|Starring||Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Noah Emmerich, Kyle Chandler, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills|
|Release||10 JUNE (US) 5 AUG (UK) Certificate 12A|
They're not placed in danger as much as they could be, but their inclusion gives Abrams an excuse to shoot everything with that 'childlike wonder' he's so fond of. By which I mean 'cover everything in lens flare'.
The kids are uniformly excellent, though Joel Courtney is particularly good as lead sprog Joe – that rare breed of child actor that you don't want to grab by the scruff of the neck and march into the nearest, strictest drama school. Abrams must marshal a relaxed set, because the scenes in which the kids muck about feel natural and unscripted, meaning later scenes of mild peril carry some dramatic weight. Kudos also to Elle Fanning, who seems about one micron as pretentious as her older sister.
Though it's easy to spot the influence of executive producer Steven Spielberg – daddy issues, Close Encounters nods and big EMOTIONAL moments spelled out in CAPITALS – Abrams is running the show and doing it bloody well. The opening train crash is sensational – an absolute triumph of visual effects, pyrotechnics and sound design that shakes the screen and rattles the speakers. Action scene of the year by a mile.
Later, an alien attack on a bus is storyboarded to perfection; an excruciatingly tense and visceral set-piece that still manages not to show off too much. Shame, then, that the big last act reveal is a bit of a letdown, as these things we're teased almost always are. (These things are almost always not motion-captured by Bruce Greenwood, however.)
The worst thing you could say about Super 8 is that it's a little indulgent. There's no logical reason it's set in 1979, say, apart from that it's the era in which Abrams grew up and Spielberg reigned supreme. The plot is chock-full of macguffins which do little for the overall narrative other than flash loudly and announce themselves as 'JJ Abrams' Acme Plot Devices'. And, in finest Spielberg tradition, the family dynamics are over-played: apparently, perfectly functional family units do not exist in Hollywood.
Still, Super 8 is undoubtedly one of the more robust summer blockbusters of the year, with enough momentum to get it over the finish line before you start asking more questions of it.
Wait... Bruce Greenwood?