Super 8 has received a lot of press calling it a return to the old style of adventure movie making. Perhaps that’s true but there’s still something very self conscious about the way it’s made, as though the nostalgic catalyst for the film is a character in itself. Whether or not you (like Spielberg and Abrams) spent your childhood standing on railway tracks with a Super 8 camera and a mic attached to the end of a fishing rod there’s still a lot to enjoy about this movie. Funny, unfailingly likable and with a charming small town innocence this is the sort of movie that Hollywood has forsaken and replaced with colossal robots knocking seven bells out of one another’s lifeless forms.
The movie focuses on a group of kids and, like ET and The Goonies before, they’re all excellent bringing the doe eyed charm juxtaposition that only cute kids can bring. The story is (to begin with) pretty simple. Kids make film. Train crashes. Kids film train crashing. Strange stuff happens. Kids have the only evidence. It’s basic Spielbergian plotting and it’s very effective. The trouble is is that we then start to notice Abrams’ hand more and more and the film begins to suffer from Cloverfield/Lost/Star Trek syndrome of becoming increasingly complex with little pay-off.
The problem with Super 8 is that the monster, which should be a central character, is really nothing more than a McGuffin. I’m not going to spoil the movie but if you’re expecting a charming inter-species friendship in the vein of a certain pointy fingered friend then you’ll be disappointed. The focus is very much on the kids and, whenever the narrative goes walkabout to explore the widening effects of the rampant monster, the film loses a bit of impetus. It’s still an enjoyable experience- but it would’ve been a richer one had the final moments had more of a touching back story rather than just being a District 9 rip-off.
Sweet and exciting, Abrams has staked his claim as the big adventure movie maker of the 21st century. Super 16 should be very good.