'Super 8': the mystery revealed?

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‘What is Super 8?’ has been the question on every nerd’s lips for over a year now. Since the first, enigmatic trailer emerged, offering brief glimpses of train crashes and alien escapes, and naming its director as JJ Abrams, international master of mystery following his success with ‘Lost’, audiences have been clamouring to know more

Gradually, details began to emerge. The film would be Abrams’s tribute to his cinematic hero Steven Spielberg (who produces 'Super 8'). It would be a rites-of-passage tale set in a small 1970s town, where a group of movie-obsessed kids come up against an alien force, and an ensuing military invasion.

And while British audiences will frustratingly have to wait until August 5 to find out all the answers, ‘Super 8’ will be released in America this weekend, and early reviews are looking positive. The film currently has an 82 per cent rating on aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes – though that could just mean the reviews have been generally decent, not necessarily glowing.

Super 8 full size

Our own Time Out New York review by Joshua Rothkopf certainly bears this out, giving the film a reasonable three stars but bemoaning its ‘depressing lack of intellectual heft’ and describing it as a ‘shrieky adventure’.

As with most reviews of the film, Rothkopf takes pains not to go too deeply into the nature of the alien menace threatening our heroes, though some articles do seem to suggest that the monster's escape is not an accident. Reading between the lines, it also seems that the alien angle is very much secondary to Abrams’s intention to make a movie about kids coming of age, and so the idea that 'Super 8' is an ‘Alien’-style monster-on-the-loose horror flick may, in fact, be a red herring. Might this monster just be misunderstood?

Perhaps the most glowing review comes from Time Magazine’s Richard Corliss , who calls it ‘the year’s most thrilling, feeling mainstream movie’. Also on side is Jo Blo’s JimmyO , who calls it ‘a thrilling return to movie magic of old, filled with wonder, horror and chills’.

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But few reviewers are so openly enthusiastic: the overall opinion seems to be that while ‘Super 8’ has charm and talent to spare, it’s a little too nakedly obsessed with recreating that nostalgic, Spielbergian world of childlike wonder. The film’s handful of outright bad reviews – such as from Peter DeBruge at Variety – focus largely on its lack of new ideas, and even some of the positive reviews feel that the film would have been stronger had it possessed a little more originality: Jim Jejvoda at IGN praises the film’s craft but feels that ‘it's filled with one too many Starlog Magazine references’, while Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter agrees that ‘the ingredients are pure Spielberg from the first ten-15 years of his career’.

But these seem like fairly minor quibbles: the overall critical response is overwhelmingly positive, and shouldn’t dampen audience anticipation in advance of the film’s UK release. We will, of course, be running a review when ‘Super 8’ finally hits our screens, so watch this space (if you’re not too busy watching the skies…).



Author: Tom Huddleston



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