JJ Abrams has done it again. His last film, Star Trek, was a sensation that was virtually unparalleled to any other film that was released that year but was probably overlooked because of Avatar, released later that year. Super 8 first trailer was shot way before the film finished its script and ever since then the hype started. What is this mystery film produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by JJ Abrams? With a marketing ploy that stayed clear away from revealing any big spoilers, the film finally released and is a breath of fresh air; staying away from the buff action hero, the sexy yet somehow smart heroine, or the huge set pieces set in exotic places that are home to explosions.
Super 8 takes place in 1979 and opens after a funeral. Joe, played by Joel Courtney, is distraught from the accidental death of his mother at the local steel mill. Joe, distraught sits outside on the swing set while everyone in town gossips about what happens next. Joe’s friends Charles, Martin, Preston, and Carey discuss what the body looked like and whether her head was crushed or not. This conversation sets up the entire films tone; never taking itself too seriously.
Louis (Ron Eldard), a drunk visits to send his condolences, is taken away in cuffs by Joe’s father, Jackson (Kyle Chandler) who is the town deputy. Four months pass and everything seems back to normal, at least for everyone else; Jackson is trying to cope without his wife, trying to make ends meet. Joe and his friends are shooting a zombie movie to enter into a film festival. When Charles manages to get Alice (Elle Fanning) to do his film, Joe and her develop a relationship that develops throughout the movie. When shooting a scene at a train station, they witness a derailment that changes their lives. When the government gets involved, they get nervous and their film is in jeopardy due to Alice leaving production. When the film is developed, they see what the cargo was, an alien dying to escape and be free.
Compared to any other film released so far this year, Super 8 is more heartfelt and entertaining. They say you should never work on a film with children and animals, but the child actors here are excellent. They carry the film to the very end making you laugh with them, feel for them and can relate to them on a deep level. Industrial Light & Magic, who does the VFX for Iron Man and Transformers does a fantastic job with the CG environments and the alien. Some gripes I did have with the film was that the alien is not memorable. Designers try to make aliens complex and forget that simple designs are more memorable; Godzilla, Gremlins, and Cloverfield are some great examples. Lastly, lens flares are not needed to make a film greater.
Super 8 is an homage and a love letter to producer Steven Spielberg. This film entertained me more than any other film I saw this year, including X-Men: First Class, which I loved. If you love great acting and story buy you ticket right now. If you hate lens flares, suck it up and go see it anyway.