¨She used to look at me this way, like really look, and I just knew I was there, that I existed.¨
As a true fan of Lost (the best television series ever in my opinion) I was really excited about J. J. Abrams`s latest film, Super 8, which as usual he not only directed but also wrote. Abrams is one of my favorite directors and I`ve really enjoyed all his films. Add Steven Spielberg, who was one of the producers of this film, to the mix and this was perhaps one of my most anticipated films of the year. Fortunately, it didn`t disappoint and it even exceeded my expectations, although this didn’t even come as a surprise for me considering how well he managed to reboot the Star Trek franchise a couple of years ago. I was also a big fan of Cloverfield, which some people disliked, but I thought was really well crafted. Super 8 might be compared to Cloverfield in some ways, but I think it is a much more complete film in the sense that there is more character development going on. The whole mysterious monster thing was only a side story and the true heart of the film relied on the relationship between the kids and their friendship. Super 8 is really a nostalgic film that seems to pay homage to some of Spielberg`s early films like E.T., Close Encounter of the Third Kind, and The Goonies. That was the mood that Abrams kind of set with Super 8 and what makes it stand out from all the rest of the modern disaster/monster movies. Even the title suggests this nostalgic feeling considering that Super 8 mm film were one of the first formats used for home movies before the invention of video. The movie even has this dark and dirty visual style to it making you think you are actually watching an old classic (until you see some of the dazzling visual effects like in the train crash which remind us this is a modern movie).
The story takes place in a small town in Ohio during the summer of 1979. A group of young kids who are friends from school are making a super 8 movie about zombies. Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is helping out with the make-up, Charles (Riley Griffiths) is directing, Cary (Ryan Lee) is helping out with the sound, Preston (Zach Mills) is filming, while Alice (Elle Fanning) and Martin (Gabriel Basso) play the main actors. One night the five kids are out by the tracks filming their movie when all of a sudden they witness a catastrophic train wreck. Several explosions take place and parts of the train fall everywhere, but miraculously the kids are unharmed. Joe tells his friends that this wasn’t an accident; he witnessed how a truck drove straight at the train in order to provoke the crash. While the kids were shooting their movie the camera kept rolling so they decide to develop the film the very next day, but have to wait at least for three more days until they can actually see the footage. Meanwhile some mysterious things begin to take place after the accident: the dogs all of a sudden have disappeared, motors from vehicles are missing, and even some people have gone missing as well. Joe`s dad, Jackson (Kyle Chandler), is the town sheriff so he begins to search for answers, but the US Air Force (to whom the train belonged to) seems to be concealing what was really inside the train. Jackson discovers that there was a lot more to the accident then what they are actually telling him.
The first hour really keeps the suspense and mystery building as we try to discover what was in the train. The relationship between the kids is actually the primary focus of the film and the mystery kind of works as a side story. Elle Fanning does a terrific job with this film and deserves an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress since she actually steals every scene she`s in. She is the heart of the movie, and her relationship with Joel Courtney`s character reminds us a lot of that first innocent love. The chemistry between both actors is actually very intense and far more believable than that of the lead characters from most of today`s romantic comedies. Super 8 manages to mix well the action and suspense with the drama and character development, while at the same time remaining funny. It`s all these mixed emotions that remind us of those 80`s Spielberg blockbuster action movies. I couldn’t help but think of Drew Barrymore in E.T. when I saw Elle Fanning in this film; watching the kids investigating the mysteries reminded me of The Goonies; it’s just all these emotions that the movie evoked that gave me this sense of nostalgia while keeping me entertained at the same time. I really enjoyed this film and loved the performance from the kids, especially from Elle Fanning. I was so interested in these characters that I actually enjoyed the first half of the film over the second which focused more on the monster and the action. Super 8 is definitely worth watching, especially if you were a fan of some of these early Spielberg movies.