Back to the future
REVIEW SUPER 8 ( M) ★★★★■ Director: J. J. Abrams ( Star Trek) Stars: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Riley Griffiths, Noah Emmerich, Gabriel Basso, Ron Eldard
Shoot first, run for your lives later
THIS is the only, I repeat, only original tent-pole release of the US summer blockbuster season.
To translate: Super 8 is not a sequel, prequel or spin-off. It has not been adapted from a well-known book, or comic book, for that matter.
So for anyone complaining that mainstream Hollywood is hell-bent on repeating, remaking – and if all else fails, 3D-ing – itself into oblivion, this is about the freshest produce available for the next few months.
But while Super 8 is to be applauded for its originality in terms of its conception, there is something very familiar about its execution.
Writer-director J. J. Abrams has taken the modern creature-feature ( a genre he earlier meddled with as the producer of Cloverfield ) and blended it with family-friendly adventure fare of a very specific vintage.
If films such as Stand By Me, Gremlins and E. T. were part of your growing-up, you will be sure to appreciate what is going down in Super 8.
The year is 1979. In a small town, young Joe Lamb ( newcomer Joel Courtney) is coming to terms with the death of his mother by helping out a wannabe teenage Spielberg named Charles ( Riley Griffiths).
With Charles’s no-budget project ( a zombie movie of sorts) nearing completion, a female cast member is needed for one crucial night scene to be staged at a nearby railway siding.
Just as the camera is closing in on the beautiful and talented Alice ( Elle Fanning, pictured), a background effect goes from special to spectacular. A passing freight train has a head-on collision with a pick-up truck, sending jack-knifing carriages in all directions.
With all hell breaking loose around them, the fledgling filmmakers are forced to flee the set. Importantly, the camera they have abandoned is still running. There is still some way to go for Super 8 from this first intriguing plot point.
Those familiar with the cryptic viral marketing campaign for the movie will already know there is a big – and I mean, big – something connected with the train wreck which ultimately drives this tale.
It’s something big enough to bring the military immediately to the crash scene and also bring the town to a terrifying standstill.
Whether or not you are blown away by the ‘‘ big reveal’’ is of little consequence compared with how closely you will come to relate to the young characters.
The lasting charm of Abrams’ work is the warmth he finds in the youthful and awkward protagonists of Super 8. There is a whole town to be saved and a wonky little amateur motion picture to be completed, and you’ll be sincerely urging them on to get both jobs done.