E.T. meets Tomorrow, When the War Began meets Signs meets The Goonies. That’s how I would describe Super 8.
Going into it on Tuesday night, I didn’t have much of a clue what the Steven Spielberg-produced, J. J. Abrams-written-and-directed effort, named for the type of film used in the late 1970s, was about. I saw a review in Who that looked promising, and I was intrigued by the almost all-kid cast.
The alien aspect, which is introduced when the kids are filming a zombie movie over the summer and they witness a purposeful train derailment, is neither here nor there to the actual story, which is a “coming of age” tale of Joe Lamb, whose mother died in a workplace accident a few months prior.
Joe’s dad, the town deputy, is struggling to deal with the death of his wife and being a more present father to Joe than before the accident. He holds a grudge against the man whose shift his wife took the day of her death, who just so happens to be Joe’s friend Alice’s drunk father. Joe and Alice are forbidden from seeing each other, but that doesn’t stop them from working together on their friend Charles’ Super 8 film about zombies, the full version of which can be seen in the credits.
After the train derailment, which is caught on film by the kids, they seek out the truck that caused the accident, driven by their biology teacher, Dr. Woodward. He tells the kids not to mention a word of the accident to anyone or risk death.
Strange things start happening in the town, like abductions, lost dogs and power lines disappearing into thin air. My friend Eddie had the theory that the “alien aspect” had something to do with the Soviet space dogs used in experiments in the 1950s and ’60s. Personally, I liked this notion very much, but it wasn’t to be.
I’m not a big fan of supernatural films, especially those with aliens, and some parts of the movie were scarier than I expected. In all honesty, the movie could have done better to not be centered around aliens.
The kids and Deputy Lamb independently piece together the mystery as the Air Force arrives in the town for the clean-up. Dr. Woodward has been killed by Colonel Nelec, the man in charge of the investigation, when he didn’t offer up the information they wanted.
The kids break into the school to access Woodward’s files, which reveal him as a researcher with the Air Force in 1958, when an extraterrestrial crashed on Earth. The government captured and tortured the creature in an effort to understand more about it. Woodward was empathetic to the alien’s plight, and wanted to set it free so it could return to its home planet. That’s what he was doing on the train tracks that night.
The E.T. parts of the film got a bit convoluted at times, and my friend Sallie commented on aspects of the storyline that didn’t add up.
But the inclusion of the endearing troupe of kids and their adventures made up for any inconsistencies. Think Stand By Me, but with aliens.
Images via IMDb.