Super 8

We rarely venture out to the movie theater lately, just maybe once or twice a year for “event” flicks. Our home theater is a great place for movie-watching, and that “pause” button, combined with easy access to food, drink and restrooms makes the decision easier.

Recently, though, we ventured out to see Super 8. It’s directly by JJ Abrams, but felt more like a Spielberg film (he produced), with similarities to both ET and Goonies, as well as the “hyperactive kids making their own low budget super 8mm films” aspect of Spielberg’s own childhood.

Cloverfield, produced by Abrams, is another influence, in that something spooky is happening and the characters run around reacting to it for a long time before the audience actually sees it.

As these influences or touchstones might imply Super 8 is equal parts implausible childhood fantasy and scary-intense, borderline horrific monster movie. There are lots of thrills here — a “crash” set piece early in the film is one of the more jarring things I’ve ever seen in a movie theater — and the expected chases and frights work well. It shifts gears toward the end, and really lets up on the sense of threat in favor of a more family-friendly resolution. I didn’t mind because the whole thing was so much fun.

I have a feeling anybody who lived through the 70s in suburbia would find this depiction of that reality as convincing and familiar as I did. Usually in recent cinema and television the look and feel of the 70s is ridiculed or played for comedy, which is understandable given some of the styles of fashion and interior decorating we all remember, but Abrams plays that aspect completely straight. It really took me back to the era of Pong, before cable TV and even before home video, when a telephone wasn’t something in your pocket but a big hunk of plastic with a rotary dial. I usually don’t have much fondness for the look and feel of the 70s, but Super 8 made me feel pleasantly nostalgic about it all.

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