Super 8 (2011) – J.J. Abrams

 

Spielberg takes on the Executive Producer role in J.J. Abrams 80s-filled nostalgia thrill ride which is the next stop on the journey through the Sci-Fi Chronicles book.

Having Stranger Things to compare it to isn’t necessarily fair, they get to tell their story over a season, Abrams and company only had a two hour window.

When it first came out, this one resonated perfectly with me, and was one of my favorite films the year it came out. And for me, it is still a lot of fun. I see myself in these kids as much as I see myself in the kids of Stranger Things – I wanted to be the kids in Super 8, making movies, but I was more the kid in Stranger Things, riding my bike around, playing the occasional game of D&D and wondering about girls.

Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is mourning the loss of his mother, and can’t connect to his father, the town’s deputy (Kyle Chandler). He has a crush on Alice (Elle Fanning), who has agreed to help out on the zombie film he and his friends, including aspiring director Charles (Riley Griffiths) is working on.

On the eve of a location shoot, to up their production value, a train crash lets something loose on the town, something impossible, something unbelievable, something extra-terrestrial, and something I’ve always wanted to happen in my own youth.

A coming of age tale, set against the time when I was beginning my own rites of passage, it’s a fun, slick film, that embraces the films I loved growing up, letting me take a walk down memory lane, while mixing it with something bigger, and life altering.

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Yes, there are lens flares, yes there are homages, and yes, I really enjoy this film.

There are emotional moments, tense moments, and there is so much humor in this story, and the kids… I so related to them. I could hear things I’d said when I was there age (and probably still do), the wonder and excitement of something amazing happening in your own backyard.

There are nods to Close Encounters, E.T., Jurassic Park. Not only is the film a love letter to Spielberg’s films, but it’s a love letter to the filmmaker’s youth, my youth, and I love how it’s put together.

Fanning is fantastic, and Chandler seems to be able to make a career of playing likable, if flawed fathers, and watching the relationship between his character of Jackson and Courtney’s Joe is one I can relate to, as they both want to connect to one another, but loss keeps them separate, until they are brought together at the end of the film, and their singular griefs become something new.

I know some people have issues with Abrams, but I’ve always liked him, and enjoy his work. His films may not always work, but they all embrace the universes they create, and Super 8 is right there leading the way.

It was fun to watch this one again. I wish Spielberg and Abrams would do more together…

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