Written and directed by J.J. Abrams and with Steven Spielberg as its producer, Super 8 (2011) tells the story of a group of young filmmakers who inadvertently capture a horrific train crash whilst filming a scene for their amateur zombie movie. The accident leads to a series of mysterious disappearances and events, and as the plot unfolds it becomes apparent that there is a secret being kept under wraps. The decision to set Super 8 in 1979 gives the film a sense of nostalgia and it feels like the work of a director who spent his own youth making films.
Super 8 is a rare example of a genuine family film, combining plot twists and action that will enthral children, with enough mystery and tension to grip adults too. Although a number of films market themselves as family entertainment few get the balance just right, and it is refreshing to see a science fiction film, in particular, that can appeal to such a broad audience.
Whilst Super 8 is certainly the film to buy any young, sci-fi enthusiast I hasten to add it is certainly not for very young viewers; making the most of its 12A rating with plenty of moments that will have those of a nervous disposition jumping from their seats, as well as some strong language and the odd glimpses of blood. Any parents wanting to add this to their child’s Christmas list would be advised to check out the trailer and BBFC ratings first.
With a growing catalogue of largely excellent films including Cloverfield (2008) (as producer) and Star Trek (2009) (as director), Abrams is fast becoming the name to have on your production credits. Along with Abrams personal style one can certainly see Spielberg’s impact on this film. Arguably comparable to his early work, Super 8 manages to combine action and drama with a generous dose of sentimentality reminiscent of films such as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and, whilst this film is unlikely to have the longevity of such a classic, it sets Abrams up for future success in the genre.
Super 8 also features a stellar cast of endearing young actors that have sufficient talent to carry the film without falling into the trap or being irritatingly self-conscious. Elle Fanning is particularly impressive as the lead female and I would suggest is even a preferable alternative to her well-known sister Dakota.
Though disappointingly predictable in its finale Super 8 will likely satisfy the optimistic viewer, leaving the more cynical among us feeling a tad cheated by what could have been a far less cheesy ending. This being said the closing scenes are not altogether out of place in a film whose underlying themes focus largely on family, moving on and letting go. Most certainly worth watching, particularly for the film’s humorous, closing credits where we see the final cut of the kids’ zombie film.