Rated: PG-13 Reviewed by: Frank Release date: June 10, 2011 Released by: Paramount Pictures Corporation
Super 8 is a TEN.
Super 8 begins with a group of young boys and one girl out to make a zombie film using their armature family moving picture camera. The girl, Alice (Elle Fanning) is a couple of years older and she can drive her father's car but is not old enough to get a license. In fact Charles (Riley Griffiths) the leader of the group and the director of the film has the film planned so he can get closer to Alice. That first brush with the opposite sex is the first theme of Super 8, the other part of the film is far bigger and noisier it's science fiction. The hint in promotional materials speaks to 1979 as a reference period, but if one views the 1953 It Came From Outer Space, with Richard Carlson and Barbara Rush the science fiction will be revealed.
As the kids are filming late at night at a local railroad station, Charles insists the filming be carried on as the oncoming train passes the station, a few minutes later a truck is spotted by Joe (Joel Courtney) that races into a collision with the speeding military train causing the best special effects scene in the film. Far more than just derailing, cars explode and move in unusual ways for an extended period of time and the kid's camera films the action from the ground where it fell when the crash began. After a long scene of destruction the kids discover their science teacher (Glynn Turman) is the driver of the truck. He warns them not to speak about what they have seen.
Joe and Alice are drawn together, each has no mother at home and Alice's father had some connection to the death of Joe's mom. Joe's father (Kyle Chandler) is the deputy sheriff who quickly takes over the department when the sheriff disappears in a smashing incident at a gas station where the attendant also is seen dragged away by his feet. We do not see what pulled him away.
The army arrives very quickly and herds the people of the town, and denies it is hiding what is obviously something serious. Many small devices are part of the train cargo, one ends up in Joe's bed room and we learn they have energy and obviously are connected to whatever is loose in the small town.
The kids at times remind us of The Goonies and Joe is somewhat like Eliot in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, they both have a crush on a little blond girl. As the makeup man for the film Joe has some quality time with Alice as she is prepared to look like a zombie for the filming. Cary (Ryan Lee) is the pyrotechnic specialist for the film and comes in handy at the climactic scene. He looks like a young Jackie Earl Haley (Academy Award nominee for Little Children).
J.J. Abrams directs creatively with hints from producer Steven Spielberg work. He uses light flashing and riming as an outline to dramatically highlight hints of the solution to the mystery. The mystery holds throughout as the kids work to learn what is happening, despite parents and the military getting in the way. The film holds on to them and us and it won't let go until the solution is clear.
Super 8 is a wonderfully satisfying summer movie it feels like the old drive in films, but the effects, color and technical work make it even more real when it brings us back to the black and white fifties, which we imagine to be far better than they were.