The film takes place in the summer of 1979 where a group of pre-teen pals are making their own zombie film. Joe Lamb (newcomer Joel Courtney) the protagonist, who apart from being the make-up artist of the film within a film, is spending his first summer without his late Mother. In some very emotional and heated confrontations, it is apparent that Joe’s relationship with his father, the town’s deputy (Kyle Chandler), is strained. Meanwhile Joe’s only sense of belonging and happiness is making train models and helping to make the film.
Joe is the sweeter character out of his simply written, but fitting, group of friends made up of Charles the director, Cary the firework enthusiast, Martin the worry wart and Preston the goody. One night, the group of boys meet with their helpful school acquaintance, Alice Dainard their reluctant female actor, to shoot a scene at the local, abandoned, train station. Everything goes according to plan until a passing train, that appears to be production value for Charles, collides with a car and causes a horrific train wreck which the kids go on to find out wasn’t an accident.
Like The Goonies, Stand by Me and other adolescent group films, the star of Super 8 is the collective of talented and energetic young actors who complete the film’s allure with their warming, eccentric and humble characteristics. Throughout the film they share many pre teen jokes about people being fat or too small as well as sharing their first run in with the military. In interviews, the boys revealed Abrams allowed them to create their own improvisation, or rather banter, in scenes which bring an inviting atmosphere for viewers.Unlike ET and the Goonies, there is a touch of romance in Super 8 between Courtney and Elle
Fanning who is absolutely delightful as Alice. Fanning aids Courtney with her previous experience in incredible roles to bring a very touching add on to the plot in a subtle love story.
Super 8 is surrounded by nostalgia feeling twenty or even thirty years past it’s time. But with the masses of SFX, Super 8 provides some stunning visuals teamed with extravagant surround sounds that cinema could have only dreamt of in the 80s. In quite possibly the most unimaginable but vastly epic and roaring loud train crash a film has ever seen, Abrams has left a mark on cinema in special effects.
Even though the exhilarating train crash stands out, it’s after the incident where the film begins to pick up pace and resemble that of a Spielberg 80s adventure. With mysteries and loops in the plot, the kids grow curious upon the recent intrusion from the military, finding it hard to believe they have arrived after the train crash out of coincidence. After dogs begin to run away, engines are stolen and people go missing, Joe is determined to save his town whether his father listens to him or not.
Swimming in a pool of charm, the children are responsible for half of Super 8’s enjoyment whilst the rest is down to the tribute it plays to ET, the Goonies and so on. Towards the end, family feuds and other events are glossed over very quickly and the ‘creature’ feels disappointing, but the film ends how it progresses- charming and sweet. Super 8 isn’t the monster movie everyone expected, instead it’s a simple story of friendship, family and growing older over a backdrop of disaster, train crashes and many Abrams’ lens flares.