Abrams pays tribute to Spielberg in Super 8

Filming is interrupted when the kids witness a violent train crash.

Super 8 has been one of the most highly-anticipated movies of the year. In true J.J. Abrams style, the trailer gave audiences just enough to drive them crazy with curiosity. What was in that train car? We had to know! Now the Steven Spielberg-produced film is finally out and audiences everywhere get to see what all the buzz was about.

As most everyone knows, Super 8 is about a group of kids making a movie who witness a huge train crash in which something escapes from a secure military train car and sparks a series of bizarre and scary events in a small town.

Something fights to escape from the train car.

The Goonies-like group of kids is lead by Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), a young teen whose dad is the sheriff and whose family has just experienced a tragedy. Joe’s only real escape is through making zombie movies with his friends: director Charles (Riley Griffiths), leading man Martin (Gabriel Basso), background player Preston (Zach Mills) and pyrotechnician-in-training Cary (Ryan Lee). Joe’s heart is all aflutter when Charles decides the film is missing a female lead and casts Alice (Elle Fanning) to play the main character’s wife. The kids all head down to the train station to begin shooting a scene. As the camera is rolling, a train starts approaching. Suddenly, a truck shoots onto the tracks, causing a massive crash that leaves burning wreckage everywhere and the kids running for their lives. Little do they know what else escaped the wreckage and is now lurking in the shadows of the town.

Any monster movie worth its salt knows that you don’t reveal the monster until the end. Super 8 does a fantastic job of keeping us fascinated with little glimpses of the creature before the big reveal. In fact, before we see so much as a limb, we’re already locked in from seeing the strange occurrences happening in town: all the dogs running away, car engines going missing, power lines seemingly disappearing, etc.. Abrams knows how to cash in on that kind of suspense and curiosity, and he wields it well here.

Charles (Riley Griffiths) and Joe (Joel Courtney) can't believe their eyes as they watch their developed film.

But unlike so many monster movies, this one actually has a story and a cast of some of the most talented young actors around. Courtney is remarkable bringing vulnerability, intelligence and strength to Joe. Fanning proves to be more than a love interest and plays well off Courtney. The gang of boys are all fantastic. Griffiths runs the show like Cartman with a camera and a heart. Mills and Basso fill out the team and Lee brings major laughs. All the kids play off of each other so well, and their dialogue feels so natural, that it instantly makes the film enjoyable. Both Kyle Chandler and Ron Eldard are great as dads, but the kids rule this movie. It’s their relationship that gives the film another layer beyond the monster mystery.

Spielberg’s stamp is all over this one and it’s clear he was a very active producer. Everything from the individual young actors to the way huge plot points are conveyed through visuals instead of expository dialogue feels like a Spielberg film. There were obvious parallels to E.T., shots that looked like they could have come from Jurassic Park and a gang of kids that could have fit right in with The Goonies. Abrams executes it well and Super 8 is like a tribute to some of Spielberg’s memorable work.

If you and your friends ever made movies as kids, you’ll enjoy Super 8. If you grew up eating Reese’s Pieces and wishing you could find One-Eyed Willie’s gold, you’ll enjoy Super 8. Even in you’re just in the market for a great summer movie, you’ll enjoy Super 8. This was one movie that truly lived up to the hype.

Alexis Gentry

Alexis Gentry is the creator and editor of Trashwire.com. She has been called a “dynamic, talented and unique voice in pop culture” by Ben Lyons of E! and, with her strong fascination with entertainment and penchant for writing, it’s not hard to see why.

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