When I see the name J.J. Abrams, the geek side of me cannot help but squeal with joy. Lost is one of the most iconic television series of all time, and the recent remake of Star Trek is as good as any of the originals. Super 8, since conception, felt like a sequel to Cloverfield. While not entirely true, it is a spiritual successor and has the feel of Cloverfield while fixing all the mistakes. Super 8 is our quintessential sci-fi children story, and it could not have been better made.
The story follows a group of children in 1979 as they try to make a monster movie. After a horrific train crash, a real life monster movie starts happening and it is up to the children to solve the mystery and save the day. The main boy, Joe (Joel Courtney) is a shy, but sweet master of special effects and makeup who has a crush on Alice, beautifully played by Elle Fanning. Joe’s father (Kyle Chandler) is the police deputy and after the Sheriff disappears, it is up to him to work against the Air Force to protect his small town.
While looking like a typical story on paper, Super 8 gives enough thrills and suspense to keep the audience captivated. Abrams takes aspects of Spielberg and stretches them even further, calling back to tones and feelings of Jaws, The Goonies, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The important thing is that Super 8 focuses on characters before the monster. Often times, in monster movies, you’re just waiting until the next kill. But when characters a deep and meaningful, it makes the whole experience come together.
Special effects aren’t only executed extremely well, but they are used in unique and interesting ways that hasn’t been seen much in movies. The train crash alone is enough to warrant a big special effect budget in looking beautiful, intense and terrifying all at the same time. The movie then goes on with the consistency and you’re never left laughing at an obviously fake green screen effect.
However, Abrams tries to not show you the monster for a very long time to draw out the mystery, and I felt that whole endeavor pointless. He shows up very little in the first place, and I think it would have been wonderful to see him in all his glory a little earlier than he ultimately appears.
J.J. Abrams knows how to create unique and entertaining sci-fi stories and Super 8 is one of his best yet. It not only thrills and entertains, but it makes kids awesome again; something that has not been done since Spielberg in The Goonies. It’s a summer movie everyone will enjoy, and the most fun you will have in a theater this year so far.