The production of director J.J. Abrams’ follow-up to 2009’s Star Trek was successfully cloaked in secrecy until this past week when television spots revealed that Super 8 concerns a group of children whose small town is under attack by an unknown threat of supernatural origins. These teasers have surely disappointed many a fanboy whose imaginations have been running wild since the film’s vague announcement last year. So let’s put our hands together for Paramount’s marketing department who turned a conventional throwback to the early family-friendly sci-fi films of Steven Spielberg (who serves as producer) into a highly-anticipated, sure-to-be classic. This is prior to the film’s release, of course, for Super 8 is no classic.
Appropriately set in the early ’80s, a diverse group of suburban children (think Goonies, Stand by Me, et al.) spend their free time making super 8 zombie films. While on location one night, the kids witness and inadvertently record a spectacular train crash that soon brings the military down on their small Ohio town. Residents mysteriously begin disappearing as the kids and the town sheriff (Friday Night Lights‘ Kyle Chandler) set out to learn exactly what was on that train and why it’s so angry.
The film is certainly slick enough, the action scenes aren’t overdone outside of a strange battleground sequence where the military simply blows up or mows down whatever is in their path, but its blatant desire to carry on the legacy of widely embraced nostalgia pieces like E.T. and Close Encounters… makes it a tough watch. The familial heartstrings of some may be pulled, but there’s no way anyone will be impressed by the film’s antagonist who turns out to be the biggest disappointment of a creature reveal since 1998’s Godzilla. Bet it makes a ton of money.
The children’s zombie film, constructed with a deliberate degree of charming ineptitude, is played over the end credits. My girlfriend said this sequence was “like watching one boring movie after another”. And this is coming from someone who can always find something nice to say about a movie. For instance, her reaction to the fourth Pirates film: “I liked the water.”
Super 8 opens wide in Philly-area theaters today.