Super 8 is a love letter to Steven Spielberg from J.J. Abrams. It is made with a keen eye to replicate Spielberg’s visuals from his early days. The film pays a lot of homage to Spielberg and that is one of this films greatest weaknesses. Abrams might love Spielberg’s earlier works and he might even want to pay homage to that collection of work. But, Super 8 feels like he has tried too hard to do so.
Super 8 follows a group of kids (yes, they ride bikes) who are making a film for a film festival – and yes, it is shot on Super 8 film. One night while working on their film at a train station, a spectacular train wreck happens – this crash is the highlight of the film, it is amazing. After the train wreck things are amiss in the small town that they live in. The Air Force arrives and a cover up begins.
There is a storyline in the film that follows the main character Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and him dealing with the death of his mother. This eventually ties in with another character and their father. This storyline is the one used by Abrams (who wrote this film) for the emotional punch. The storyline about the train wreck, Air Force and the strange creature is for the action.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of this film which was filmmaking from an age gone by. It was slower, less reliant on action and was engaging. The kids that make up the group are all fantastic. Elle Fanning is especially good in the film.
The second half of the film is not as good. As much as the first half tries to distance itself from the tentpole summer film action, the second half of the film dives head first into this sort of loud bombastic action. The film feels disjoint because of this change.
Worth mentioning is Michael Giacchino’s score for the film which helps Abrams pull at the emotions of the audience. Giacchino scores are usually very good, this one is great. He does a great job paying homage to John Williams without being overbearing about it.
So, in the end what is Super 8? It is Spielberg’s ET, but more violent. It is still a film to be seen because it is entertaining. By the end of the film the wonder and awe that is generated in the first part of the film is completely lost because of the action heavy second half of the film.