“Bad things happen… but you can still live”
We know from the trailers how Spielberg and the 80’s films he produced is what has prompted this creative project. JJ Abrams, director of Star Trek and Lost, had the idea of combining a Sci-Fi story he has had for many years with his childhood joy of filmmaking with a Super-8 Camera. Can he pull the modern audience back to the eighties to reclaim our love for Spielberg’s films? Because, lets be honest, the last time Spielberg went retro by taking us back with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull … I think we can agree that it wasn’t that successful.
Super 8 tells the story a group of kids who, as they attempt to create a zombie-film on a super-8 camera, find themselves to be witnesses to a huge train crash. Much-like E.T., our lead character Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is in a single-parent family with a personal ‘hole’ to fill when this crash happens … and due to this train-crash, there is an unknown creature on the prowl…
In the first instance, the film rests on the performance of the kids and the child actors in this film are truly incredible. Riley Griffiths plays the film-obsessed friend of Joe and he is half-Home-Alone’s-Kevin-Mcallister, with his huge family and red-decor kitchen and half Goonies-Chunk, with his oafish prescence and chatty-demeanour. The range of other actors, including Dakota’s sister Elle Fanning, are equally strong forcing you to buy into this story and the world they inhabit. It’s a small community they live in and if you could not buy into it, the film would fall flat. It doesn’t – these are exceptional child-actors and the future looks bright for them.
Inspired by the Best
Abrams direction is equally strong. The whole film is clearly his own – though paying homage to many sequences by Spielberg it never feels like a parody or obsession. You would never see the enourmous train-crash sequence in an 80’s film. The crash is truly sublime – huge pieces of train and metal exploding on every part of the screen and smashing into the ground is, on the one hand a great set-up, but something that is pure Abrams. Like Lost and Mission Impossible 3, he gets us hooked at the beginning with huge special effects and a what-the-hell-has-happened question ensuring you are sat in your seat for the duration of the film. The Spielberg influence remains consistent and the huge budget of Super 8 is clear from the outset – compared with Gareth Edwards Monsters from earlier this year. Whilst Edwards played with a very low-budget take on the same genre, both Abrams and Edwards owe a huge debt to Jurassic Park, as both films have van-attack sequences that vividly recall the same sequence in Jurassic Park – and they both hold back for as long as possible in showing us the big creature itself.
The New Generation
The film raises questions about cinema today. Whilst the theme of ‘the acceptance of death’ fits neatly alongside Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two and Toy Story 3, the film harks back to a time whereby the sense of community, family and friendship appeared much closer and creative. Despite the range of different ways that films can be made and produced, it seems strange to neccessarily pre-date this film in the context of the eighties. Is that the only thing it has going for it? Cloverfield, I imagine, is your modern take on the same theme – is it not? Monster-films truly seem to be ‘in’ at the moment with the likes of Monsters, Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles so is this eighties connection and childhood wonder the ‘unique take’ on the same story? I thoroughly enjoyed the film, but I wonder if part of the problem of setting the film in the modern day is because you don’t find groups of young children creating films in their back yard, instead they shoot down aliens on PS3 and chat via Skype. The fact that we now look at the world in Super 8 with a warm fuzzy feeling, in wonder, as if we can relate to that generation may say more about our wish to go back to the past – and therefore raises our concerns about the children of today.