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The ‘Super 8’ Recipe for Success

21 Jul, 2011 By: Billy Gil

Super 8

Super 8, from writer-director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, “Lost”) and producer Steven Spielberg, is a terrific blend of coming-of-age story and alien-invasion action flick.

The film, set in 1979, features a group of young kids who, while filming a movie with their Super 8 camera, witness a train derailment and find themselves tied into a government conspiracy involving aliens. If you thought some of the elements of the film seemed a bit familiar, you aren’t alone.

We took a look at some other similarly themed films to see how Super 8 became a successful homage.


1 cup The Goonies (1985)

Richard Donner's 1985 film The Goonies is the stick by which other young adult movies are measured — 26 years later, the story of seven kids and teens who embark on an underground adventure to find treasure to save their town of Astoria hasn't been matched.

The connection: Steven Spielberg is credited with the story.

The Goonies: 25th Anniversary Edition
Available on DVD ($28.98) and Blu-ray ($34.98)
Warner Home Video



2 tablespoons of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Close Encounters helped set the stage that aliens could be something to be feared, in the case of Close Encounters' alien abduction, but also as something to be admired and in awe of, as echoed by Super 8's Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his increasing understanding of the alien creature as the film progresses.

The connection: Steven Spielberg wrote and directed.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition
Available as a three-DVD set ($19.94) and two-disc Blu-ray set ($24.95)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


1 ½ tablespoon E.T. — The Extra Terrestrial (1982)

The way Super 8's alien ends up interacting with and coming to a mutual understanding with the children is reminiscent of E.T., and his bonding with Elliott — let's face it, Joe Lamb is basically Elliott with the budding interest in girls of The Goonies' Mikey.

The connection: Steven Spielberg directed.

E.T. — The Extra Terrestrial
Available on DVD ($19.98) (How is this not yet on Blu-ray?)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment



1 tablespoon of Cloverfield (2008)

A monster attack on New York City is revealed through the point of view of a group of people recording it on video.

The connection: J.J. Abrams produced it

Available on DVD ($14.99) and Blu-ray ($22.99)
Paramount Home Entertainment


1 tablespoon of “Lost” (2004-10)

The smoke monster, anyone?

The connection: J.J. Abrams is a co-creator of the show.

Lost: The Complete Collection
Available as a 38-DVD set ($229.99) and 36-disc Blu-ray set ($279.99)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment


1 ½ teaspoons of Stand by Me (1986)

Like The Goonies, Stand by Me concerns a bunch of bored Oregon misfit youths who set off to find a dead body one of the boys hears about. Super 8, similarly, tells of a band of adolescent misfits doing something they shouldn't be — in the case of Super 8, it's Alice (Elle Fanning) taking her dad's car to film a movie at a train station at night with the boys. The stereotypes are even the same, from Joe's and Gordie Lachance's (Wil Wheaton) absent fathers and deaths in the family, to Alice's and Chris Chamber's (River Phoenix) alcoholic fathers, to Charles (Riley Griffiths) and Vern Tessio (Jerry O'Connell) both being chubby.

The connection: Close Encounters' Richard Dreyfuss plays Gordie grown up, and The Goonies' Corey Feldman plays the eccentric kid with the hearing aid.

Stand By Me
Available DVD ($14.94) and Blu-ray ($24.95)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


A pinch of Explorers (1985) and Flight of the Navigator (1986)

Cultish '80s kids-and-aliens flicks Explorers and Flight of the Navigator have plenty of the same ingredients as the others. In Explorers, a group of misfit kids builds a rocket and travel into space, encountering alien beings. Navigator features a single kid who helps an alien craft escape government scientists.

Available on DVD ($16.99)
Paramount Home Entertainment

Flight of the Navigator
Available on DVD ($14.99)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment


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