Chock full of audacious 80's references, historical inaccuracies, and kids playing grown ups, on first view you would think Super 8 had the aesthetics of the 2012 presidential primaries. Quite the contrary, summing up more substance than we've seen in this vapid political season, the thrilling throwback of film that is Super 8 kicks off the summer movie season with earnest. If the early trailers were any indication, Super 8 is more than meets the eye.
This past weekend director JJ Abrams paid homage to producer Steven Speilberg with his action-adventure Super 8. Set in 1979 in a rural small town, Super 8 is the story of a young group of kids filming a zombie flick during their summer vacation. In the midst of filming the main protagonist and breakout star Joel Courtney plays a young boy who has just lost his mother in a tragic mill accident. The duration of the film is spent following Joe as he learns to cope with life anew as well as discover the truth of a mysterious train crash. Along the way we are introduced to a myriad of characters including Joe's dad, a police deputy that finds that without his wife he and his son are strangers living under one roof, Joe's first love played by a remarkable Elle Fanning, alongside Joe's school buddies. Honestly, the monster is a tertiary character that takes a back seat as director Abrams chooses character development over monster thrills.
Super 8 succeeds by leaps and bounds not because it's purely original -- it surely is not. Rather, in a summer that has little more to offer than big budget comic flicks, Super 8 takes audiences back to summers of old with poignant story telling, laughs, and thrills at every corner.
Super 8 is a stirring film about the ties that bind us. Young Joe copes with loss all while trying to build character at a crossroads in his life. We have all been met with some failure or another, one might hope that we fail forward and grow from our experiences. Young Joe teaches us just that. Wrought with critical acclaim, its looking like a Super 8 summer.