Steven Spielberg is the original master of the mixed-genre movies. His films like "ET" and "Close Encounters…" are sci-fi, action, mystery, thrillers with a very generous dose of children`s cinema. With "Super 8", he returns to the same, with a delightful vengeance. Only this time he is the producer, with J.J. Abrahms sitting in the directorial chair.
Set in the 1970s, the film shows a train carrying a mysterious cargo derailing outside a small town. A bunch of kids, who were shooting a film with their 8mm camera, not only record the events, but have to get behind the scenes to unravel the mystery even as the entire US military descends on the otherwise sleepy town.
In the age of digital cinema, "Super 8" is not just about the nostalgia of filming on prints, but is also a throwback to the films made during those times. Films that were not only good on action and mystery, but were also good-hearted and sensitive.
You thus have a story told through the eyes of a bunch of kids, which also serves as nostalgia for your childhood and the mystery one felt about everything at that age.
And the film has got the heart of a child as well and it takes the innocence and openness of a child to see it for what it is, a scared being in a hostile world.
The alien that wreaks havoc on the small town becomes a metaphor for the person, the community or the subject that is a perennial outsider to the world and its ways and is not only prejudiced against, but hated vehemently.
At a very ethereal level though this almost seems like a film that Spielberg forgot to make during the 1980s when he was rising to the top. And it is a mistake he is correcting now.
Unlike the benevolent alien of "ET", here you have a violent one, but violent only in self defence, for the alien is nothing but a creature trying to go back home; remember `ET going home`?
Yet, it is different and often better than "ET" and "Close Encounters…" in many ways. It`s quicker on its feet and has great special effects. The initial scene where a high speeding train derails and the kids are scrambling for cover in a place that has no cover to give them, is scintillatingly done enough to bring you to the edge of your seat.
The difference is of course director J.J. Abrams, whose last outing as director was the delectable and delightful rewinding of the "Star Trek" sage. Abrams is a self assured and confident director who knows his strengths and how to play them, enough for a viewer not to look at the flaws.
The performances in the film are good. Yet the ones who are exceptional are the kids. Their acting and innocence rendered on them by a good script also makes it a very delightful children`s movie.