There was always an aura to Steven Spielberg’s earliest film work; a magical storytelling tone above all else that made films like E.T. and Jaws true cultural icons. Decades removed, J.J.Abrams, a new scholar in the Spielberg filmmaking cannon, does the very best ode to Spielberg in a film not so ironically produced by the man himself. Super 8 is a film borne of the many traits that became the Spielberg palette. It is a wonderful sequence of ideas that has elements of The Goonies, E.T. and yes, Cloverfield as it’s backdrops, juxtaposed together in a colorful weave of 70s nostalgia and the very tool in which a young Spielberg honed his craft; the 8mm film camera.
A group of 12-year-olds, led by Joel Courtney’s Joe Lamb and Riley Griffith’s Charles (a rambunctious filmmaker that is positively a tip to Spielberg’s imagination-laced youth), aspire to film their little 8mm zombie flick before an unexpected military train derails in their fictitious small town of Lillian, Ohio (an in action sequence fitting for one of the best in a very long time). From here, we discover that this Goonies-esque troupe is every bit as resourceful while their town becomes ground zero for unexplained alien-like activities. They band together with childlike wonderment and humor, buoyed by first loves and hopefulness to reach a befitting, heartfelt finality. Elle Fanning is just enough as the film’s primary ingénue and propels much of the young cast’s motivation. Abrams has been very good at divulging to the audience the film in slow trickles- and while the action is loud and eventful, the crux of the story is revealed with a sieve fine enough that it all unfolds with timely gravitas.
This is what is essential to Super 8; because it is not just a monster film and it is not just about a group of teenagers on an adventure of a lifetime, it is all of the wonderment found in good filmmaking that became synonymous with Spielberg. A great deal of Hollywood is as subtle as a hammer to the skull, while arthouse is far too consumed in its self-importance. While it isn’t perfect, Super 8 is simple storytelling made with a seemingly long-gone nuance, like a moonlit bike ride over the forest.
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: J.J. Abrams
Produced by: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney