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- Director: J.J. Abrams
- Writers: J.J. Abrams
- Stars: Elle Fanning, Amanda Michalka and Kyle Chandler
- Release Date: June 2011
- Genre: Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
- Run Time: 112 min
Next Summer, It Arrives.
In 1979, in the fictional town of Lillian, Ohio, a preteen boy named Joe Lamb is trying to cope with the recent death of his mother, who was killed in a factory accident. Much to the frustration of his father, the town’s deputy sheriff, Joe copes by immersing himself in a project lead by his best friend, Charles. That project is a horror film, shot on a SUPER 8 camera, and Charles has enlisted the help of not only Joe, but the rest of his misfit friends, and has surprised everyone by talking Alice Dainard, the prettiest girl in school, into playing the hero’s wife. On the night of the first big shoot, the would be filmmaker witness a train crash. Pretty soon, the town of Lillian is swarmed by military men, who won’t tell anybody what is going on. Abrams and Spielberg may be the only two people in Hollywood who still know how to keep a secret, so I won’t spoil that by going into the plot too much further. But I will say that Super 8 lives up to every bit of hype and expectation surrounding it. This is a beautifully crafted, emotional, funny, scary, thrilling movie that enthralls an audience the ways Spielberg’s 80s classics did. And this is coming from someone who has been accused of "worshipping" Spielberg. Abrams has recreated the look and feel of vintage Spielberg expertly, down to the last detail. For a Spielberg fan, it’s an absolute joy to behold.
But Abrams somehow manages to do this without completely sacrificing his own unique voice as a filmmaker. It’s got the twists and turns of Lost, the personality of his Star Trek, and, like most Abrams projects, a leading lady who propels the whole thing. In this case, it’s young Elle Fanning, who, as Alice, projects such a genuine combination of childlike innocence and ahead of her years maturity, that you can’t take her eyes off of her whenever she’s on screen. The entire cast is terrific, especially Joel Courtney as Joe, and Riley Griffiths as Charles, but Fanning steals the movie. We become completely involved with these characters in a way we rarely do with adult Hollywood heroes. I found myself caring every bit as much about the budding romance between Alice and Joe as I did the more spectacular events of the film.
And it is spectacular. Abrams and Spielberg give us action/suspense scenes that evoke Spielberg’s classics Jaws, Jurassic Park, and E.T. They also come as close to the emotion of E.T. as any film of this type has done since then. Super 8 is the kind of film for which the cliché "You”ll laugh, you’ll cry" was invented. If you’re a child of the 80s and complain that they don’t make movies the way they did when you were a kid, well, Abrams and Spielberg have done exactly that.And Michael Giacchino further establishes himself as one of the best film composers to come along in years. His score soars with emotions and build suspense in the vein of (of course) John Williams.