Super 8 J.J. Abrams

Super 8 J.J. Abrams
An ode to the sci-fi and adventure films of his youth, with Super 8, J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) has created a work worthy of standing alongside those that inspired it. As mentioned in the extensive behind-the-scenes featurettes of this top-notch Blu-Ray package, this film is a result of combining two story ideas: one with a premise but no characters, the other with characters but no premise. The initial inspiration for the project stemmed from the experiences Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg, along with many of the creative contributors, including DOP Larry Fong and composer Michael Giacchino, had making 8mm films as kids. This is where the Goonies vibe comes in. The kids who comprise the principle cast of Super 8 speak and act like regular children, teasing, talking over each other and expressing morbid curiosity in the face of tragedy. Joe Lamb (newcomer Joel Courtney) has recently lost his mother in a nasty accident and his cop father, Jackson (Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights), is having a tough time adjusting to the increased parental responsibility. To cope with the lack of familial attention, Joe spends his time working make-up on a zombie movie his friend Charles is making to submit to a film festival. The pack of filmmaking 12-year olds also includes pyromaniac Cary, dim-witted leading man Martin, goofy soundman Preston and actress/illegal driver Alice (Elle Fanning). Intending to cash in on some free production values, the crew set up a shoot at the local train station and get a heck of a lot more than expected when a truck purposefully derails a train transporting materials from a military base, causing an intense crash. Weird and creepy events begin to occur around town: animals, random bits of electronics and people start to go missing. This is where the Close Encounters of the Third Kind inspiration becomes evident, building mystery gradually and deliberately staging action out of focus and in the background to allow the audience's imagination to stew in fear of the unknown. As obvious as some of the emotional beats are, they're necessary for the kind of sweeping, iconic feel the film is aiming for. The only genuine issue is the amount of time spent with the adults pretending what they're doing is important to the situation. The kids are more interesting characters and it's their actions that decide the fate of the town. Although, maybe that's part of the point: adults always have to feel like they're in control, even if they aren't. In a very forthcoming feature commentary, Abrams acknowledges the difficulties in balancing sympathies for Joe's father, re-editing scenes to make him seem less harsh and more broken. This commentary, in which Abrams and companions Larry Fong and producer Bryan Burk try to think of a suitable question to text Steve Spielberg, along with the eight production featurettes, are among the best extras I've had the pleasure of viewing. Taken in a single dose, the featurettes almost act as a full-fledged documentary on the making of the film. There are historical asides about 8mm film, Abrams's journey of becoming a filmmaker, footage of his and others' old super 8 movies, on set goofing with the cast, the audition process, a day in the life of Joel Courtney on set, a segment of Larry Fong doing impressive magic tricks and a wealth of other info and footage. Also included: a bunch of deleted scenes, mostly of the kids planning their movie and an interactive set of images, clips, interviews and script segments that deconstruct the train crash sequence. (Paramount)