Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
The 100 Greatest Video Games
The Making Of The West Wing
Subscribe To Empire Today
Save money and get 12 issues for only £25
London Film Festival 2014
Our round-up of the galas, films and interviews
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
Click poster to enlarge
More posters to select

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Elle Fanning
Kyle Chandler
Ron Eldard
Amanda Michalka
Noah Emmerich
Joel Courtney
Gabriel Basso
Zach Mills
.
Directors
JJ Abrams.
Screenwriters
JJ Abrams.
Running Time
111 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Overnighters, The
4 Star Empire Rating
Fury
3 Star Empire Rating
Way He Looks, The
4 Star Empire Rating
Serena
2 Star Empire Rating
Book Of Life, The
3 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Le Jour Se Lève
5 Star Empire Rating
Tony Benn: Will And Testament
5 Star Empire Rating
Nightcrawler
5 Star Empire Rating
Babadook, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The
5 Star Empire Rating

Super 8
The Monster Squad


submit to reddit


Plot
Sneaking out at night to shoot a pivotal scene in their homemade zombie film, Joe (Courtney) and his pals witness a dramatic train crash. Then the really weird stuff begins, and the boys realise something escaped from the wreckage...


Review
Super 8
Browse more images »
We need to talk about Steven. You might consider it grossly unfair to compare any director to one of the medium’s greatest exponents, but J. J. Abrams is asking for it. Not only has he persuaded Steven Spielberg to serve as producer on his latest film — encouragingly neither sequel, prequel, nor attempt to deodorise a stale franchise — but the very film the tenderfoot filmmaker has written and directed is a fan letter to the spirit of early Spielberg. The kind of cinematic telepathy, touching hearts and minds, that gave us Jaws, Close Encounters and E. T.. This is less covering The Beatles than growing a mop top, strapping on a Hofner bass and channelling an irresistibly catchy synthesis of R&B, rock ’n’ roll and Liverpudlian charisma.

Over the next 112 minutes, a motherless boy and his staunch gang of misshapen buddies (a Bash Street arrangement of cute, thin, fat, clever and pyromaniac) will face the great questions of life: how to talk to girls, how to get production values on your DIY zombie flick, and what to do when a despondent alien is deposited, care of an elaborate derailment, in your backyard. As set in 1979, an age crystallised as Spielberg’s imaginary playground. Fathers will struggle to fathom their mooncalf offspring, while confused townsfolk are shipped off in school buses amid a faceless military lockdown. There’s even a POV shot from the creature’s perspective, parting bushes to gaze upon the small-town setting, its jewelled streetlights flaring fetchingly in the lens. Prosecution rests.

To cut the film a significant break — and it’s a strong movie — if you’re going to homage, why not follow in the sneaker-steps of the master? A faithfully rearticulated sense of wonder coats Super 8 like varnish — an old-fashioned need to strike emotional chords over the modern urge to plunge headlong into excitement at all costs. A personal blockbuster in honour of the greatest of all personal blockbustermakers.

So we also need to talk about J. J.. Super 8 is to a degree autobiographical (about the whole alien visitation thing, he remains tight-lipped). He was that junior filmmaker with a chunky Super 8, brought up on Spielberg and Lucas, just as you know these kids have gobbled up Star Wars and Close Encounters (and snuck into a few Romeros). He transplants his New Jersey youth to a blue-collar Ohio town named Lillian significantly on the down (a chime of modern concerns), where Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) still struggles with the death of his adoring mother in a mill accident. His father, the town’s stoic deputy (Kyle Chandler), is faring worse, flinching from his son’s grief. A familiar refrain for anyone who caught Lost and Star Trek (or E. T.) — the legacy of the absentee parent.

Joel finds solace spending the summer goofing with his schlubby comrades. Led by bumptious, trumpet-voiced ‘director’, Charles (Riley Griffiths), they are intent on making their own film within the film: a nutty, lovable zombie skit shot on the eponymous camera, with homemade make-up care of Jack’s obsession with painting figurines and movie-model kits. His room is a junkyard of ’70s geek clutter, but these are geeks from a pre-internet age, happy to draw deep on fresh air, unsure growing up offers them a whole lot. The pressure, laid down by Spielberg’s unyielding template, was to find regular boys, gummy with youth, but enlivened by the camera.

