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Super 8 - DVD Review

Super 8

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

JJ ABRAMS’ Super 8 is a loving homage to the early films of Steven Spielberg that deserves to become recognised in the same breath as some of those movies.

A coming-of-age sci-fi action adventure, the film contains nods to Spielberg classics from Jaws to ET via Close Encounters and The Goonies (which he co-penned).

It thrives on the chemistry of its young and hugely endearing cast, it boasts a suitably mysterious and little-seen creature and some jaw-dropping special effects.

But while undoubtedly marketed on the mystery surrounding the monster, this is first and foremost a coming-of-age journey that recalls many of the themes that Spielberg (who produces) used to hold dear.

And watching it offers a wonderful nostalgia trip to a time when movies weren’t all about superheroes and CGI backdrops, when the innocence and camaraderie of youth won through and when imaginations were captured by virtue of strong writing and relatable characters.

Set in an Ohio steel town during the summer of ’79, the film unfolds largely from the viewpoint of 14-year-old film nut Joe (Joel Courtney) as he tries to cope with the recent death of his mother, an emotionally detached dad (Kyle Chandler) and the ‘demands’ of making a Super 8 zombie flick with his friends (including wannabe director Charles, played by Riley Griffiths).

Thrown into this already heady mix are the first tentative steps towards romance (with Elle Fanning’s talented leading lady) and a rail accident that may have released a mysterious creature into their midst.

Abrams has fun playing with all of these elements in a deeply Spielberg fashion, injecting humour, excitement and tension into proceedings while maintaining the film’s momentum.

The interplay between the kids is especially good, recalling the teen-focused action adventures of old (from Goonies to Lost Boys) with some neat little pop culture and ‘80s referencing nods thrown in.

Courtney provides an utterly endearing central hero who is, by turns, awkward and innocent as well as brave and inquisitive, and Fanning is utterly charming as the object of his desire. The remaining friends also make a good impression, as does Chandler as Joe’s over-earnest dad (strong, silent but obviously hurting inside) and Ron Eldard as Fanning’s similarly suffering dad.

The action, meanwhile, is not overdone but suitably spectacular – beginning with a stunning train crash that recalls The Fugitive. The fleeting glimpses of the creature, meanwhile, raise the tension and chill factor much in the same was as Spielberg did with Jaws.

If the actual reveal of the beast itself proves disappointing due to its brevity, Abrams has still done more than enough to overcome this potential obstacle, even capping things off with a hilarious mini-film of the kids’ zombie flick that unfolds during the final credits.

Some critics have lambasted Abrams for borrowing from Spielberg too heavily and not injecting enough ingenuity of his own. But this is a fun joyride of a movie that pays clever homage to the way blockbusters used to be and which capably reminds viewers of every age why Spielberg’s early work, in particular, continues to stand the test of time.

Watch the trailer:

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 111mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: December 12, 2011