A Throwback’s Throwback
I’ll be completely honest and say that I never saw J.J. Abrams’ wonderful film, Super 8, until just a few days ago. It’s one of those films that slipped through the cracks for me. It was released in 2011, a year in which a large number of popular debut films and sequels such as Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, were released. I just simply missed it. I wish that I’d watched it earlier.
The film tells the story of a group of kids who uncover the truth about a train wreck that occurs in their hometown while they are shooting their own movie on Super 8 film. As the USAF takes control of the town and people and dogs go missing, the kids race to figure out what’s really going on and attempt to finish their film.
The film takes place at the end of the 1970’s and is extremely reminiscent of movies like The Goonies, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and even Gremlins. It features a ragtag team of kids who are all outsiders in their own way. The meek makeup artist of the group, Joe (Joel Courtney), is dealing with the loss of his mother and a father (Kyle Chandler) who remains distant even after the death of his wife. He’s also sweet on the film’s leading lady, Alice (Elle Fanning, in what many consider her breakout role), who has a few problems of her own with her father, Louis (the always underappreciated Ron Eldard) who in turn locks horns with Joe’s dad. Cary (Ryan Lee) is the group pyromaniac who wants to blow up everything. Martin (Gabriel Basso) is the star of the group’s film and tends to be very cautious. Preston (Zach Mills) both acts and does camera, light, and sound work. He’s probably best described as the “every man” of the group. Riley Griffiths portrays Charles, who directs and writes the group’s film and is constantly looking for “added atmosphere.”
The film moves at a tight, spooky pace. It’s full of jump scares and some delightful suspense. The film’s money shot comes early in the movie whenever the kids witness the massive train wreck that unleashes an unknown entity on their town. It also gives sharp-eyed film fans their first major Easter egg: Glynn Turman as Dr. Woodward. While Turman has been in dozens of films and television shows, most notably A Different World, Cooley High, and The Wire, people that grew up in the 80’s know him best for his small but significant role in Gremlins as Mr. Hanson, Billy’s old science teacher who has a nasty interaction with one of the creatures in the film.
The movie features a solid score from Michael Giacchino, excellent cinematography, and even J.J. Abrams’ signature lens flare. It’s a fun ride and if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend watching it as soon as possible, especially if you enjoy films like The Goonies and Stand By Me.
Also, after the film ends, stick around for the credits. There’s a little surprise in there that ends the movie on a fun note. It, along with the rest of the film, reminded me a lot of my life as a kid in the 80’s. I used to write stories that I hoped would one day become a film and even made a few attempts at a script over the years. Seeing how seriously these kids took their production, especially Charles, hooked me into this film. I identified with both him and Joe in this movie. If you grew up in the 80’s, I’m sure that you’ll identify with at least one of these kids as well.
Thanks for reading my post. As we continue to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic, expect more nostalgic post from me. I’m an essential employee, so my output probably won’t change much, but I’ll definitely try to post at least once a week.