1979, Lillian town, Ohio.
A bunch of kids is filming in Super 8 (a film format), a movie about zombies for a local contest. One night, they secretly go out to shoot a scene along the rails, but something happens and the train derails at a monstrous sequence of fire and noise. Since that day, strange events shake the dull provincial life, among runaway dogs, missing persons and the invasive presence of the army that investigates the incident.
Abrams (fond of science fiction and mysterious “monsters”, see Lost and FRINGE) meets Spielberg in a movie tribute and revisitation of those films with which we have grown up, and that, consciously or not, we miss. Movies classic to the point of having created a style in the ’80s and early ’90s, which was lost with the increasing maturity of the audience and of the film technique.
In those magical years, the cinema expressed his youth and his vision of wholesome goodness through his small players, kids looking for adventure, ready to run away on their bikes and to challenge everything and everyone in order to defend what they thought was important, showing a touching purity of mind (as in The Goonies, Flight of the Navigator, E.T., D.A.R.Y.L., classics that surely you all have seen).
So in Super 8 the protagonists return to be them, kids of 12-13 years halfway between childhood and adolescence, dealing with first love and fraternal friendship. Wielding walkie talkies, they move in a world where the Walkman is the novelty and the flares are the fashion, a world of nostalgic taste and romantically vintage. They have fun in creative ways, that to children today would seem mostly boring or too challenging: making films, writing scripts, acting, painting miniatures, just as the director himself loved to do when he was a boy.
The movie goes beyond the level of science fiction and mystery, focusing on the human dimension of the characters, on the problematic relations with parents, like those of Joe and Alice, both without mother and in conflict with fathers who don’t seem to understand them, on the brute force of men in uniform (and who knows why military men are always the “bad” in American movies) and on the need to feel loved, common to all living beings.
The mysterious creature (I try not to do spoiler), that Abrams cleverly hides behind billboards and trees while it drags the poor victims, remembering so much some scenes of Lost, is revisited in a modern way, becoming huge, angry and definitely scary, suitable for an action-horror movie. Nevertheless, it remains something with which kids can get in touch, even if naively, and with which they are able to interact thanks to their not yet be adults. The real enemies of these kids, indeed, are not the “creatures” that they are facing, by definition unknown and terrifying, like ancient pirates, ghosts, aliens or robots. The real enemies are the adults and their selfish, pragmatic and unimaginative way to relate to reality, which leads them to clash in a violent manner against anyone who does not fall in their standards of “normalcy”.
The characters are played by talented young actors, including the diaphanous Elle Fanning in the role of the only girl in the group, the scenes follow one another with pace and the movie in the movie appears in the credits: is The Case, the short movie about zombie that Joe and his friends have filmed while behind them takes place the bigger story.
Super 8 is a movie with linear structure, simple, of “old style” science-fiction, tinged with nostalgia for a time in which children behaved as children and chased the adventure riding bicycles that at the cinema took flight.
Super 8 – Wikipedia