The 1980s were filled with kid flicks that were often centered on mature themes. In films such as E. T.: The Extraterrestrial, The Goonies, and Stand By Me, the children took center stage walking a line between adventure, danger, youthful antics - and even heavy drama. Super 8 seeks to remind us of these films by seemingly bringing these bits of pieces together. The result: a mediocre mix-match of classics that doesn't quiet live up to its hype.
Super 8 centers on a small group of kids in the late 1970s in a small American town. Joel Courtney heads the young cast as Joe, the son of the town's deputy sheriff, played by Kyle Chandler. Months after his mother is killed in an accident, Courtney finds himself helping friend Charles (Riley Griffiths), an aspiring writer/director, with shooting an 8mm zombie movie in the hopes of winning a film competition. They enlist the help of schoolmate, Alice (Elle Fanning), as the female lead. While shooting their film one night, a train with unknown cargo is derailed before their eyes and the camera. Soon a chain of unusual events puts the town in a state of confusion as lights flicker, people disappear, and the military moves in with seemingly suspicious intentions. The mystery deepens with the shocking footage the kids capture, leading to a foreseeable climax that has been kept very secretive since promotion of the film began.
This Sci-Fi mystery, written and directed by J. J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, hits its marks just enough to push the story and the kids along various scenes and events, similar to Spielberg films of old. The adult roles act mostly as tools of exposition and obstacles to the kids, which is far too often the case with films led by children. The main credit is due to the young actors who excelled in their roles as adult-minded children in contrast to the childish-adults played by their older counterparts. Make sure you stay for the end credits to get a glimpse of the young actors' hard work in action.
The special effects provided by Industrial Light and Magic have become a staple in Spielberg productions, and have brought a sense of familiarity more than innovation in recent years culminating with Super 8.
Still, visually moving in places with a well-rounded group of young talent makes the end result entertaining, but only in the way of seeing pieces of a good story you know you have seen before. The film does a great job of bringing the nostalgia of both its late groovy setting and the unique genre of kid adventure back in form. Is it a classic in the making? Probably not. But Super 8 is a walk down memory lane of the good ole' days when children were taken a bit more seriously in film. Nothing spectacularly new, but still quite entertaining to reminisce on the big screen.