage is clear and strong but it is still an Abram’s film, as the ridiculous use of lens flare, his signature, would attest to, but whether judged as his film or a Spielberg homage, note that at no point do I suggest a rip off, it is good, with a strong heart re-enforce by solid performances all round and that is to the credit of the cast, crew and the director, even though I still can’t forgive him for Star Trek!
This will not be the hit of the year but I suspect that it will live long in the memories of those who see it. Potentially a true classic…
Originally reviewed on the 6th September 2011