Growing up, I always wanted to be part of an adventure, one of a group of kids ready to fight monsters (like in The Monster Squad) or hunt for pirate treasure (like in The Goonies). These kids were tough and brave and put themselves in the path of danger because no one else would. My adventurer aspirations didn’t last very long but these films had a big impact on me. Super 8 brought back a lot of those memories and if I’d seen it back when I was a kid in the 1980s, I would’ve been first in line to join their group of adventurers, shooting zombie movies and investigating the mystery of an Air Force train crash.
Abrams does an excellent job of capturing the idea of smalltown life in the 1970s. The kids roam the neighbourhood on bikes, hang out at each other’s houses and generally spend all their summer together. Leaving aside whether this is an accurate depiction, Super 8 hits all the nostalgia points head on, recreating the feeling of the 70s. This is strengthened by the terrific and natural performances from the main actors. The acting in general is quite good, though Eldard seems out of place as a troubled father.
The most interesting element in the film is the characterisation of the creature, which is given complex motivations and behaviour. Alternating between sympathetic and menacing, this nuanced depiction creates a genuine feeling of peril and ensures a steady level of tension throughout the film. Refreshingly, Abrams reigns in the anthropomorphic tendencies seen in similar films and presents a truly frightening creation.
With a likeable cast and an interesting creature, Super 8 is both a nostalgic look at childhood lost and a new interpretation of an old idea.