Film Review: SUPER 8

Written and Directed by J.J. AbramsStarring Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ron Eldard
Released June, 2011

Somehow I missed the warning that Super 8 was a kid’s movie. I remembered fondly back on the days when our little family took in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Poltergeist, E.T, The Goonies, the output from Spielberg et al in the last seventies, early eighties. What transformed those movies into something special for me as an adult was the presence of my children AND that this sort of movie was being made with terrific production values for the first time. (And you will hear that term more than once in SUPER 8). This is not to say SUPER 8 is a bad film at all—just that my experience with it was a different one from what I anticipated.

PLOT: a group of middle-school students are making a zombie movie. While filming the first scene, a horrendous train wreck takes places mere feet from where they are filming. This is the first is a series of unsettling experiences. Like all good prospective film makers, they make use of what’s going on around them: military men, car crashes, etc. It is only gradually that they come to learn the meaning of the events that have overtaken their small town and turn their ingenuity toward the larger goal.

What worked best for me in this film was just that movie making, how that group of kids take their task seriously, the quick flashes of middle school life we get. What worked least was the predictability of the reaction of the adults to the situation. I’m not sure if this was meant to be an ode to the earlier films, but it fell rather flat for me. And the monster, revealed gradually, felt stale too. As a summer movie, I can recommend it. But an homage, if that’s what it is, has to find something new to say or say it better or parody it, and I didn’t find anything new or better here. If you have a kid around ten, you’re good to go. Or if you can find the child in you still, you’ll like it too.

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.