Although Spielberg has the slightly less sexy credit title of Producer, his pervading influence makes it a Spielberg film in all but name. JJ Abrams takes writing and directing duties in this, his sci-fi homage to the great man.
The year is 1979 and a bunch of kids are making a zombie movie in their small town, in the titular Super 8 format. One of them is Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) who recently lost his mother in an accident at the local mill. One night when shooting a scene, they witness a spectacular train crash which triggers a dramatic chain of events. Synopsis-wise I don’t want to say much more.
I was completely bowled over by the human story. It is beautifully told. The film has heart and soul, and is embedded with old-fashioned movie magic – it gives me faith in the future of the blockbuster. Story and characterisation is clearly, as always, at the forefront of Abrams’ mind, not the wow factor or the ‘splosions. There are, of course, some pretty big ‘splosions but none of them would mean anything without the all-important human element. Star Trek was this reviewer’s favourite film of 2009. Am also a big fan of the job he did on ‘Mish’ 3. With Super 8 being JJ Abrams’ third directed feature it’s a hell of a track record.
As well as being a love letter to Spielberg it’s also a love letter to shooting films. These fictional youngsters are Spielbergs and Abrams in the making – dedicated fans of the medium who would do almost anything to get their movie made. They are also completely charming, and not in the slightest bit annoying (as so many screaming children in monster movies are). Newcomers Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths hold their own against young veterans of film and TV such as Elle Fanning and Ryan Lee.
Abrams has a knack for humour and manages to make it not feel tagged on. He actually pushes the action forward with very funny material. He is simply a damn fine writer who has honed his skills for years, segueing smoothly back and forth from TV to features. This brings to mind Columbo and a little known talent who once directed an episode back in ’71: one Steven Spielberg.