In Super 8, friends making a zombie picture meet danger with bravery and imagination. The summer movie with a feisty kid’s heart blends rousing story with sci-fi, horror and can-do ingenuity.
Spielberg-inspired kids’ classic
Prolific director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek ; Mission: Impossible III; television’s Lost), joins forces with his mentor Steven Spielberg, who produced the film.
Super 8 features excellent character development, human interest, direction, story, action, special effects, new talent and self-discovery.
With heart, soul and skill, Abrams and cinematographer Larry Fong have drawn on Spielberg’s legendary work to develop an original, deeply moving film. Spielberg classics like E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial and Jurassic Park come to mind.
Young filmmakers in action
A horrific crash of a U.S. Air Force train sends the friends scurrying as they shoot a scene. Causing the accident is a white pick-up truck that meets the train head-on. Special effects heighten the fantastic wreck.
One of the train cars thunders. Something big and strong bursts out, disappearing into the night. The driver of the pick-up, a biology teacher, is still alive. “They will kill you,” he warns. “Do not speak of this or else you and your parents will die.”
Along with sheriff’s deputy Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights), the group watches the Air Force swoop in to clean up the top-secret wreck.
The deputy’s 12-year-old son Joe (exciting newcomer Joel Courtney) seeks the truth. Joe has just lost his mother in a steel mill accident. As a leader with character, Courtney brings to mind Wil Wheaton in Stand By Me.
Joe’s distant father forbids him to make monster movies with his friend Charles (fantastic Riley Griffiths). Griffiths is a revelation as a never-say-die director. Driven and immersed in his visions, he takes charge and makes movies with scant resources. He’s a joy to watch.
Talented Elle Fanning, so mature and authentic in Somewhere, plays Alice, the girl who agrees to join Charles and his friends in their latest production. Fanning captures pre-teen angst as a budding actress who enchants the boys.
Cary (Ryan Lee), a tiny terror with braces, plays the zombie and creates special effects. Cameraman Preston (Zach Mills) and leading man Martin (Gabriel Basso) also star.
Other notables include AJ Michalka (The Lovely Bones) as Charles’ caustic sister Jen. Ron Eldard plays Alice’s drunken dad who blames himself for the death of a co-worker.
As dogs flee town and electrical engines vanish from cars and homes, Abrams keeps the alien mysterious for a long while. Surprising plot twists add to the excitement. A touch more editing could have enhanced the film, particularly during the lengthy crescendo.
The innocence of 1979 feels fresh and immediate as Joe and friends act with gutsy inspiration. Free of cynicism, the movie maintains a sense of adventure through the end credits.
Like many sci-fi movies, Super 8 asks: Why does our government hide knowledge about alien civilizations from us? (4.5 out of 5 stars)
If you like Super 8, you might enjoy: X-Men: First Class.
Super 8 2011 / PG-13 / 1 hour, 52 min
Cast Overview: Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, Gabriel Basso, Noah Emmerich, Ron Eldard, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Glynn Turman
Director: J.J. Abrams
Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller, Suspense