For those of us who grew up in the 80s, our childhoods were filled with magical memories of classic sci-fi filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. I will never forget the way that E.T. captured my imagination and filled with me such wonder. As I grew up, I found new heroes. J.J. Abrams has become one of the pinnacles of modern sci-fi storytelling. I have been following his career since Felicity and I’ve been a devoted fan of Alias, LOST and Star Trek.
When I first heard about a collaboration between Spielberg and Abrams, I was instantly energized by the possibilities of these two supreme storytellers working together. Details about Super 8 were slow to emerge and the advertising campaign was a throwback to earlier days before every little plot detail is revealed before the film’s release. While the earliest look seemed to show us an alien thriller, later ones began to display an emotional look at an earlier time. I was unsure of the tone and plot when I walked into Super 8 last weekend and I applaud the filmmakers and studio for it. As much as we love to geek out over sneak peeks and plot leaks, I found myself excited by a movie simply because of the mystery and love of the creative team behind it.
I will not spoil any details here so that you can all have the same experience that I did. Let me just share a few general thoughts. Very few filmmakers today can show us the beauty, joy and innocence of childhood on screen. Joel Courtney, in his first role, is such a natural presence on screen as Joe Lamb and we learn so much about him from quiet moments and his interactions with his father and friends. He has been through tough times, but he is still a young man discovering the world with curiosity and wonder. The interactions with his ragtag group of friends are hilarious and realistic. The story is ultimately about the children, so we only catch glimpses of the pain experienced by the adults in the film. They are simple men and women living in a small town and dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
While the entire movie felt like a throwback to the late 70s/early 80s, there was nothing retro about the special effects. The train crash scene was one of the most intense action sequences I have seen in a long time. The entire film was more thrilling that I had anticipated and I found myself gripping my armrests often.
Fans of classic sci-fi will find so much to love in this film. There are subtle homages to ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, LOST and much more. Super 8 is in many ways an intimate story and I hope you will all appreciate the exquisite storytelling of Spielberg and Abrams. It harkens back to an earlier time, but it feels completely fresh. This is my favorite summer film so far and I cannot wait to see more from this team.