I grew up watching movies about me. Well, not literally obviously (although when we first got a VHS Player, we had a limited selection of films, and I was semi-obsessed as a five year old of watching a home video of my one year old self). What I mean is that the films I used to watch where about boys my age or a little older getting themselves mixed up in the most exciting of circumstances.
I’m referring to films like E.T., Back to the Future, Flight of the Navigator, Home Alone, or Honey I Shrunk the Kids.
Maybe I’m just looking back on these times with rose tinted spectacles in saying, “They don’t make ’em like that anymore”. However, if they do they’re certainly less part of the zeitgeist than those films were in my childhood. Perhaps kids nowadays are happy just watching the same child hero eight times, and see no need for any other?
Whatever the case there’s something very comforting and familiar about the latest film from J.J. Abrams, Super 8. Set in the eighties, it sees a group of ordinary kids at the centre of some extraordinary circumstances.
The circumstances start as the kids in question are making their own film on a Super 8 camera late one night, and witness a horrific and spectacular train crash. The military soon arrive to try and cover up whatever the train was carrying, and the kids start to investigate what exactly is gong on.
At the centre of the film is Joe (Joel Courtney), who lost his mother in an accident eight months previous. His father is the deputy, equally interested in what’s going on, but oblivious to his son’s role in all of this. Part of the emotional heart of the film sees Joe’s Dad (Kyle Chandler) entirely committed to the well-being of the town while failing to notice or respond to the emotional needs of his still grieving son.
The other main relationship in the film is between Joe and Alice (Elle Fanning), as she gets roped into acting in the boys’ film much to the delight of Joe. However, the blossoming romance is soon threatened by a rivalry between their two fathers. As well as the small matter of a series of mysterious attacks somehow linked to the train crash that threaten to literally tear their who town apart.
The combination of the innocence of its young characters and the nostalgia for a type of film very much associated with the era its set it in making for an incredibly joyous and thrilling adventure.
Of course, the addition of some very impressive 21st Century special effects are a welcome addition. The train crash in particular is a spectacular mix of terror and amazement.
Super 8 is a refreshing homage to a different and strangely distant era of films. As well as being a really entertaining watch, it also brought me back to the type of films that completely enthralled me as a child, and got be hooked on this form of storytelling; an addiction I’ve haven’t been able to give up since.