Super 8, the J.J. Abrams-written and directed, Steven Spielberg-produced summer blockbuster, has it all: the emotional landscape of E.T., the friendships and adventure of Goonies the grandeur of Close Encounters, the creepiness of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the awesomeness of any good action film of the last ten or fifteen years. Even so – it all adds up to an film oddly lacking in heart.
Super 8 is the story of a group of 12-year-old filmmakers in 1979 who are the only witnesses to a spectacular military train wreck while shooting their movie – capturing the entire thing on camera. The train, as it turns out, was carrying a mysterious cargo, and the wreck unleashes a trail of terror in this small Ohio town.
Joe (Joel Courtney), the young pivotal character in the film, is suffering after the accidental death of his mother in a factory accident. His father (Kyle Chandler), a town deputy, is suffering too – and they’re both alienated from each other in lonely despair. As his father is rapidly engulfed in his responsibilities as deputy, Joe finds solace with his friends. His buddy Charles (Riley Griffiths) is making a zombie movie, and all of his friends are on board – even Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), the girl of Joe’s dreams. The train wreck changes everything, however, as the military sweeps the town in search of…something. Fear of the unknown turns to horror as things, and then people begin to disappear. Soon, Joe and his friends are in a struggle for the lives of the people they love as they race to solve the deadly mystery.
Super 8 is one heck of a movie. It seems to do everything right. I recognized kids in the film – they look and feel and act like real middle-schoolers. Mystery, adventure, wonder, emotion and love – it’s all there. That’s the problem. With so many moving parts, even the most intimate moments seem oddly cold. Where those moments in E.T. might have made you cry, in Super 8, you only feel a tinge of compassion.