starring Joel Courtney, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Riley Griffiths, Gabriel Basso, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard and Elle Fanning
written and directed by J.J. Abrams
This is a clever and funny movie. I thought it was a little too long, but there was a lot of confusing excitement in it - the kind of confusing excitement that teenage boys generate. The story revolves around the antics of a group of teenage boys. These Ohioans are making an 8 mm zombie film to enter in a local amateur film contest. Zombie films are very popular this year. During summer vacation they creep around their small, blue collar city of 12,000 at all hours of the day and night filming in various locations, and one night they accidentally film a train crash. It turns out to be a military train carrying a secret, extraterrestrial cargo. The creature escapes its containment, and the teens capture it on film.
But they don’t know they captured it on film for three days, because in those days - around 1980, when things were gnarly - no one could do overnight film developing. “I can rush it. It’ll take maybe three days.” I loved all the clever self-referential and period-specific jokes slipped into the script: the Walkman, which was brand new; Rubik’s Cube, Tab Cola. “Drugs are so bad!” “I’m in a war zone!” I looked closely and I think the price of gasoline was about 93¢ per U.S. gallon. And the soundtrack was great - music by The Knack, ELO, The Cars, Blondie, and references to Disco - exactly the kind of music I grew up with. Incidentally, in terms of period Super 8 is set about five or six years after The Virgin Suicides (1999), both contiguous with the time I was a teenager, so the pop music featured in both film is very meaningful to me. There’s also a lot of pubescent male humor written into it. My daughter enjoyed that. “Boys!” she ejaculated with an exasperated tone, but with a smile on her face.
The military is all over the town searching for their creature, and naturally telling the civilian townsfolk and local law enforcement nothing. The old “need to know” argument. Things start to fall apart as the alien runs around unrecovered. Formulaically, it’s the teens who solve the mystery and set the story back on a happy track. It reminded me a lot of Steven Spielberg’s E.T., the Extraterrestrial (1982). In E.T.the cute alien is helped by the single mother’s boy, Elliott (played by Henry Thomas). In Super 8 the monstrous alien is helped by the single father’s boy, Joe (played by Joel Courtney). This is a must-see. You’ll enjoy it.