Thankfully, the kids are more than alright. They’re fabulous: yearningly fresh-faced and infantile, effortlessly colliding with the Brownian motion of a boyhood of in-jokes, flash sulks and bike-rides through the balmy sunlight of possibility (a mood as much redolent of Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me as Spielberg). En masse, they stand in tremulous awe at Elle Fanning’s Alice (spookily reminiscent of Erika Eleniak in E. T.), who has agreed to co-star in their endeavours, revealing a startling ability to, like, act. She’s also a precious commodity for Abrams: the budding romance between Joe and Alice gives the film its heartbeat. Both are caught in the slipstream of wounded fathers, Joel’s tragedy movingly intertwined with Alice’s fragmenting family.

Is it significant that Super 8 is a film without mothers? Nothing here carries the emotional wallop of E. T.’s Dee Wallace finding a literal alien in her home, her reaction overwhelmingly human — to wrench her son away from the unknown. To protect. We are yanked beyond the bounds of science-fiction by the force of maternal instinct. Super 8 never relinquishes its movieness. Where Spielberg mingled the extraordinary with a verifiable suburbia, Abrams works at one remove, locating the extraordinary in Spielbergia. The magic comes lovingly pre-packaged. Idealised. We obediently bask in its glow, but nothing startles us.

As Abrams has explained, these boys (and girl) only teeter on the precipice of teenhood, yet to make the plunge. Awakening to the female of the species is still chastely above board; sex only sensed like an alien presence. Of all the monsters arriving in boxcars, puberty could be the most terrifying of all. For now, sneaking off on location to Lillian’s ramshackle station, the boys (and girl) will witness a tumultuous, CG-exaggerated train crash, their toppled camera catching sight of an escaping bogeyman.

The director has also been honest about how the coming-of-age and coming-of-alien storylines were separate ideas, later melded together. And the film never manages to shake its bi-part origins. Alongside the escapades of the boys (and girl), Abrams drip-feeds his weirdness: a noticeboard teeming with news of lost dogs, strange reflections in pools of petroleum. Until the very end, we are granted no greater glimpse of the alien than something malevolent lurking in the bushes, picking off irrelevant yokels one by one. It might as well be smoke. Or an ill-tempered Great White.

Too soon the drip feed turns into a cascade and science-fiction floods both town and film, washing away the mystery and much of the charm. The military, led by a granite-faced Noah Emmerich, aren’t fooling anybody. And with the Earth-shattering revelation that aliens are not only real but intent on ridding the neighbourhood of both its population and electrical goods, relationship issues, or finishing your zombie epic, surely become secondary concerns.

Worse than the creature, convention rears its ugly head. The boys (and girl) are required to clatter about like The Goonies, Abrams slipping gears into B-movie short-cuts. And while intriguingly Tolkieny in close-up, the alien turns out a confusing concept: evil yet wronged, beastly yet advanced, enigmatic yet possessed of a convenient telepathy to circumvent narrative snarl-ups. We feel nothing for it, neither fear nor compassion — a visitor from Planet MacGuffin.

Moreover, the fact it has escaped from government skulduggery (like Paul pruned of his Earthly drollery) is a dead end. There is nothing the kids discover that the scowling authorities are not already in on. Apart from a sketchy rescue mission, they are bystanders in a plot that has crash-landed from a different movie. No matter how much CG-alien action we get for our money, we miss just watching these kids grow up. In this, at least, Abrams is true to his mentor. The humans are the most awesome special effect.


Verdict
It’s nowhere close to E. T. — what is? — but amongst the hullabaloo of summer, Super 8 is something to cherish: a beautifully made homage to better times, and better movies.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for Super 8
Empire Star Rating

Thoroughly good fun

I love JJ Abrahams. He injects so much joy and fun into his movies, real flair for the spectacular. While I really really enjoyed this film, the second half slipped away - I'd have to agree with the reviewer on this one. The first half was a beautiful study of growing up, having a crush etc. Then the film just opens up into a bog standard (although great fun) action movie. Disappointing overall, but so much good stuff within, you won't regret the viewing. And the train crash is nothing sho... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jrewing1000 at 00:59, 19 December 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8 - Review

It was alright, not too bad, dont know what all the fuss is about though a 3 starrer in my book ... More

Posted by kargon at 20:37, 17 December 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8 - Review

