Super 8 (2011)

(nb: Thanks Brother Marky for making me watch this)

Super 8 Poster 2

“Super 8” is director J.J. Abrams’s loving tribute to Stephen Spielberg’s films of childhood wonder, films like “E.T. The Extraterrestrial,” “Close Encounters of The Third Kind,” and “The Goonies.” It’s sort of fitting that Spielberg produced his own homage.

In Lillian, Ohio, a group of middle-school kids are working on a film to enter in the Cleveland International Super 8 Film Festival. The group has a Spielbergian/Stephen Kingesque mix of non-cool kids: the chubby one is the filmmaker. There’s also the smart geek, the spaz, and the misunderstood quiet kid. Naturally, they need to bring in another person to flesh-out their troupe: the girl.

One night, they sneak out at midnight to film down by the train station. The Girl—Elle Fanning—proves that despite her being from the wrong side of town, she can really act. Lo, and behold, they spy a train coming, and hustle to get the shot reset. They shoot as the train rushes by. There’s a crash and the train derails. What happens then—how the group bands together to save each other amidst a chaos of weird happenings, the scary military, and people gone missing—is as much fun as Spielberg in his prime. Maybe even more fun.

Among the grown-ups, Kyle Chandler stands out as Deputy Jackson Lamb, a good man trying to deal with being newly widowed. His son is “misunderstood quiet kid” Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney, in a wonderfully understated performance), and we are—of course—ultimately left with the sense that the two will bond and survive their shared loss.

The special effects are pretty awesome in “Super 8.” A lot of the scenes reminded me of “Close Encounters,” where Richard Dreyfus’s power truck died at a railway crossing, the stop sign vibrated back and forth, radios changing stations, etc. Good stuff.

“Super 8” filled me with nostalgia. The movie is set in 1979, and I was about the same age as the characters. I remember Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and—ye gods—“My Sharona” playing on the radio. It was a simpler, easier time. In a few decades, today’s thirteen-year-olds will no doubt have a film looking back on their halcyon youth in innocent 2013.

I hope theirs is as much fun as “Super 8” was for me.

Grade: B+/A-

(Super 8 (2011), written and directed by JJ Abrams, produced by Abrams & Stephen Spielberg, et alia; Rated PG-13 for some creepy monstery violence, mild profanity, and a few battle scenes)


About tom

B.A. in Literature, Minor in Film Theory and Criticism, thus meaning all I’m trained is to write blog posts here. Neptune is my favorite planet–it vents methane into the solar system like my brother does. I think Chicken McNuggets look like Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana. There are times when I’m medicated, which is why I wrote about McNuggets. Buy some today and tell me I’m wrong! Anyway, Beyond that: mammal, Floridian, biped.Good Night, and Good Luck. Besos, tom
This entry was posted in Coming of Age Film, Films, Science Fiction/Fantasy. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Super 8 (2011)

  1. stevebetz says:

    I really enjoyed this movie too — one of the rare ones we’ve seen in the theater! (

    I enjoyed the nostalgic feel and I liked the characters and story-telling. I thought the ending backed off into cliche-ville a little — as if Abrams was afraid to do something daring with it (I’ve felt this about his Star Trek movies too). But overall, I really liked it.


  2. tom says:

    You totally stole my review two years before I wrote it! 😉 It’s funny to me that we picked out the same things to discuss. As they say, great minds…

    I thought all the kids were really good–the chubby filmmaker was a natural–but the Joe Lamb kid and Elle Fanning were remarkable. It was his first role ever. Not a bad start, and she was only twelve. I’d have guessed older. Sweet chemistry.

    Now, let’s see whether you’ve caught the third in my “Straight Eights Film Festival.” (For your sake, I hope not (except for the really nice boobs (note: NOT Elle Fanning’s, which are still only like 14)))


  3. Lurkertype says:

    We also paid to see this in the theater and felt it worth it. Since we get to maybe 3 movies a year, TOPS, that tells you how I feel.

    Now I’m just wondering why we don’t have it on shiny plastic disc. To the Wish List!


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