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  • Thursday, September 8, 2011
  • 8:00 PM–11:00 PM
  • Covenant Fine Arts Center
  • $1

Usually when people hear of J.J. Abrams, they think of the mysterious mind-bending Lost, or the thrilling spy drama Alias. But in Super 8, Abrams does something quite unusual: he told a simple Spielbergian tale of maturity with adventure and monsters, a familiar story with all the right but predictable turns. And yet he makes it so enjoyable.  Despite the lack of originality in the premise, there’s no mistake that Super 8 has a soul of its own, rather than being a mere copy of those films Abrams loves.

Super 8 comes alive through the children, a group of ragtag kids centering on Joe Lamb, who recently lost his mother in an industrial accident and finds his father drifting away. While on location at a train station filming for an upcoming festival, they witness a cataclysmic train crash and barely escape with their lives. But things get worse as they must flee from the crash before the military can discover them, and later struggle to keep their secret as appliances and people begin to disappear in their little town of Lillian, Ohio.  

Much of the film is seen through the experiences of the children, making them the children are the best part of this film. Their experiences are accessible for nostalgia filled adults who remember E.T. (among other films) and younger viewers who can identify with the protagonists. But it’s the kids’ filmmaking that really gives Super 8 a unique flair and an identity of its own from those films of the past.

Filmmaking itself, or more broadly storytelling, plays an important role throughout Super 8 (just look at the title.)  Through the children’s own filmmaking, J.J. Abrams touches upon how we construct stories and why they’re so significant to us; perhaps even why we go to the movies in the first place. With the ease the kids make a movie with the resources available to them in 1979, one can’t help but wonder if Abrams is hinting at something for today’s tech-savvy generation. (Hint: stick around after the credits.) And through the film’s own nostalgia for 80’s kids adventure films, future filmmakers may now know where to turn to in seeking more inspiration.

Among many 80’s films, a comparison in particular to E.T. is impossible to avoid when talking about Super 8; after all, the film is itself a homage to those classic 80s kids adventure movies, a craft perhaps perfected by Steven Spielberg (who produced the movie.) There is certainly a wave of nostalgia present to please adults who grew with those films, and for younger audiences, Super 8 is an introduction to those classic stories of adventure. But make no mistake, Abrams seeks to create a unique story worthy of comparison, rather than a mere replication.

Perhaps that is the marvel of Super 8; although it follows a clear maturity-through –adventure method of storytelling almost to the point of cliché, in an era of remakes and franchise films, it feels incredibly fresh in its simplicity.

- Jacqueline Ristola

September 2011
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