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Review: Super 8

PUBLISHED: 17:08 05 August 2011

Super 8

Super 8

Archant

J.J. Abrams clouded Super 8's June release in the States with the same obsessive secrecy that he had employed so successfully for monster movie Cloverfield. Because we're getting the film almost two months later, all that's been lost.

This is a shame, though, to be honest I can’t think of many more films in less need of such a hush hush strategy.

The big secret is that it is a Spielberg movie of the type even he doesn’t make any more. It’s ET, The Goonies, Gremlims, Close Encounters, Poltergeist, Jurassic Park etc all rolled up to into one. You’ve seen it all before and you’ll be pleased as punched to get to see it all again.

Set in 1979, Abrams’ finely crafted tale is about a group of kids who, while making a home made zombie film on their Super 8 camera, (in the style of the young Spielberg) witness a train crash that allows a mysterious creature to escape from military captivity.

Super 8 pays homage to the 80s movies of Spielberg in a way that is almost creepily obsessive. (Does Spielberg

being the film’s producer is a little sad – like a D list celebrity trying to drum up some stalking.) Abrams’ uncanny mimicry gets everything spot on: the group of adolescent protagonists with distant or absent parents, the suburban setting, untrustworthy military, alien visitors, non precocious child actors and surprisingly intense scary scenes.

The lead female role is taken by Elle Fanning, of the irksome Fanning family of child performers (older sister Da-kota was in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds).

She is tremendous, though, and has one scene where she has to prove to an unexpectedly good actress which re-minded me of Naomi Watts’ similar scene in Mulholland Drive.

Sometimes it is hard to tell where the homage ends. Early on the screen is filled with lens flare, that wide blue light that stretches horizontally across the screen, and you wonder is that a reference to early Spielberg or Abrams him-self because it was something of a signature in his Star Trek film.

Super 8 is homage to one of the most distinctive filmmaker’s ever by one who seems to be almost anonymous.

Abrams is a consistently interesting producer/ director but, in movies at least, he has channelled himself through other people’s creations such as Mission Impossible, Star Trek and now Spielberg.

Of all the Spielberg productions, the one I thought of most during Super 8 was Back To The Future. The people in the audience view events from a Marty McFly perspective; we know what is going to happen in the next 30 years.

Which is why Super 8 is both one of the most enjoyable cinema experiences of the summer, but also one of the most depressing because it shows how much summer movies have lost their way.

SUPER 8 (12 A)

Director: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Kyle Chandler, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills and Gabriel Basso

Length: 112 mins

****

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