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Film

Super 8

Country

USA

Director

J.J. Abrams

Year

2011

Cast

Elle Fanning, AJ Michalka, Kyle Chandler

Details

Colour 112 mins

A movie whose parentage is obvious. Cross "The Goonies" with "ET" and "Close Encounters" and "Jaws" and you've just about got it. The plot has this group of children who witness a train crash, but the train was a secret Air Force train carrying an alien creature who escapes, Air Force cover up their nastiness, it's down to our heroes to save the day. As such it's a competently made movie. Moments in the film can be said to be inspired by a range of films, so the ending could tick the "Close Encounters" checkbox, but it has been woven into its own wholeness.

(As an aside even "ET" and "Close Encounters" and "Jaws" draw on earlier films, are inspired by them.)

What lifts the film is that the children are themselves making a Super 8 film, so we're looking back at how the director Abrams himself started. Spielberg started with Standard 8 as he was a generation earlier. You don't just become a film director overnight, it takes years of single-mindedness to grow to be one. Making a film was a time-consuming process 30 years or more ago, not the casual shooting and editing now possible with digital.

So we have a film inside a film, and we see the finished result in the closing credits. It's comical in one sense, slightly not bad enough in places (Elle Fanning acts too well in a train station scene.) But the film inside the film comments on the film itself. If one suspended one's disbelief then the children's' film becomes real. We have to suspend disbelief for "Super 8" itself. It's as likely a chemical plant is turning people into zombies as it is for the US Air Force to keep an alien secret. So "Super 8" is both a reasonable feature film, but also a commentary on itself.