The film opens somberly with the funeral of young Joe Lamb's (Joel Courtney) mother who has been tragically killed in a factory accident. Both Joe and his father, Deputy Sheriff Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) are trying to deal in their own ways with this grief. While Deputy Lamb buries himself in his work, Joe turns to his friends especially Charles, the budding filmmaker in the group. In the summer of 1979, the kids have focused themselves on making a zombie horror movie for a film festival. While filming a movie scene one night, they stumble across a major train derailment which spells doom for their entire town.
But it isn't just a simple train derailment, something escapes from one of the carriages. From thereon, the film becomes a battle of sorts, with the military getting involved and the threat the creature poses to the town and its inhabitants who Deputy Sheriff Lamb is trying so hard to protect. Of course, as the adults try to handle it their way, who really swoops in and tries to save the day. It's Joe and his friends. That part was inevitable.
I thought the movie ended a bit too abruptly, I would have liked to see the action extended a bit more and seen the consequences of the ending. But I loved the feelings of bygone era evoked by this film and its characters. The tight knit group of friends, the tense relationship between Joe and his father, and his interest in Alice (Elle Fanning), an older girl who is the latest addition to movie-making group were all handled beautiful. I would have loved to spent more time with them.
Overall, Super 8 is a nostalgic movie that reminds you of films you grew up with that dealt with kids going on fantastical adventures that made you feel like you were a part of. A definite watch that might have you reaching to re-watch the films you grew up on. Another fine feature by JJ Abrams and his team and a great debut by newcomer Joel Courtney on whose shoulders the whole films rests. The rest of the supporting cast is great as well with Kyle Chandler leading the way. I loved Riley Griffiths as the over-enthusiastic young director who always worried about production values and Ryan Lee as the kid who always has a handy stash of explosives around. Always useful in a monster movie. And finally, Elle Fanning is pitch perfect here; it's hard to believe she's only 14!
Directed and Written by JJ Abrams; Cinematography by Larry Fong; Editing by Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey; Music by Michael Giacchino
Additional cast: Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich