Monday 15 August 2011

Super 8 (2011) - J.J Abrams

Super 8: a.k.a E.T for the next generation.  It's essentially the same story about a boy and an alien who... well, that would be telling.  Cynics will reduce the plot to a simple rehash of the E.T story - needless to say the similarities are numerous.

Though written and directed by J.J Abrams, it's got producer Steven Spielberg written all over it - aliens, children and soppy ending on the checklist.  Our protagonists are a group of children in quiet suburban America, spending their summer holiday making a homemade zombie flick.  But after a freak train crash, all hell breaks loose in their town as the military deploy a mass operation to cover-up the escape of a mysterious creature.  With children as the protagonists, it gives the audience a wide-eyed innocent view of the events, harking back to our own childhoods when boredom set in during the summer months.  However, it also makes the narrative far less believable, especially towards the film's climax.  How exactly did a bunch of pesky kids get past the military and end up in a warzone unscathed?  It's also a cheap method of extracting sympathy from the audience.  Suspend your disbelief though and the film does provide a well constructed mystery - just don't go expecting Lost levels of thrilling complexity.

Yet there's another layer to the film - the children's zombie disaster flick.  This provides the core thread of the narrative, their filmmaking cleverly paralleling that of Abrams himself.  Moreover, it provides the film with a brilliant credits sequence - hilarious and full of movie references ('Romero Industries' anyone?).  The title of Super 8 is itself a reference to an old format of motion picture photography and the first camera used by Abrams and Spielberg during their respective childhoods.  As such, the film can be read as an hommage to film buffs and filmmakers across the globe, as well as an opportunity for the film's creators to relive their youth.

It's also a film about accepting past events, however grievous, and moving on with life: broken families are often mended in extreme circumstances.  In Abrams's case, I hope he moves on from his relationship with Spielberg and creates something a little more original for his next project.