Steven Spielberg used to make movies with a gang of kids at their core. Believing they could do anything, these kids would be forced into trying circumstances but would manage to overcome by summoning up reserves of youthful determination.
Spielberg’s masterpiece, “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” showed us kids that could fight the government for the sake of an innocent. He produced and wrote the story for “The Goonies,” a movie about a bunch of kids finding the treasure of a lifetime.
“Super 8,” written and directed by J.J. Abrams, pays homage to Spielberg and those movies.
The story centers on a group of small-town Ohio kids trying to make a zombie movie for a Super 8 film competition.
Kyle Chandler plays the town’s chief deputy sheriff, Jackson Lamb. His son, Joe (Joel Courtney), is the make-up man for the kids’ movie.
Joe begins to fall for the female lead, Alice (Elle Fanning). Problem is, she’s the daughter of the town drunk (Ron Eldard), who has multiple run-ins with Deputy Lamb.
As the kids are filming at the local train station one summer night, a train passes by – and spectacularly derails.
As the train comes to rest, its box cars spread on the ground like pick-up sticks, the kids see that the train is not an ordinary train, but one from the Air Force. A loud banging noise is emanating from within one of the derailed cars.
Realizing they are in the wrong place at the wrong time, the kids run off to avoid being identified. And after the train wreck, strange things begin to happen in the town.
The dogs all run out of town en masse. Engines begin to disappear from cars on a used car lot. Then people, including the sheriff, start disappearing.
As the kids keep shooting their movie, they begin to piece together the mystery. It seems the town is facing something that is surely not human.
“Super 8” is a finely crafted film that harkens back to a time when things were so different from today: the late 1970s. For example, when the kids carry their Super 8 film in to be processed, the clerk tells them he will do a “rush job” on it. It will be back in three days.
Abrams directs this movie with the care of a person who loves Spielberg’s work. He knows the Spielberg canon well and reminds us of that throughout.
Abrams allows us to see, as Spielberg did, the joys and heartaches of middle-school youth. There is magic in youth, and that magic is powerful – powerful enough to do what no adult could do. That is, be a savior.
“Super 8” is a nice piece of nostalgia. It reminds us of our own youth and informs those still in the midst of it that their lives have power. I truly enjoyed this movie.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and some drug use.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Writer: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Joel Courtney: Joe; Riley Griffith: Charles; Elle Fanning: Alice; Ron Eldard: Louis Dainard; Kyle Chandler: Jackson Lamb; Ryan Lee: Cary; Zach Mills: Preston.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.