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Super 8

Entry updated 6 March 2019. Tagged: Film.

Film (2011). Amblin Entertainment/Bad Robot Productions for Paramount Pictures. Produced by J J Abrams and Steven Spielberg. Directed by Abrams. Written by Abrams. Cast includes Gabriel Basso, Kyle Chandler, Joel Courtney, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills and Glynn Turman. 112 minutes. Colour.

Summer, 1979. Teenage high-school friends are making an amateur Zombie film, The Case, directed by Charles Kaznyk (Griffiths) and co-starring Alice Dainard (Fanning), for whom the young hero Joe Lamb (Courtney) develops a serious romantic interest. Slipping out late one night to shoot footage at a train depot, the group narrowly escapes injury from a catastrophic derailment caused by a pickup truck intentionally driven into the train's path. The truck driver is Dr Woodward (Turman), their biology teacher, who warns the teens to flee or their parents will be killed. They obey, but not before Joe finds an odd metallic cube which he keeps.

Strange events around town follow, including thefts of electronic equipment and the disappearance of several people including the Sheriff – leaving Joe's father Jackson "Jack" Lamb (Chandler) in charge of law enforcement. US Air Force troops have intervened, led by the sinister Colonel Nelec (Emmerich) whom Lamb overhears discussing suspicious matters. Joe's developed Super 8 (8mm) film shows a large Monster escaping from the train during the accident. The youngsters break into their school, just ahead of Air Force personnel, and find Woodward's belongings; these including old film showing that he worked for the US government years before, and that the monster is an Alien which crash-landed on Earth in 1958 and was held captive. Turman contacted it via Telepathy and quit the project, determined to help it escape one day: hence his wrecking of the train transporting the being.

The Air Force sets wildfires about the town to justify evacuating everyone; Alice is captured by the alien. Joe learns of this from her father Louis Dainard (Eldard); he and several friends set off to rescue her. Lamb slips into the Air Force base, sees Woodward murdered by Nelec, is captured briefly, and escapes. Joe, Cory (Lee) and other teens discover that the alien has made a lair Underground and built a device beneath the town's water tower. The missing people are hanging upside down in the tunnels, alive. After freeing Alice, the youngsters are cornered by the alien: Joe convinces it to release them unharmed. All metal in the town, including the strange cubes the train was transporting, is magnetically drawn to the water tower to form a Spaceship in which the alien escapes Earth after defeating the Air Force in a final encounter. During the closing credits, the completed zombie film The Case is shown.

Super 8 draws on Urban Legends of the alleged 1947 UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico, and in keeping with this theme views the US military with considerable Paranoia. The recreation of the period is well handled – including pop music by The Cars, Blondie, and ELO (see Electric Light Orchestra) – offering much nostalgic appeal to those who were teenagers in 1979. That a large, frightening alien can still be a friendly, intelligent being is a point well made. [GSt/DRL]


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