L: bozo They don't make them like this anymore. hey did, this year ... More

Posted by tftrman at 16:46, 16 December 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8 - Review

They don't make them like this anymore. Pure joy from start to finish. The freshest, most emotionally involving blockbuster of the year. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bozo at 16:44, 16 December 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8 - Review

POTENTIAL MILD SPOILERS, IF YOU'RE A ] PICKY BASTARD..... Just saw this on rental - absolutely loved it!  I've never really been an ET fan (I'm more than overdue another viewing though...) but this kind of 'ET with a horror twist' was just my cup of tea.  Nostalgic, exciting, tense, thrilling and heartwarming, for me it has it all.  I loved the fact that Abrams really keeps us waiting when it comes to actually seeing his monster - exactly the way it shoul... More

Posted by Super Hans at 23:05, 14 December 2011 | Report This Post


Cloverfield 2 (for kids)

The monster even looked similar. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by serious_syd at 22:50, 01 October 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Super

This film would have been so much better without the alien nonesense. Just a bunch of kids, influences by Spielberg and co, out making a film to enter into a contest. Character based, with love and loss and everything inbetween. But no, there needs to be a rubbish looking monster thrown in. Three stars, but that is because I liked the kids and the first third of the film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 23:01, 01 September 2011 | Report This Post


Super

A film of character and love of the old sci-fi films. A big nod to Spielberg with a fast moving story and good performances from the kids especially. Having an alien which is destructive as well as understanding what it's purpose for being here or how he got here through the kids eyes. Great effects and totally draws you back to the era of Spielberg's early sci-fi classics. Definitely worth checking out if you haven't already plus there is bonus super 8 footage of the kid's film in the credits. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by DiaDhuit29 at 00:12, 31 August 2011 | Report This Post


Brilliant!

Loved this movie! Great story, great acting, my only criticism it started to drag at the end. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Empo at 14:21, 24 August 2011 | Report This Post


A SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER....WITH HEART

Why didn't Mr. Berg direct this thing himself? The kids are all good performers and the plot - while nothing original - is told with style and elan. Can JJ get on with directing Star Trek 2 now please? Pretty please........FOUR STARS ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 10:58, 19 August 2011 | Report This Post


A SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER....WITH HEART

Why didn't Mr. Berg direct this thing himself? The kids are all good performers and the plot - while nothing original - is told with style and elan. Can JJ get on with directing Star Trek 2 now please? Pretty please........FOUR STARS ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 10:58, 19 August 2011 | Report This Post


Super

Film of the summer by far for me so far. There's no doubt it's a bit of a tribute to Spielberg but it stands on it's own as a great film as well. That's helped largely by the excellent leading cast of children with a standout performance from Elle Fanning. The train crash is superb (though perhaps a wee bit OTT) and even the alien looks pretty good when you eventually get to see it. And glad they put in the actual short film that the kids are making at the end. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trueborndjross at 08:57, 18 August 2011 | Report This Post


Super

Film of the summer by far for me so far. There's no doubt it's a bit of a tribute to Spielberg but it stands on it's own as a great film as well. That's helped largely by the excellent leading cast of children with a standout performance from Elle Fanning. The train crash is superb (though perhaps a wee bit OTT) and even the alien looks pretty good when you eventually get to see it. And glad they put in the actual short film that the kids are making at the end. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trueborndjross at 08:57, 18 August 2011 | Report This Post


Super 8: Review

Super 8 is a very good film. It has an excellent story, the actors did a great performance for their characters and there are alot of cool scenes. My favourite scene in the film is the train crash because it looked epic. The problems i had with the film is its a tad familiar to E.T and its a bit too loud. Really enjoyable film to see. I would recommend to go see this film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Edward9630 at 00:52, 17 August 2011 | Report This Post


The goonies Meets An Evil E.T, awesome film.

JJ Abrams has gifted our cinema with Cloverfield and Star Trek, well Super 8 is better than both and far better than the Bloody Goonies. Its fair to say that Super 8 is both a tribute to happier times and to happier movies, that said there are the few tragedesque scenes in Super 8. Well the storys about Joe, his loud friends and the beatiful Elle Fanning who drive out to do a midnight shoot of a zombie movie their trying to make, but oh-oh! The train passes by and crashes into a car which delib... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lewisb548 at 19:36, 16 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Loved it!

