You can feel the youth of Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams permeating through every film cell of “Super 8.” The 2011 movie veiled in mystery has become one of the most highly regarded films that isn’t directed by Spielberg but very well may have been. From familial discord, the death of a parent, and the like “Super 8” channels these themes from classic Spielberg fare like “Close Encounters,” and “Jaws” with a sprinkle of “Stand By Me” and “The Goonies” for good measure. We follow a group of children tasked with uncovering a mystery their adult counterparts couldn’t possibly fathom, a menace that promises to destroy the world. Or at least destroy their lives for good.
I felt a lot of nostalgia and love for this project because I’m a tried and true Spielberg buff who worships the man’s work in the cinematic realm and “Super 8” is that film that channels the man’s themes by allowing the entrance for a classic monster movie. Unlike most films with a monstrous plot such as “Super 8,” JJ Abrams prefers to focus on the humanity of the narrative rather than solely zero in on the carnage and mayhem, and that’s what makes “Super 8” the film of the year. It’s capable of delivering such amazing performances from a young cast of unknowns, all of whom are capable of portraying these humanistic characters, all suffering from a great loss that could either tear them apart, or bring them close together to take on a formidable foe whose intentions are left ambiguous throughout most of the production from Abrams.
When a group of kids go to the trains station to film a scene from their student film, there is a massive train crash that unleashes something sinister. Unseen except by the film camera, it’s up to them to uncover what escaped from the train and what it intends to do with the town’s supplies that it seems to be collecting. All the while animals are going missing. What keeps Abram’s “Super 8” another in a line of Bad Robot jokes is the consistent lens flare that keeps the film glowing with the classic science fiction blue hue. Abrams writes one hell of a rich and complex story about grieving and letting go all through the late seventies where coming of age meant detachment from one’s parents and seeking your fortune, and the children presented in this picture do so with the capacity to feel and think like adults.
Abrams never once undermines or patronizes his characters and keeps them breathing and living beings who all have something to gain from this experience that will likely decide how they grow as human beings with their view on humanity and the capacity of good within ones self and others. The cast is granted a list of character actors from Ron Eldard to Kyle Chandler, right down to Elle Fanning who presents the role of the love interest who gives fuel to our blossoming heroes willing to fight whatever comes their way when she’s put in peril. “Super 8” is one of the finest films of the year because it not only hearkens back to a period of filmmaking where story was first and foremost but when children had something to watch that could shape and mold them. “Super 8” will serve as brilliant family viewing, or viewing for science fiction geeks and I recommend it to anyone willing to uncover the mystery with a group of highly likable individuals.