- Running time:
- 112 minutes
- Kyle Chandler -
- Deputy Jackson Lamb
- Elle Fanning -
- Alice Dainard
- Joel Courtney -
- Joe Lamb
- Gabriel Basso -
- Ron Eldard -
- Louis Dainard
It’s the summer of 1979 in a small Ohio town and six young teens set out to make a zombie movie with their Super 8 camera. Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), sensitive son of the Deputy Sheriff (Kyle Chandler), is on board to help out his best friend, wannabe director Charles (Riley Griffiths), and get closer to beautiful classmate Alice (Elle Fanning). None of them are ready for what happens when a massive train crash sets off a chain of events wilder than anything they could script—complete with a military occupation, missing townspeople and a mysterious creature on the loose.
The buzz: J.J. Abrams’ success in TV (“Lost,” “Alias”) and film (“Star Trek,” “Mission: Impossible III”) has made him a major force in pop culture. The details of “Super 8”—Abrams’ first directorial effort based on an original idea—remained a closely guarded secret up to its release, but the storyline is simultaneously inspired by and intended as a tribute to Steven Spielberg’s classic blockbusters, including “E.T.,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park.” Not coincidentally, Spielberg serves as a producer.
The verdict: Billing your movie as a homage to a king of blockbuster filmmaking sets the bar ridiculously high. Thankfully, “Super 8” isn’t a mechanical artistic exercise or some obnoxiously knowing 21st-Century spin on “the glory days” of sci-fi spectacles. More than just a simple imitation of what made Spielberg’s films so successful, Abrams crafts a richly developed and entirely sincere appreciation of Spielberg’s savvy for mass audience entertainment. “Super 8” delivers everything moviegoers deserve in a high quality Hollywood blockbuster—exciting action, compelling characters, heart-tugging emotions and immersive escapism. It represents a significant step up from summer’s other major movie offerings, and something one imagines Spielberg himself would be happy to snag a “directed by” credit on. Keeping the plot under wraps only adds to its unique allure—there’s a good chance viewers may actually be surprised by the gradual reveals in the joyfully mysterious, and sometimes quite frightening, adventure. Those big movie pleasures are further enriched and elevated by the emotional range of an excellent young cast, spanning well established talents (Fanning adds another highlight to her increasingly extraordinary resume) and total newcomers (Courtney deftly handles leading man duty in his film debut). For all the genuinely eye-popping set pieces in “Super 8,” it’s in the characters’ quietest moments that Abrams most effectively connects his work to Spielberg’s most enduring efforts. So much supersized filmmaking focuses on taking the audience for a ride, but, no matter the genre or the budget, it’s the human touch that ultimately makes the difference.
Did you know? To capture the small town period feel, “Super 8” filmed primarily in Weirton, West Virginia, which also provided locations for the 1978 classic “The Deer Hunter.”
“Super 8” is also playing in select IMAX theaters. Find local showtimes here.
Follow Metromix's Geoff Berkshire on Twitter: @geoffberkshire
Movie theaters and showtimes for Super 8 in Cincinnati.
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