JJ Abrahs plays Steven Spielberg in this nostalgic flick, produced by Spielberg and directed by Abrams. Did you get that?
It’s a strange thing to get taken back to an earlier point in life with some overpowering twinge of nostalgia taking you over, but for it to be a wholly enjoyable experience. This is precisely what happened when I watched Super 8.
First, it ought to be noted, you are not moving into some field of untrodden soil when you turn on this film. Do not expect an original and insightful plotline – that is not on offer and it is not necessary. What you get instead is a trip down memory lane – this film is essentially E.T. meets Jurassic Park directed by a young Spielberg fanatic.
But that is not, in any way, to take from the experience. Super 8 is in fact one of the stand-out films that Hollywood has produced in recent years (although that’s not saying much, don’t let it detract…). For anyone who loved the way Spielberg used to make films back in the family-friendly day of Amblin Entertainment’s golden age, this is for you.
The opening scene shows Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) mourning the death of his mother. This family centric plot-line carries the film, whose central plot is based around Joe and his friends, a group of schoolchildren in 1970s suburban America who like to shoot zombie films. While taking a dramatic shot in a nearby train station (see clip below – beware spoilers!), they happen upon a huge accident, and cue fun creature-film with big explosions and dramatic strange happenings, with young drama a pleasant extra in a roller-coaster movie experience.
Elle Fanning (incidentally, Dakota Fanning’s younger sister) plays the part of Joe Lamb’s young love interest who is revealed to be mixed up in his family history in some mysterious way. Fanning’s portrayal of Alice Dainard is the stand-out performance of this film, although the acting is of a high quality all round, in particular by the children.
The atmosphere is constantly reminiscent of older times; the butterflies that you felt when The Goonies began their adventure resurface, and the mystery and thrill of Time Bandits is here in some sense too. There is something unnameable that Abrams hits on the head here, and as a result you are teleported into the world of young filmmakers loving just that.
Nothing goes very far wrong here. Without going into too much detail, the effects are top-drawer, the direction is coy and polished and the influence of Spielberg is glaring. All of this comes together to make a really great film that is absolutely worth a watch for anyone who just, well, enjoys film!