As most everyone knows here, I'm a J.J. Abrams fanboy. Lost, Fringe and Star Trek have all been highlights of the past decade of entertainment. I have yet to see Alias but will probably catch up on DVD at some point. Basically, most everything this guy touches turns to gold. When I found out last year that Abrams was teaming up with another lifelong legend in Steven Spielberg to film an original sci-fi small-town adventure, I was instantly sold before any piece of action was shot. After a very enjoyable and personally lucrative golf weekend in Myrtle Beach, I finally got a chance to see Super 8 this afternoon.
I don't want to reveal too much of the plot of Super 8. Going in without knowing much of anything is usually a good idea in any J.J. Abrams creation. In short, the movie focuses on a group of 6 young teenagers in a small town in 1979 that get together to film a zombie movie using a Super 8mm camera. During the filming of their movie, a train is derailed coincidentally while they are shooting a scene. The wreckage is massive (featuring one of the most intense pieces of summer movie action you'll see this year) and as a result, a secret military entity is accidentally unleashed on the town. The rest of the movie showcases the kids' attempts to find one of their own who goes missing midway through the film.
Abrams gets some great performances out of his child actors including Elle Fanning who seems capable of giving older sister Dakota a run for her money. Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights - Clear eyes, full heart!) plays the town sheriff and father of the lead boy (unknown and very talented Joel Courtney). The ensemble cast plays off each other perfectly and as a result we get a lot more humor than I expected throughout the film. The plot rarely gets stagnant and builds towards an odd-but-climactic conclusion. Make sure you stay during the credits sequence at the end of the movie for a bonus look at the actual movie that the kids are shooting on-screen during the film.
Super 8 plays like a mish-mash of some of my favorite movies. It has eerily similar elements to Goonies (kids banding together to take on an enemy), ET (a foreign being that makes a connection with a young boy) and Cloverfield (realistic disaster epic that showcases an unknown enemy). While Abrams borrows a few concepts from these other films, he never copies them and gives us an original entertaining movie that THANKFULLY is not presented in 3D. The summer movie landscape needs more of these slices of originality and less multi-dimensional retreads (upcoming Transformers 3 for example).
This movie was probably my favorite of 2011 thus far. The only major issue I had was the absurdity and convenience of the ending. But it's such a small distraction that it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of this retro classic. 4.5 JRs for Super 8 and another solid offering from one of the most creative minds in Hollywood today. Next up for J.J. will be the prison drama Alcatraz that debuts in the Fall.
NOTE: For those of you who know my friend Chris Buckstein, the character of Charles is TOTALLY what Chris was like as a kid. An enjoyable nostalgic bonus for me.