Super 8 (2011)

Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich

Directed by: JJ Abrams

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Joe (Joel Courtney) and friends in Super 8

Okay, so here's the deal. I loved Super 8. I thought it was charming, nostalgic, exciting and fun. I didn't, however, love the incredibly annoying squad of teenage yah boys who plonked themselves down two rows behind me and wouldn't stop talking the whole way through the film, no matter how many people (my good self included, channelling my inner Adèle Hartley) told them to shut up. So right now I'm finding it hard to separate the warm fuzzy feeling this film should have left me with, from the fuming rage I'm still coming down from.

But I shall try, because Super 8 deserves it.

Kyle Chandler as Joe's dad Jackson in Super 8

Although I must confess to being somewhat confused. The film is, clearly, a tribute to Sir Steven of Spielberg and his heart-warming, decade-defining, right of passage/alien adventure ET. Yet who's the executive producer? Steven Spielberg. Well, I guess if you're the most powerful person in Hollywood (probably) you can produce a tribute to yourself. At least that way, you can ensure the director (JJ Abrams – who, as the man who gave us that horrible waste of life known as Lost, I should hate almost as much as I hate teenage boys) gets it right. And, you know, he really does.

The year is 1979. Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) lives in a small town in Ohio with his father, a deputy sheriff, his mother having been killed in a messy accident earlier in the year. Along with a band of fellow geeks, he's helping his best friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) make a zombie movie, using old school 'super 8' film. One night, while filming out at a deserted station, the group witness a mysterious train crash and, in true found footage style, their camera captures more than they themselves see. But this being 1979, a 'rush job' to get the film developed takes three days – and a lot can happen in three days. For example, the military can evacuate your town, imprison your father and start blowing everything to sh*t in their pursuit of the elusive monster that's escaped from the train. And this monster is no friendly, bug-eyed bag of hoover parts – think HR Giger's alien rather than ET.

Diner discussions in Super 8

I've heard this film described as The Goonies crossed with Cloverfield, and I'd say that was a fair comparison. Our plucky bunch of dorky, misfit kids scoot around town on their bicycles, trying to keep quiet about their dangerous knowledge by jabbering about it at the tops of their voices while slurping sodas in the local diner. And interspersed with this are some massive explosions and CGI effects that are distinctly non-1970s in their execution. Perhaps at times not so much a cross as a cut'n'shut, but then who wants fuzzy-edged vintage blue screen in a 21st century movie?

But anachronistic SFX aside, the look and feel of the film are spot on '70s, the grubby sneakers, messy bedrooms and crowded kitchens evoking the same slightly down-at-heel, making-the-best-of-the-shoddy-hand-life-deals-you atmosphere as ET. The performances, from the kids in particular, are great and the plot rattles along at a cracking pace, pausing only for some touching moments of Spielberg-approved sentimentality (c'mon, have a heart!).

Yes, it is a bit soppy at times, and no, the low-tech antics of Joe and friends did not appear to hold the attention of his 2011 YouTube-ing counterparts, but I found Super 8 delightful, a fun, feelgood film that will brighten your summer despite the best attempts of the weather to dampen it.

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