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Movie Review: Super 8

June 10, 2011

Super 8 – A Paramount Pictures’ Release

Release Date: June 10th, 2011

Rated PG for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and some drug use

Running time: 112 minutes

J.J. Abrams (dir.)

J.J. Abrams (writer)

Michael Giacchino (music)

Joel Courtney as Joe Lamb

Kyle Chandler as Jackson Lamb

Elle Fanning as Alice Dainard

Ron Eldard as Louis Dainard

Riley Griffiths as Charles

Ryan Lee as Cary

Zach Mills as Preston

Gabriel Basso as Martin

 ©Paramount Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

Martin (Gabriel Basso), Cary (Ryan Lee), Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and Charles (Riley Griffiths) in Super 8.

Our reviews below:


Super 8 Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

From writer-director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg, Super 8 is the sort of film that evokes many feelings in the viewer.  Excitement and pure summer fun are the most obvious, but it also manages to go beyond that as it wonderfully recalls the excellent kids adventure films of the 1980’s that are still beloved so many years later.  With every image lovingly steeped in youthful nostalgia and paying tribute to the great Spielberg, Super 8 is a thrilling old school blockbuster that instantly feels like a modern classic.

The year is 1979 and something very strange is happening in the town of Lillian, Ohio.  Young teenager Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his group of buddies (Ryan Lee, Zach Mills and Gabriel Basso) are involved in the production of an independent zombie movie, under the direction of best friend Charles (Riley Griffiths).  When filming a crucial scene with reluctant lead actress Alice (Elle Fanning) at the train station, the 8 millimeter film loaded into their camera captures the derailment of a train as well as the release of some mysterious cargo.  When all of the dogs run away and every scrap of metal in the town starts disappearing, the kids may be the only ones able to track down the origins of these bizarre events.

The child actors are all excellent, delivering believable performances and actually looking the right age for the part.  As it was in classic films like The Goonies (1985) or – one of my personal favourites – the incredibly moving Stand By Me (1986), the majority of audiences will find someone to relate to in the very diverse group of main characters.  There is a lot of nicely built tension here and even a few surprising jump moments, but nothing a kid over the age of 11 or 12 can’t handle.  The smart screenplay also goes deeper than the action, with troubled relationships between parents and children being a central and very effecting theme.

Some may find the pacing of the film to be somewhat slower than what we’ve come to expect from most summer blockbusters, but I found it to be very refreshing in a way that allows the characters to develop and build before the action-driven climax.  The finale of the film where the secrets are finally revealed is appropriately touched with genuine suspense, thankfully never relying too much on CGI special effects to drive the excitement forward.  The eventual payoff is satisfying, right through to an entertaining bonus sequence that plays over the end credits.

For me, Super 8 represents many things, but most importantly it succeeds above and beyond the call of duty when it comes time to deliver a piece of smart and exciting summer entertainment.  Often playing as a loving tribute to Steven Spielberg and the great kids adventure films of the 1980’s, Super 8 could easily emerge as the best and most original blockbuster of 2011.


Super 8 Review by Erin V.  

**** (out of 4)

J.J Abrams’ Super 8 feels like a fresh throwback to the films of the ‘80’s.  Set in a small Ohio town in 1979, the film follows a group of middle school aged kids, who are trying to make a short zombie movie for a film festival with a super 8 camera.  When filming a scene at the train station in the middle of the night, they witness and capture on film a train derailment.  The train belonging to the Air Force spills its contents and soon the town is experiencing strange happenings due to the mysterious – and now released – cargo.  The military orders an evacuation, but the kids led by Joe Lamb (breakout role for Joel Courtney), end up so deeply involved in the mystery that they have to figure out the truth.  I don’t want to say too much more about the plot – it’s best to just watch it play out for yourself.

With the many films being released with child actors reading every line like they’re in a commercial, it is refreshing to see kids acting just like natural kids.  The whole young cast carries this film better than some adult casts do, and this coupled with an entertaining mystery-thriller plot and emotional depth, makes Super 8 one of the best films of the year so far.

