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First Review Of Super 8 Is In, Does It Deliver?

The summer movie season is hitting its stride.  Despite mixed reviews for Hangover Part 2 and the the new ‘Pirates movie, people are hitting the theaters and we haven’t even had the final Harry Potter, Captain America or the movie I have been most looking forward to since last year, Super 8.  A throwback in setting to early Spielberg suspense movies, from the mind of JJ Abrams (and produced by Spielberg), I thought this had the makings of big sleeper hit.  Of course the movie would have to deliver the goods and if this first full review is any indication, it does.  I will be in a theater the weekend of June 10th for sure.

There was a time, back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when blockbusters had heart and soul to go with their balls, when the testosterone and the money shots were duly arrived at after periods of intimacy.

Super 8, the old charmer, returns to such innocent times, assuredly delivering bang for buck but – first and foremost – respecting old-fashioned concepts like, y’know, character, emotion, storytelling…

Super 8’s creator is, of course, Jeffrey Jacob Abrams, or plain old JJ to the millions of people who think of him warmly after Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek, Cloverfield and Lost.

This is his “personal project”, much as E.T. was Steven Spielberg’s, who here co-produces.

Set in 1979, when JJ, aged 13, was holed up in his cluttered bedroom making models to blow up on film, Super 8 tells of movie-obsessed Charles (Riley Griffiths) and best friend Joe (Joel Courtney), the leaders of a group of pre-teen kids who run about town shooting a zombie epic on an Emuig Super 8 camera.

Sneaking from their beds to film a night scene at the local train station, they continue to roll as a US Air Force freight charges past (“Production values!”) and crashes explosively.

Then things get really weird. Generators and car engines burn out, power cables and microwaves disappear. The town’s dogs hightail it to neighbouring counties.

And the military roll in under the stern command of Colonel Nelec (Noah Emmerich), a man who dost protest too much when questioned by Deputy Lamb (Kyle Chandler), AKA Joe’s dad: “If you’re asking me if we had any dangerous property on board this train,” glowers Nelec, “I can assure you the answer is no.”

If Super 8 is JJ’s own childhood spliced with a rambunctious monster movie, it is inevitable it should look and feel like an early Spielberg picture, for Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, E.T., Poltergeist, Gremlins, The Goonies and Back To The Future shaped a generation.

The film’s overrun setting, a small Ohio town, population 11,200, is pure Spielburbia – acknowledged by the E.T.-doffing shot of the twinkling burg spread out below, a beacon to attract the trouble that’s arrived in the night.

The kids’ bedrooms, like Elliott’s, are jumbled dens, and the town’s rolling topography, all slopes and ridges, recalls E.T.’s famous bike chase while allowing Super 8’s climactic, panoramic action to play out at various vertical and horizontal depths without recourse to crane shots or focus pulls.

Like Spielberg, Abrams has an eye for awe, his deft orchestration of indelible images – a tank trundling through a children’s playground, a plot-pivotal landmark framed in the distance through a small hole in a bedroom wall – marking him as a born storyteller.

He’s no slouch when it comes to suspense either, and it’s this skill as much as the kids’ goofing that marks the film’s first half, when the creature remains cloaked, as the superior segment.

Read entire review via Super 8 review | TotalFilm.com.

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