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Super 8 (2011)

During the summer of 1979, a group of friends witness a train crash and investigate subsequent unexplained events in their small town.

Directed by JJ Abrams, one can’t talk about Super 8 without mentioning Steven Spielberg.
Not only did he serve as an executive producer for ‘Super 8′ but the movie itself is filled with clever references to JJ Abrams’ master.

26 years ago Steven Spielberg saw the work that JJ Abrams and his good friend Matt Reeves did on cutting 8mm films. Shortly after that, he hired them to cut his own homemovies. Needless to say, for 2 very big Spielbergfans, it was a dream come true, and the basis for what was still to come.

JJ Abrams has garnered quite a large following after his creation of the hit tv-series ‘Alias’ and ‘Lost’ and the broadly loved ‘Cloverfield’ back in 2008.
But it’s here, with ‘Super 8’ that Abrams shows us whom he adores most in the world of Cinema.
To his credit: he never made a secret of the fact that he loves Spielberg, especially his earlier work from the 70’s and early 80’s era.
‘Super 8’ can be described as just that. It’s Cloverfield, The Goonies and E.T. all rolled into one.
From the absent father, to the abundant use of lens flares, the shots from above (a god’s point of view) or the usage of flashlights (E.T. anyone?), or the fact that it features an alien in a suburban area.
To those who love Spielberg, this movie gives you the challenge of finding each and every single detail which references him.

For all the other people who don’t care a huge amount for Mr. Spielberg, there’s a more important question that needs answering: is this movie any good?
The answer to that lies mostly in how well you can manage your own expectations.
If we look back to the year 2010, audiences were treated to a trailer that showed us a huge traincrash and a ‘thing’ escaping out of one of the crashed wagons.
What followed was a large viral campaign, aimed at the ‘Area 51’ aspect of the movie, neglecting the fact that this is basically a kids movie with supernatural influences.
So when it finally hit cinemas in 2011, lot’s of people went home dissapointed with what they got to see, expecting something which was more in the vein of ‘Cloverfield’ instead of ‘E.T.’.

I for one, loved this movie.
It’s focus lies on a group of young friends (all expertly portrayed by a group of very talented young child actors) that set out to make a 8mm movie in the summer of 1979.
When they decide to film at a train station, they accidentally become witness to a military train that crashes and subsequently let’s its cargo loose on the neighbouring town.
Super 8’s atmosphere reeks of movies like ‘The Goonies’ or ‘Stand By Me’ and it simply is wonderful.
The music, the dialogue, the tension, it’s all expertly woven into a very cinematic and oldschool movie, focussing more on the human aspect (or child aspect) of it all, then the fact that there’s indeed a ‘thing’ roaming the very place they live in.

There are times when the movie feels a tad uneven, not deciding on going the monster route or the ‘E.T.’ route, and because of that, some scenes feel a bit out of place.
But, when the movie does reach it’s final scene after it’s 2 hour running time (which feels like it could have been trimmed a bit)  you do feel satisfied.
‘Super 8’ has that sense of wonder that you felt when you saw ‘E.T.’ for the first time, or those friends from ‘Stand By Me’ venturing out to find the dead kid.
It might glorify Steven Spielberg, but if there’s one man to glorify from that day and age of moviemaking, it’s Spielberg.
Even if you don’t like the man, you’ll be hardpressed to sum up all the stylistic and narrative choices hommaged in ‘Super 8’ and not walk away impressed by what Spielberg has achieved over the years.

His influence in modern day cinema is huge, and JJ Abrams acknowledges and uses this at the same time.
JJ could very well become this presents day Spielberg if he continues to reinvent himself every so often (and he even has the same looks and voice as Steven as well) and ‘Super 8’ serves as his essay on the man.
With great performances, a compelling story and some great effects, there are far worse ways to spend your time.

8/10 stars!

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Discussion

One thought on “Super 8 (2011)

  1. Now, this is strange. All the reasons you stated for loving the film are the very reasons I dislike it. I found the winks and nods and the whole “love letter” to Spielberg thing too distracting. I wanted to watch a film where I wasn’t constantly reminded of someone else’s work. I did like the winks to John Carpenter and George Romero though. good review!

    Posted by Victor De Leon | June 24, 2012, 18:19

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