Models – of the enthusiast hobby kind as opposed to the category of human coathangers – are a useful analogy for discussing Super 8. Just as gluing together molded plastic parts creates an aesthetically pleasing replica of an ideal form, director J. J. Abrams has taken a bunch of old plot elements to create a very pleasant pastiche.
You’ve seen bits of this movie elsewhere. The Roswell/Area 51 alien conspiracy themes appear in more movies than I can name, and there’s a strong echo of The Goonies and Tomorrow, When The War Began where you’ve got a bunch of ordinary kids trying to grapple with everyday issues (love, identity, etc.) around extraordinary circumstances. But the “mystery monster” aspect in the promotion of this flick gives me the sense that Abrams is trying to make good on the poorly rated Cloverfield.
Happily, he delivers. Super 8 is very enjoyable, and the charm of the kids making their own zombie home movie spills over into the rest of the actual movie. The characters are very likeable and well cast, and the adults mostly stay out of the way to let the kids shine.
The script tackles a lot of themes so the story does get somewhat messy: a bunch of kids trying to make a zombie movie; father-son dealing with grief from losing their wife/mother; strange things happening all over town; two kids falling in love – but Abrams manages to hold them all together without, ahem, losing the plot.
It’s a fun “comfort movie” that Jenny and I will probably come back to over and over again (when we get it on Blu-ray).