Ever since JJ Abrams’ Super 8 was first hinted at, it was said to be a tribute to the Spielberg films of the late 70s and early 80s. After Spielberg became involved as a producer on the movie, the end result is a summer blockbuster that most definitely evokes the classics that inspired it.
Set in Ohio in 1979, the movie follows a group of friends who are making a zombie movie with a Super 8 camera. One night while filming along some train tracks, a huge rail disaster takes place and the kid’s camera captures something escaping from one of the rail cars. Part Stand By Me and part E.T. with a dash of John Carpenter thrown in, Super 8 is an immensely satisfying summer blockbuster done in a way that fills you with nostalgia for a type of movie that is long gone.
Now JJ Abrams is no Spielberg, but he does a really admirable job trying to replicate the feel of the type of movies the bearded one made when he was young. Especially towards the end of the movie he really nails the tone, so much so that there are little moments scattered about that must have come from a suggestion from Spielberg. Anyone familiar with Spielberg’s movies and his way of thinking will recognize these. They don’t distract from the movie, just enhance it.
Abrams, like Spielberg before him, is famous for keeping things close to his chest to not spoil the movie in trailers and commercials. And with Super 8 that’s definitely an advantage to the movie as it works so well playing out that to have seen the best reveals in a commercial would lesson the effect. I’m not saying its disappointing in any way, as I look forward to seeing the movie many more times, but going into it unspoiled definitely makes your first viewing even more memorable.
Michael Giacchino, who actually has a cameo in the movie, does an admirable job recreating an 80s John Williams score. Only one queue in the entire score reminded me of a previous Giacchino score (Lost), and if you didn’t know better you would think that John Williams actually did the soundtrack; except for the fact that modern Williams scores sound a lot different than the ones from the 80s.
I won’t spoil the creature design for you, but in the end you do get a pretty good look at it after it is obscured for the majority of the movie. It being CG is really one of the very few things that reminds you that this movie was made now as opposed to thirty years ago. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice Slusho appearing in the movie, and if you pay attention to the final shot you’ll notice a pretty cool Lost reference.
Super 8 is the type of summer blockbuster we haven’t seen since Spielberg was a young director with a fresh mind. It combines all the things we loved about movies such as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Stand By Me, and Goonies and presents it in a way that even people who didn’t grow up with those films can enjoy. It definitely lives up to the hype.