After so much viral marketing buzz rampaging all over as the countdown to J.J. Abrams' latest film ticked by, you won't quite expect the film to be what you might have thought it to be. The Amblin logo should be a good gauge and I'd say it's very much a homage film for certain past genres that we'd never see in today's cinema. Great action and visual effects aside, there lies another focus that (depending on one's preferences) you might end up either liking or dismissing it.
In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth - something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined.
Much guided by pre-release campaigns and exclusive teasers that seem to strongly hint at Super 8 being more of a Cloverfield monster disaster film, it is nevertheless doused with so much hype that any monster featured in this film would likely die from it. While trying not to spoil things for those of you who intend to catch it over this weekend (I don't know if anybody can wait another week to watch this), let's just say that it's a new Amblin take of Cloverfield meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
That's right, if you'd to bug me further, it's a homage to Spielberg's films of the 70's (think E.T.)
Although this is helmed by J.J. Abrams, who's already one of the most admired current director, it spells Spielberg big time throughout this film. There's shadows of Jurassic Park during a monster lurking scene behind moonlit swaying trees, strong Amblin themes with the likes of troubled children riding fast on a bicycle, and nerve-teasing moments of anxiety that reminds one of Jaws even.
Abrams, whose forte is in science-fiction, action, espionage, and mystery, has an insight into the cinematic world of Spielberg and manages to pick several signature traits right out from the Spielberg 70's and rekindled a film of genres that people used to love watching as a kid.
If you do not know already, Abrams is a big fan of Spielberg like so many of us.
While translating into a homage film that 70's cinema fan will take delight in, the younger audience who are very used to blatant thrills and modern exhilaration may be disappointed as their impressions probably inclined heavily towards that of Cloverfield and hit television series Lost. But Abrams fans will get to see a lot of his influence mainly in the action directorial and screenplay, although there isn't a lot of originality from Abrams in this film.
Most monster/disaster films do what people want them to do more - destruction in mind of excuses into a visual effects galore. While Abrams manages to deliver that on a superb notch on the blockbuster scale, he adds tension and emotions in it too. Abrams wants us to care as he aims his directorial prowess right at our hearts. He never forgets about how critical it is to have a character-driven plot focus and never letting that get drowned by AFX and VFX aesthetics. On a counter sidenote, I have to say that the visual effects by ILM (performed by day/night shift teams in San Francisco and Singapore) have got to be one of the best offerings this Summer.
The young adults in Super 8 are, well, attempting to make a zombie film on Super 8 cameras, which gives us a film within a film sensation to take pleasure in. Lots of fun derived from the young ones, their friendship and chemistry further heightened it for us and it doesn't feel like any of them were neglected by Abrams' excellent screenplay. He actually admitted that most of the zombie flick material was contributed by the young cast, which makes this even more fascinating.
If you'd be inspired to think that the end product of their zombie Super 8 film is more of a plot device to propel the actual film forward, you'd be so wrong. It actually pays off towards the very end (so that means stay all the way right to the end of the credits!)
I believe this film will appeal to the younger and (much more to) the matured end of the audience group who will dig its core tender affection theme. There's a lot of children-friendly themes going on within the film, ranging from allowing your best friend to crash your beloved train model to a hilarious one-liner "drugs are so bad for people". The Generation-Y target group is however difficult to ascertain if they will love or dismiss the latest efforts by Abrams and Spielberg. Very likely because they're probably more into the fashion trends than the cinema of the 70's.
Nevertheless, Super 8's a great time capsule to ease your nostalgia of the 70's if you suffer from it.