In a summer full of high profile sequels and big budget comic book adaptations to film, J.J. Abrams Super 8 runs the risk of becoming lost in the shuffle. It has no stars and no established brand. Like the Abrams-produced Cloverfield before it, Super 8 thus far is a super mystery.
If J.J. Abrams had his way then anything other than the vague plot of a government train crashing and an alien of some sort escaping into a small town would be all we’d learn about his project. He wants to keep Super 8 as mysterious as possible like the sci-fi tinged films he grew up watching including Close Encounters of the Third King, Stand by Me, Cocoon (whose score was used for the Super 8 Super Bowl commercial) and many others.
That sense of mystery is brimming with anticipation in the first Super 8 footage released to the public via the film’s Super Bowl commercial. The collage of scenes offer little explanation beyond the vague plot line and sense that something horrific lurks just off-camera. Adding to the mystery is the spot’s lone line of dialogue, “Do not speak of this. If you do, they will find you.”
Up until last week, Abrams had not discussed Super 8 with a single sole beyond those working on the project with him which includes producer Steven Spielberg. Knowing he must give up “something” in order to combat transforming robots, mutants, boy wizards, gods and avengers at the box office, he finally opened up to Jeff Boucher at the L.A. Times about what inspired his film and what he hopes to accomplish with it.
Abrams describes Super 8 as his favorite type of movie; one that falls not into a single genre but many. It could be labeled a sci-fi flick, a love story, a comedy or a special effects bonanza and all would be correct. The same could be said of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., Spielberg’s classic films that the Super 8 trailer evokes the strongest link to.
The term Super 8 refers to the Eastman Kodak film format that amateur filmmakers in the 1960s and 1970s put to extensive use, including Abrams and Spielberg. The young stars of Super 8 are using the camera of the same name to shoot their own zombie movie in Ohio during 1979. During a nighttime shoot, they witness a horrific train crash and something terrible that arises from the wreckage.
This young cast carrying the weight of a movie on their shoulders is a big reason why some are already comparing Super 8 to Goonies. But the story’s emotional core revolves around a boy who lost his mother and a deputy father who lost his wife. Given the deputy has had to work so hard at his job, he has never been around to be a parent. Now he’s suddenly the only parent and must step up and be there for his boy.
One familiar name in Super 8 is Elle Fanning, the 12-year old younger sister of Dakota Fanning. No stranger to acting, Elle brings experience to her young co-stars, two of which have never stepped foot on a movie set before. Abrams says he and the young actors were a nervous wreck the first couple days but then settled down shortly thereafter after becoming comfortable with one another.
Despite his young cast and lack of name recognition, Abrams is convinced he has a good movie on his hands with Super 8. Based on the Super Bowl spot which many – myself included – deemed the best movie spot to air during the big game, the closely guarded secrets of Super 8 should fare just fine against the big competition.
Read the full L.A. Times piece here, click any of the images in this article for a big 1080p high resolution version, or view the Super 8 Super Bowl spot here. Pay close attention to the last few screen grabs as there’s a possible Super 8 monster sighting in one of them.