Well that ending had me close to tears, so I think it did a very good job to suck me into the drama.  ... More

Posted by Deviation at 14:12, 16 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Loved it!

Saw this on the weekend and thought it was very entertaining. Good measures of heart, suspense and wonder. Having said that, the earlier criticisms about it being two different films melded together are probably justified. It didn't feel like there was any smooth transition between the childhood angst and the evil military/alien hunt for the vast majority of the film, and thinking about it now - it could've been interesting to see both stories given their own movie and ... More

Posted by brucejackiejet at 09:58, 16 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Loved it!

I loved this film, a very heartfelt tribute to the films of you-know-who, the performances were all excellent, especially Ellie Fanning when she was acting in the film-within-a-film. The train crash was spectacular and the monster not as bad as some people are making out. But for me the relationships between the kids and between the kids and their parents were what made this so memorable. Seeing the two Dads together at the end and reuniting with the kids was a perfect ending - but also using t... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by barracute at 22:57, 15 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Loved it!

L: TrendMeUp Nowt wrong with War Of The Worlds. I'd argue the film is very original. But I don't really wish to argue. either! Alien films cause me hassle for some reason! ... More

Posted by thetruth at 21:46, 14 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Loved it!

A good film. Good performances from the kids and some truly heartwarming scenes. Was a little light on the action, but I thought the alien was great. A nice mix between The Goonies and E.T. but nowhere near as good as either. 3.5 stars. ... More

Posted by CORLEONE at 21:27, 14 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Loved it!

Nowt wrong with War Of The Worlds. I'd argue the film is very original. But I don't really wish to argue. ... More

Posted by TrendMeUp at 19:00, 14 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Loved it!

L: TrendMeUp I'm aware that Abrams set out to pay homage to Spielberg. But I don't think that is the defining premise of the film and I don't think it's fair to focus 80 percent of reviews on it when A. We all know it's influenced by Spielberg and B. The film has plenty of more interesting talking points than a few homages. And I'm sorry, but I do find it extremely lazy reviewing, particularly when it is the focal point of the review. It's like when people write "it's Tarantino meets M... More

Posted by thetruth at 18:49, 14 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Loved it!

I'm aware that Abrams set out to pay homage to Spielberg. But I don't think that is the defining premise of the film and I don't think it's fair to focus 80 percent of reviews on it when A. We all know it's influenced by Spielberg and B. The film has plenty of more interesting talking points than a few homages. And I'm sorry, but I do find it extremely lazy reviewing, particularly when it is the focal point of the review. It's like when people write "it's Tarantino meets Memento!" or "it's Figh... More

Posted by TrendMeUp at 17:16, 14 August 2011 | Report This Post


Loved it!

Its not perfect, it seems to end a bit too quickly and without much logic BUT it was awfully reminiscent of early Spielberg, featured good peformances from the cast, had some great set-pieces and I was hooked from the start. I'd certainly recommend this film and everyone I've spoken to thus far has said that it just transports them back to the magic they felt watching the likes of E.T and that can't be too bad! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by oldstuff at 16:44, 14 August 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Super 8

Saw and loved this film, and it puzzles me that some thought it was 'just' a pastiche. The kids are at least as 3-dimensional as anything in the bloody Goonies. And some critics, generally sniffy about spielbergian "sentimentality", have rightly talked about the brilliantly observed and evocative 'zombie makeup scene'. And SPOILER ! SPOILER! SPOILER! it's obvious that the character let go of the locket to effectively symbolise letting go of needless dwelling on pain. As h... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by cerebusboy at 19:06, 12 August 2011 | Report This Post


Previous pageMore user comments

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Empire Podcast: David Ayer Talks Fury
Plus Steve Carell talks Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Avengers: Age Of Ultron Trailer Reaction
We dive under the hood of Whedon's sequel teaser

10 Of The Most Impressive In-Universe Movie Tie-In Websites
From Blair Witch to Days Of Future Past, expand your cinematic horizons online

The 12 Apps Every Film Fan Needs On Their Smartphone
The handheld essentials to enhance your movie life

Empire Meets Jason Bateman And Tina Fey
The stars of This Is Where I Leave You hang out

The Scariest Film Of The Year? Jennifer Kent On The Babadook
The director talks us through her terrifying new film

10 Horror Spin-Offs We Want To See
After Annabelle, what other supporting characters deserve their own film?

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)