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Review: Super 8

Posted November 17, 2011 by Max in Review

Nostalgia is strong with this one. From J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg comes a new Science-Fiction film that has just enough of its own material to overcome being just an homage. Super 8 tells the story of a group of young kids trying to create a horror film for a film festival, only to discover they are in a horror movie of their own.

Super 8 begins with a tragedy. In the small town of Lillian, young Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), has lost his mother due to an accident. Joe had learned to depend on his mother because his father, Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler), is the town deputy and lives for his work. Jackson doesn’t know how to handle his new-found responsibility of raising his son and feels remorse for his wife’s death months afterwards.

Joe is more interested in the supernatural and making movies than playing baseball. With his childhood friend, Charles (Riley Griffiths), he wants to make a great Super 8 horror film for a film festival. They have their crew in place, but Charles wants to add a romance to the picture to give it more gravity. They enlist the help of the pretty blonde, Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), to fill-out the role.

While shooting one of their scenes, a train starts approaching to the set. Screaming, “production value!”, the group of kids set-up the shot just in time. Everything seems to be going great until Joe notices a truck barreling towards the track. What was supposed to be a fun student movie has become a disaster as the kids must survive the fury of the derailed train and the consequences involved.

To say too much more would ruin the surprise of Super 8. Borrowing heavily from The Goonies and E.T., the stars of the film are certainly the kids. Films don’t usually carry this much nostalgia, but you’ll be able to notice many instances where J.J Abrams has borrowed from great Spielberg films. Unfortunately, Abrams doesn’t know where to draw the line in regards to violence or lens flare.  Kids in the 80’s grew up with the characters in the afore-mentioned films and I don’t feel there’s the same connection with these kids or the material. The amount of jump-outs and gore in the film definitely makes the film more for adults then when the originals were used to inspire the minds of children. Then there’s the lens flare. Abrams isn’t the first one to use flare in films, but he has adopted it as his calling card. Scenes with seemingly no action going on, have streaks of blue across the screen. Distracting and unnecessary, Abrams needs to tone it down on the flare.

Super 8 is set in the late 70’s like the films it’s trying to ape. It brings the audience back to a certain kind of film making with an appropriate soundtrack and place. Without that time period, Super wouldn’t be nearly as successful.

I think Super 8 will be able to carve out its own place in history. Elle Fanning is able to hold her own on the screen and her scenes with Joel Courtney are the glue that holds the film together. With some strong child acting and its heart in the right place, Super 8 does offer the requisite warmth a successful summer blockbuster needs.


Super 8
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Starring Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, and Kyle Chandler

About the Author


Chief Editor of Impassionedcinema. A film enthusiast who studies and creates his own films. Criticizing movies is his favorite pass-time.