I’ve been seeing the trailers for Super 8 for nearly a year now for this Stephen Spielberg/J.J. Abrams joint venture. And the trailers have been deliberately mysterious to leave you wanting more. For many big blockbuster summer movies, sometimes this means that the film itself is an actual letdown.
Let me state for the record up front that this is not the case with Super 8.
Super 8 is not a Cloverfield-clone that I think many have been expecting. Instead it is a finely crafted film about coming of age that is reminiscent of sentimental favorites like The Goonies and Stand By Me. Yes, there is a scary alien in this film. And at times, that alien is truly terrifying. But the six children that form the story arc here are what captures your eyes and your heart.
The story begins in 1979 with six children looking for a way to fill their summer vacation time. They take it upon themselves to make a zombie movie to enter into a local film competition. While watching these children deal with things like loss of parents and growing up, we see a story that has nothing to do with science fiction at all and everything to do with life and growing up in more innocent times.
However, it is the science fiction element of the film that brings these children even closer together, after they witness a train crash that changes their lives and that of the town. Something horrible has happened as a result of the crash and the military has arrived to “contain it.” We eventually find out what had been on that train and just how scary it really is. But we don’t see this thing at all, only the damage it leaves in its wake.
Believe me when I say there are times where you will very nearly jump out of your seat during this film at something you don’t even get to see.
In fact, it is not until almost the end of the film that we see the actual face and form of the creature. But without giving too much away, it is at that time that we are also seeing it in a new light.
Although this film has a great story and amazing special effects, it is the acting of the six children that makes it work so well. Kudos to Joel Courtney, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Gabriel Basso, Riley Griffiths and Elle Fanning for making us remember what it was like to be a kid. Not only do we see the world of Super 8 through their eyes, but we also truly sympathize and root for them every step of the way.
The end of the film feels like classic Spielberg. And I cannot help but to make a comparison to E.T., one of my all-time favorite films. Yes, Super 8 really is that good.