I love the way the secrecy and suspense is kept throughout with carefully planned shots for a slow reveal of what was in the train.  Everything works well here – the amazing cinematography, music by Michael Giacchino, and well-paced script.  I was glad to see a film so character driven, allowing us to care about them and become invested with them in the mystery.  The pacing is a little bit slower in the middle than what we often expect from blockbusters nowadays, but refreshingly so.  Following his success of the Star Trek reboot in 2009, this film proves that J.J. Abrams is a director to watch.


Super 8 Review by Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Everyone remembers the children’s coming-of-age adventure films of the 1970’s and ‘80’s.  J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 pays homage to these classics, while still managing to be its own original film.  Set in a small town in 1979, the story follows a group of 12-year-old filmmakers as they create a zombie film on a Super 8 camera.  The children are in for a big surprise when they witness a mysterious train crash, and the military eventually gets involved.  The kids must figure out what is happening, if they are to survive and save the town.

Super 8 has all the makings of a classic.  It has elements of producer Steven Spielberg’s previous classics, namely Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as well as other films such as Stand By Me.  Writer-director J.J. Abrams has captured the same emotional impact as these films.  The cast is excellent, with amazing and heartfelt performances from the child actors.  Their friendship seems genuine and the delivery of emotional scenes is realistic.  Michael Giacchino’s underscore, with a slight resemblance to the music of John Williams, completes the feel of a classic film.

Destined to become a classic, everyone 12 and up should see Super 8.  Be sure to stay right through the end credits for a fun bonus scene.


Super 8 Review by Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 takes us back to 1979, a time when a group of 12-year-olds could find adventure running around with a Super 8 camera and lots of imagination.

The young Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) lives in a small Ohio town with his Dad, Deputy Sheriff Jack Lamb (Kyle Chandler).  Both are grieving the accidental death of their Mom and wife.  Joe finds distraction and comfort in hanging out with his best friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) who spends his time making zombie movies.  It’s on one of their midnight filming adventures that the two boys, along with three other buddies (Ryan Lee, Zach Mills and Gabriel Basso) and the only girl in their gang, Alice (Elle Fanning), end up witnessing and filming a spectacular train crash.  Mysterious and scary things start to happen in the town after the crash.  When people, dogs and different objects start to disappear, the kids use their imagination and their camera to uncover the truth.

Super 8 has J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg written all over it.  There are so many nods and references to the many wonderful kids adventure movies from the 1980’s.  This is a film about friendship and the adventure of making a movie.  While the special effects are excellent, the focus is on the storyline and the interaction between the characters.  There is a lot of suspense in Super 8 and just the right amount of scary and violent images.  The movie unfolds at a steady pace and never feels too long at nearly 2-hours.

In part, it’s the believable and strong performances by the young actors that make Super 8 so watchable.  Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning are especially nice to watch.  Michael Giacchino’s score strikes a nice balance between moving the story along and highlighting the action sequences without overshadowing the visuals.

Super 8 is a super fun adventure movie that anyone over the age of ten can enjoy.  It will especially be enjoyed by those who have fond memories of Spielberg’s earlier adventures.  Super 8 is destined to become a classic adventure movie that can be watched again and again without ever feeling old.  Make sure to stay right through the end credits.


Super 8 Review by Tony

**** (out of 4)

Super 8 is at once a coming of age film full of mystery and suspense and a science fiction blockbuster. In an Ohio mill town in 1979 a group of middle school kids making an amateur Super 8 film narrowly escape a train wreck with the film still rolling. When the air force comes in to clean things up they are increasingly suspicious about what is really going on.

Just as Stand By Me was Rob Reiner’s affectionate look back at the 1950s, Super 8 is an homage to the 1970s films of [executive producer] Spielberg that director J.J. Abrams and composer Michael Giacchino grew up with. Though largely mocked today, the 1970s had their own charm, with analog film and tape, big cars, company towns (before most industry went offshore), and (except for the Man) long hair. Like the best Spielberg films, it takes its time with a well-written story that allows us to know and like the characters without relying on name actors. Every detail is well thought out, with excellent special effects that are never overwhelming and as expected a brilliant Giacchino score in the background.


Consensus: A loving tribute to Steven Spielberg and the classic kids adventure films of the 1980’s, writer-director J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 is an equally thrilling, smart and emotionally connecting summer blockbuster for older kids and adults.  **** (Out of 4)

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