super8What Approaches Through The Night?

Stars: Kyle Chandler, Noah Emmerich, Gabriel Basso, Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Ron Eldard, Elle Fanning, Glynn Turman and Noah Emmerich
Director/Scriptwriter: J. J. Abrams
Composer: Michael Giacchino ("Star Trek")
Cinematographer: Larry Fong
Running Length: 100 minutes
Rating: PG 13 for science fiction violence
J. J. Abrams made one of my favorite films of the past few years, Star Trek with Chris Pine. A good film is all in the casting. In Super 8, the main characters are junior high school kids, back in the late 1970’s, who want to put together their own movie, except they are working with regular film. We have the director, Charles (Riley Griffiths) his actor/friend, Joe (the expressive-faced Joel Courtney), their special effects/explosive person with teeth braces, Cary (Ryan Lee), and the actress, Alice (Elle Fanning). Joe has a crush on Alice. With this mix, plus snappy dialogue, adults just kind of tag along for the ride, with the exception of Kyle Chandler (television’s “Saturday Night Lights”) as Joe’s Dad, a deputy sheriff. What makes Super 8 special? It’s what the kids accidentally photograph during a dazzling train wreck. “Something” was in that train, and with Steven Spielberg as the Super 8 producer, you can start guessing as to what it is.
The group is filming a zombie movie written and directed by Charles. Special effects are by Cary who can't blow things up fast enough to please himself. This kid is bound for Hollywood. In the film, Joe is the detective who is in love with Alice all the while dodging zombies who pop up out of nowhere. It is during an outside film sequence by a railroad track, that there is a train wreck and the kids scatter. Except the camera is dropped and keeps running. Later, they find out what is on the film and why the countryside is crawling with the military and people are disappearing. Besides this, there is the rocky relationship between Joe and his father, between Alice and her Dad and between Joe’s father and the military. Something is afoot. Start thinking E.T., Close Encounters and even Jeepers Creepers, plus zombies and some humor.
The storyline bounces around a bit and is the best when centered on the kids. Their comments and timing are on target, and Ryan Lee steals his scenes. There is poignancy here as adults deal with grief in one story, while the kids handle it another way. The kids communicate through filming and togetherness while the adults through anger and brooding. The road between childhood and adulthood is not a smooth one to be sure, and that's not even counting in the science professor (Glynn Turman.)
Anyone living near railroads tracks where trains run 24/7 can relate to this film. What exactly is going through your town at 2 a.m.?  Is it animal, vegetable or mineral---or all three?  The train wreck here is one of the best in years. The word “breathless” comes to mind. Childhood’s end can come gradually or suddenly as with the snap of a lens. Super 8 tells you one version. Cut. It's a wrap.
Copyright 2011 Marie Asner