Saturday, 6 August 2011

Super 8

I get accused of romanticising situations a lot, but just bare with me a moment. Remember a time when summer blockbusters were spectacles? Much anticipated events? Cinematic magic? Gave you moments of pure imagination which stayed with you for life? For me it was seeing that first glimpse of a dinosaur in Jurassic Park, watching E.T. go home, seeing Indiana Jones run away from a giant boulder, that sheer feeling of terror created when Jaws appeared for the first time, seeing the Death Star blow up, Michael Keaton uttering the words, "I'm Batman," and Arnold Schwarzenegger looking badass with a gun in Terminator 2 before saying, "Hasta la Vista, baby."

It's a shame for all the progress we've seen in cinema over the past 20 years in regards to special effects and grand set pieces, the summer blockbuster season has in recent years been reduced to the bud of all jokes with cinephiles. That grotesque time of the year where the likes of Michael Bay flourish with soulless, dumb action movies which are made purely to undermine the audience's intelligence and make a mountain of money for those pesky film studios. However, like myself and a lot of other people of my generation, J.J. Abrams remembers when the Summer Blockbuster was something more. Something very much like Super 8.

Taking cues from Steven Spielberg - who serves as producer for the film - at the height of his 1980s popularity, Super 8 tells the story of a group of harmless, mischief making misfits as they sough to spend their summer making a home film based on a zombie invasion. However all is not what it seems when they witness a particularly nasty looking train crash - probably one of the best choreographed set-pieces I've seen in so long - which unleashes something strange, and mysterious on their hometown. The situation turns even more ugly when people around the town start disappearing without a trace and the U.S. Airforce have the small middle American town on lock down.

From the way it was filmed, the pure late 70s aesthetics of the town, the bright and bouncy John Williams-esque score from Michael Giacchino and even just the way the glorious young ensemble presented themselves - if Hollywood want to do the unthinkable and remake The Goonies, they might have just found their cast - Super 8 just conjured so many wonderful romantic memories of how Summer blockbusters use to be made, and frankly still should be.

Despite the mysterious Cloverfield-esque marketing in the build up to the film, the story is probably more akin to E.T. albeit with much more suspense. Almost like a children's film, with the innocent coming of age cues taken from 80s films like Stand By Me except with a 21st Century survival horror edge to it. The young cast were wonderful, showing signs of real maturity with some terrific comic timing and one liners as well as holding their own in the more gentle moments. If I had to punish Abrams for anything it would probably be his insistence to yet again use those excruciating lens flares techniques he uses in all his films. which I find so undeniably off putting at times. Though I'm just nit picking to be honest.

Final Thoughts
With tidy and charismatic performances from the young leads, scenes of genuine suspense, glorious visuals and an absolutely fantastic finale, Super 8 surpasses nearly every other blockbuster released in the cinema this year using a formula so tried and tested it's a wonder why it's taken until now for someone to pick it up again - perhaps even Spielberg himself. Though J.J. Abrams might not be Steven Spielberg in ability like the rest of us romantics he too remembers a time when the summer blockbuster was more than just a soulless, money making venture, and the world is a little bit better off for it. I'm still smiling thinking about it.


Super 8 is in cinemas everywhere throughout the UK now.

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