Monday, June 20, 2011

Super 8

Super 8 is writer/director JJ Abrams first stab at a nonfranchise film and was produced by Steven Spielberg. It takes place in a small Ohio town in 1979, and seems to be inspired by Abrams memories of childhood and surely several of Spielberg's own films from that period including E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. From the moment the picture opens with the Amblin production credits, Super 8 is a mostly magical recreation of those beloved films. We meet Joe, a young boy who has just lost his mother in factory accident. His father and police deputy wants him to attend a baseball for the summer, but Joe wishes to spend his time with his friends who are engaged in making a zombie picture for the amateur short film festival. While filming near the railroad one night, a truck drives onto the tracks and slams into an approaching car, causing a major derailment in an exciting wonderfully filmed scene. Now as the children begin to incorporate the new footage and unexpected ongoings into their film and Joe develops a crush on a girl he has been forbidden to see, strange and even supernatural events begin to throw their small little town into an upheaval. Super 8 works best when it focuses on the children and their moviemaking efforts. I especially liked the work of Riley Griffiths as the domineering director and Elle Fanning as the sweet young girl who catches Joe's fancy. Super does not as well when it brings in undeveloped adult story lines and when the supernatural elements of the story come into full focus. Still Super 8 is entertaining Spielbergian fare throughout and maintains an innocence and even brilliance when focusing on its young filmmakers in the making.