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Super 8 (Blu-ray Review)

18 Nov, 2011 By: John Latchem

Street 11/22/11
Box Office $127 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and some drug use.
Stars Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Gabriel Basso, Zach Mills, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich.

J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 is a melting pot of genres and may be the ultimate homage ever put on film. While aping the early films directed or produced by Steven Spielberg (who also produced this one), it also joins a recent trend of films celebrating their makers’ love of making movies, such as Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder and Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind.

Even the music by Michael Giacchino sounds like a lost score by John Williams, who scores all of Spielberg’s movies.

Set in Ohio in the late 1970s, Super 8 takes its title from the home movie camera being used by a group of kids to make a zombie movie for a school project (8MM was already taken). While shooting at a local train depot, the kids witness a massive derailment that attracts a shadowy Air Force unit to their town. People start disappearing amid a rash of thefts of equipment such as car engines and microwaves from local homes and businesses. Studying their footage of the accident, the kids learn a mysterious creature escaped from the train. Their only clues to its nature are thousands of tiny cubes that spilled during the crash.

So we have a coming of age adventure similar to The Goonies, a mysterious creature that acts like the smoke monster from “Lost,” and a setting similar to Close Encounters or E.T. involving a military conspiracy and potential alien life.

Most films like this would focus on the mystery, but Abrams is more concerned with the interpersonal relationships of the kids and their parents. Primary among them is Joe Lamb (played by newcomer Joel Courtney), whose relationship with his father is strained after his mother is killed at the beginning of the movie. So much of the excitement takes place in the background while the kids try to figure out what’s going on, until Joe takes action to find the alien’s lair after a girl he likes is captured by it.

Lulls aside, the film is beautifully shot and acted, and there’s a nice bonus during the end credits when we get to see the zombie movie the kids were trying to make.

The biggest extra focuses on the train crash, with an interactive deconstruction of the sequence that lets viewers witness its development from script to screen. The Blu-ray also includes more than an hour and a half of behind-the-scenes featurettes that will leave few questions about the film’s inspiration or production. One of the lighthearted but more enjoyable segments focuses on cinematographer Larry Fong, who dazzled those on the set with amazing feats of magic.

Other extras include 12 minutes of deleted scenes that provide a few new insights into the plot, and a thorough commentary with Abrams, Fong and producer Bryan Burk, just to cover all the bases.

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