Super 8: A dazzling sci-fi thriller

Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abram’s collaboration on Super 8, the summer’s hottest action flick, has certainly lived up to its expectations. The film manages to deliver all the thrills of the action genre while still holding emotional depth and a cohesive plotline.

Set in a small Ohio town in 1979, the movie follows the adventures of a motley band of middle-school aged friends in their quest to film the perfect zombie movie. The action begins when the crew decides to film one of their scenes at a local train station. The friends finish their scene, but not before a train comes hurling towards them, right as a truck rolls onto the tracks. Although the kids manage to escape the derailed train and following explosion, as they escape they are warned by the truck driver to not tell anyone what they saw, or they will be put in serious danger.

In the following weeks, military personnel close off the wreck site and appear to be packing up strange white cubes that fell out in the trash. Meanwhile, a series of disappearances in the town has everyone on edge. Filming of the movie goes on, but not before a series of astonishing encounters occur between the kids, the local police, the military, and a strange creature that escaped from the crashed train.

Super 8 is a treat for sure. On the surface, it is an odd hybrid of Spielberg’s earlier Goonies and E.T.; its core parts are certainly not the most original. However, superb acting and a surprising level of emotional depth transform this film into something entirely different. Although the conflict between the army and local police certainly plays a role, it is not the primary focus of the movie; the children are the stars here. They have an almost tangible chemistry onscreen, injecting humor, playfulness, and even a bit of romance into an otherwise serious plot. Their willingness to complete a homemade zombie movie at all costs would be cute if they weren’t literally risking their lives to do it. The zombie movie serves a critical role in the plot, tying together the main characters with a common goal, and providing a number of engaging subplots to hold the audience’s attention while the main conflict develops.

All told, Super 8 is a thriller from start to finish. Ignoring its mediocre ending, the movie has a gripping plot which is executed superbly by the cast. The inventive score and dazzling special effects only add to the experience. Super 8 is a throwback to a cinematic era before “blockbuster” became synonymous with “franchise.” Abrams remembers with this movie what many today have forgotten: that action cannot truly come to life unless the audience cares about the people caught up in the mayhem. A pleasure to watch; recommended for sci-fi buffs and newcomers alike.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

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