JJ Abrams’ Super 8 is a procession of amazing visual effects and mind-blowing sound design, culminating in an experience that is exciting and highly watchable.
The film takes place in small town Ohio, 1979. A group of young boys attempting to shoot an amateur zombie movie witness a spectacular train crash and, after the US Air Force turn up and forcibly assume control of the situation, they realise that events are taking a turn for the surreal and sinister.
The crash itself is breathtaking. The combination of meticulously detailed and realistic CGI, gigantic explosions and stunning sound effects is guaranteed to raise the hair on the back of your neck and to plant you firmly in your seat eagerly anticipating the next ninety minutes. While the rest of the movie doesn’t quite match the spectacle of the aforementioned scene, which really is the film’s showcase event, it avoids the possibility of being anti-climactic and remains entertaining throughout.
With excellent performances from both the child actors and the adult cast, slick direction and production values that rival Abrams’ excellent Star Trek reboot, the film contains very little to criticise. One minor yet seemingly odd aspect is that the main character’s deceased mother — who is played by a petite and pretty actress — apparently worked in a steel plant, where she was killed in an unfortunate accident. Considering the vast majority of steel-plant workers are rugged, bearded Mickey Rourke lookalikes, it’s hard to imagine her being employed there.
Clearly inspired by Abrams’ childhood, the film contains a host of references and nods to the culture that engulfed his upbringing. Perhaps the biggest influence is the picture’s own producer, Steven Spielberg, in particular his science fiction classic E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Some will see Super 8 as merely a modernised update of Spielberg’s work, but Abrams has easily done enough to create his own distinct station. In fact, none of the cultural awareness detracts at all from the movie, which stands alone as a spectacular entry into the genre. One call back to classic sci-fi that is particularly welcome is the way the film handles its monster. Much like Alien, we yearn to get a proper look at the creature, but we are only offered fleeting glimpses until later in the movie. It’s these kind of touches that round up the experience into an impressive celluloid concoction.
With an exciting storyline, some witty and humorous dialogue and believable characters, Super 8 is easily one of the best releases on the summer. The first act may be stronger than the rest of the picture, but it never drops close to dull and stays consistently entertaining throughout. Cinema enthusiasts will be thoroughly enthralled.