There’s something about seeing that Amblin Entertainment logo come up right before a movie starts that lets you know exactly what kind of experience you’re in for. From the classics of the 80s such as ET and Goonies on through Harry and the Hendersons and even through the Men in Black series, Amblin has a track record of making quality films that just happen to be a great opportunity for parents and kids to watch a movie together and neither feel like they’ve been shortchanged. JJ Abrams has created a movie that fits very well into the Amblin universe while adding his own style and touch to keep the modern movie audience on its toes.
Set in the late 70s, which much of the Amblin audience was either born or grew up in, Super 8 is the story of a young man and his group of film maker friends who accidentally stumble into an amazing adventure when the train they are recording for their short film crashes and releases an unknown monster on the town they’ve grown up in. As mysterious incidents begin to take place all around the town the group must make some rather adult decisions that they hope will ultimately save the town from danger.
While the group of friends’ dynamic is very much in the same vein as Goonies or Stand By Me, this story never gets stale or bogged down. An excellent job of casting brings these characters to life. Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning shine when they are on screen together. Relationships are awkward at this age and that is portrayed wonderfully in the longing looks from Joel Courtney and the often uncomfortable silences between the two. They come from families with a tragic connection in the past and the well written scenes involving the situation let us know how deep that tragedy has damaged the two families. The other young actors of the group are also wonderful pieces that, when all on screen together, create a gang of friends that you truly believe are willing to do whatever it takes to keep each other safe.
Having these great characters to work with really allows Abrams to do something that he has at times failed at in some of his previous films, and that’s make us care about what happens to these kids. When the explosions get crazy, (and they do get crazy), or the creature is pursuing them, the previous character work done really pays off. You want to see them get out alive, you want to know whats going to happen next, and when the payoff hits, it was worth every minute you have invested.
As far as summer movies go we haven’t seen a movie like this in a long time. It has the heart and soul of early Spielberg mixed with the action and adventure of a modern day sci-fi epic and that is a potent combination. The action sequences are striking, at times leaving me gripping the seat as I waited to see what was gonna happen next. The mystery behind what’s on that train is riveting. From the moment I saw it on screen I couldn’t wait to experience the next twist in this adventure. I enjoyed every minute of this film and can’t wait to see it again with my family.
Yes Super 8 may be a nostalgic trip down memory lane meant to pull on your heartstrings and remind you of your childhood, but when it all comes down to it, Super 8 delivers story in droves and that’s what matters in the end.