Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 24
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

I THINK WE NEED TO ADD MORE DETAIL THERE: Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney, right) is consulting with Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) on a detail for the model set for the zombie film they are working on with their friend Charles (Riley Griffith, not shown).

Super 8: Spielberg’s Influence Strongly Felt in J.J. Abrams’ Homage

Kam Williams

Even Steven Spielberg would have a hard time making a movie which resembles one of his own pictures as much as Super 8 does. This homage was directed by J.J. Abrams, a Spielberg protégé who unashamedly filled the movie with allusions to Close Encounters of Third Kind, E.T., Jaws, Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds, The Goonies and other films by his mentor.

Among the motifs revisited are trademark Spielberg plot devices such as an attempted, official cover up of a burgeoning mystery, adolescents estranged from their parents, and an anthropomorphic extra terrestrial. And many Spielberg technical devices are employed such as lens flares, foreboding flashlights, and disorienting camera angles.

Luckily, because the movie is absorbing from beginning to end, the viewer doesn’t need to consider whether J.J.’s borrowing of ideas amounts to a rip-off or a tribute. Another plus is the chemistry generated among the cast of mostly unknown actors.

The story is set during the summer of 1979 in Lillian, Ohio, a generic midwestern town whose set is fashioned from the Hollywood template for small town America.

Protagonist Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is mourning the death of his mother who perished in an industrial accident just a few months earlier. He resists the pressure being exerted by his father (Kyle Chandler), who is a deputy sheriff, to attend baseball camp. Instead, Joe wants to help his pal Charles (Riley Griffiths) finish shooting a zombie movie on Super 8 film called The Case. The rest of the movie crew is comprised of Preston (Zach Mills), Martin (Gabriel Basso), Carey (Ryan Lee), and Alice (Elle Fanning).

The plot thickens when a passing freight train derails while they’re filming a love scene on the local station platform. The children barely manage to escape the conflagration with their lives. However, Charles manages to capture some critical evidence with his camera.

The town people are rattled not only by the fire but by the bizarre occurrences which begin to plague their town. Soon, the military descends upon the town, led by an Air Force Colonel (Noah Emmerich) who eventually issues an evacuation order. However, our resourceful youngsters pluck up their courage and save the day.

Excellent (4 stars), rated PG-13 for profanity, drug use, and intense violence, running time: 112 minutes, distributor: Paramount Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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