Super 8

Super 8 is a wonderful movie. An intentional throwback to the carefree, lush 80's movies made by the likes of Richard Donner, Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg. Director J. J. Abrams - check out his 2009 Star Trek! - has a personal bond with Spielberg and playfully pays tribute to the beardy grandmaster (who serves as Super 8's producer).

To tell you too much about the plot would be to spoil the movie, but here's a very brief overview: a bunch of young kids are filming their own amateuristic movie during the summer of 1979 when then suddenly witness an event that will change their young lives forever.

Abrams is a smart guy. He's able to catapult us into 1979 with a few seemingly easy tricks. The soundtrack is filled with 1979 songs (Blondie's Heart of Glass, The Knack's My Sherona, ELO's Don't Bring Me Down ...), the Walkman is touted as a new hot gizmo and lest we forget : it takes no less than three days to develop a film! I wonder how today's kids, who grew up with the ease of digital photography, will react to that revelation.

Speaking of kids, the iron law in showbusiness ("never work with kids or animals") has proven negative, because Super 8 boasts one of the finest ensembles of young actors I have ever seen. The casting is always right on the money, even if all the stereotypes are present (the nerdy one, the sensitive one, the fat one etc.). These guys are simply phenomenal, with special mention to Elle Fanning. During the credits, we finally get to see the finished super 8 film the gang was filming all this time and it's hilarious to see all these fine actors overacting (which they never did during the main feature). It's quite a special case of meta-acting.

All Super 8 reviews so far have pointed out similarities to Spielberg fare like E.T. and The Goonies. While Super 8 is very original in both approach and execution, I too have to point out the blatant Goonie-references (which I'm sure were all intentional). In one shot, the kids are looking at a map - just like said 80's treasure hunters. And when the Super Eighters try to escape through a narrow hole, you can't help but see Mikey Walsh and company wiggling their way through the tunnel under the Fratelli basement.

Super 8 was made for the relatively small sum of $50 million (still, you can produce 15 Belgian movies with that budget) and turned a massive profit so far. I'm glad a lot of people believed in J.J.'s nostalgic adventure. As the best movie of 2011 so far, you can't afford to miss it. Super 8 is, for lack of a better pun, super and deserves at least an 8 on the scale from 1 to 10. Well done, Mr. Abrams!

Julian De Backer, 28 August 2011