There was a time, it now seems such a long time ago, when you were amazed, emotionally drawn into and elated by a blockbuster. Usually it was made by Steven Spielberg. Well now comes Super 8, a new blockbuster that brings back those feelings and, surprise, surprise, it’s executive producer is none other than, Steven Spielberg, although this is more than just a cracking blockbuster, this is a love poem to Spielberg.
It’s 1979 in a small town in Ohio. Joe Lamb is a young boy who recently lost his mother in a factory accident and he now lives with his father, a deputy in the town’s police force. Not getting the love from his father that he needs, Joe makes models and helps his friend Charlie with making a zombie movie, using a super 8 camera, along with Joe’s other friends and a young girl called Alice, who Joe has a thing for. While filming one night, they witness a train crash that turns out not to be an accident and from that moment on, strange things start to happen in town; people and objects disappearing while the army arrive and then the mystery thickens. What Joe doesn’t realise that they filmed the whole thing, including the strange object lurking in the train.
If you can think of every big Spielberg movie from the 70s and 80s, they are all here. Writer/director J.J. Abrams obviously loved his films growing up and so has decided not only to work with the great man but to show how much his films have influenced him. There the mysterious tension of Jaws; shades of Close Encounters; ET is definitely present and correct and The Goonies (which Spielberg only produced) is a huge part of this film, right down to Chunk’s yellow coat. There’s even the chaos of 1941!
As a film, it’s obviously not the most original thing around and yet it still has plenty to surprise and amaze. The special effects are very good and you do find yourself jumping all over the place. What really grabbed my was for the 2 hour running time I felt that I was transported from the 21st Century back to how I felt the first time I saw ET. A sense of wonderment building in me. The nail-biting suspense that Jaws brought to the screen was here (especially in the brilliantly stage gas station scene) and as for the train crash (which is again a nod to Spielberg, as one of his favourite scenes was the train crash in The Greatest Show on Earth).
The performances from the young cast are also very good. Joel Courtney (making his screen début) is never annoying as Joe, and manages to keep it real throughout. Elle Fanning (younger sister of Dakota and a screen veteran…she made her début aged two in I Am Sam) is the star of the film, a mature, commanding performance for one so young. The rest of teh cast work well and having no big names also helps make it more believable.
This is a film that, if you love cinema, you will get loads out of trying to pick up the references. If you are hoping to catch a decent blockbuster this summer, this delivers in heaps. It deals with so many subject matters: friendship, grief, young love, loneliness…it’s all here. It also is the most fun I have had in a cinema for a film like this since…well the 80s. If you remember those happy days, then go and relive them with glee. If you can’t, then go to the best blockbuster this summer and see how they really should be made.