At the helm is J.J. Abrams, whose Lost proved to be a surprise network hit, Cloverfield was a legitimately scary monster movie and Star Trek reintroduced about $400 million worth of people to the crew of the Enterprise.
Set in a small Ohio town in the 1970s, Super 8 introduces a group of kids who spend their after school time making homemade movies and bowing at the feet of Carpenter and Romero (not unlike Abrams’ obvious admiration for Spielberg). There is Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), who recently lost his mother and whose deputy sheriff father (Kyle Chandler) isn’t capable of raising a son on his own. Directing is Charles (Riley Griffiths), who seems to know what he’s doing behind the lens. Cast as the leading lady is Alice (Elle Fanning) who, even with zombie makeup, Joe has a crush on.
When filming a tender moment at midnight, the cast and crew witness an extraordinary train crash, caused when a pickup truck runs head-on and successfully derails it, allowing for a spectacularly over-the-top wreck. They approach the dying driver, who offers, “They will kill you. Do not speak of this.”
The Air Force sets up camp and assures anyone who asks about the site, “It’ll be a very fast cleanup.” Then, dogs start running away, people begin to disappear and power outages spread throughout the town. What is going on? If movies like Super 8 have taught us anything, it’s that something has to be lurking somewhere in town.
And Abrams does an effective job of keeping the shark in the water for much of the movie, right up until that near-doomed final act, where Abrams takes so much of the mystery away by keeping the face and eyes of the monster in focus. Movies, it seems, are not where Abrams chooses to apply the “less is more” principle.
Super 8 is one of the best movies of 2011. It’s difficult to find a group of kids who can be believable in any movie--let alone a blockbuster--but the young cast has a warm camaraderie that calls back to The Goonies and Stand By Me. And Abrams, of course, is a wide-eyed kid happily trapped inside of a man with vision and the right people on his side.
The Dream Behind Super 8 (16:28): This featurette looks at the role homemade movies played in the evolution of Super 8, with special attention paid to Abrams’ short films he made as a youth. Also included are clips, interviews (with Burk, Fong and Steven Spielberg) and on-set footage, which observes how Abrams works with his cast.
The Search for New Faces (17:46): Here, focus is put on the challenge of casting the child actors who played the leads in Super 8. Interviews with the kids and audition footage are featured.
Meet Joel Courtney (14:35) offers a brief biography on Courtney, who played Joe Lamb in the movie.
Rediscovering Steel Town (18:24) highlights the role Weirton, West Virginia, where much of Super 8 was shot, played in enhancing the small-town vibe that Abrams wanted.
The Visitor Lives (12:22): The movie’s creature is put under the microscope, with specific details on the body’s dimensions, its face and deciding how much of it to show in the film.
Scoring Super 8 (5:29): This piece centers on composer Michael Giacchino (Star Trek, Up) and his score for Super 8.
Do You Believe in Magic? (4:29): After watching this short and fun featurette featuring Larry Fong, you just might. Card tricks, optical illusions and mind games ensue!
The 8mm Revolution (8:15): Something of a companion piece to “The Dream Behind Super 8,” this addition looks at the history of super 8 film stock, the crew who grew up on it and how it plays into the movie’s story.
Deconstructing the Train Crash: This “self-guided trip” gives viewers the chance to see how the brilliantly constructed train wreck sequence was accomplished from script to screen. With the remote, you can choose whether to be educated on the pre-production, production or post-production of Super 8.
Deleted Scenes (12:47): There are 14 here, which can be viewed separately or as a bunch: “Inside the 7-Eleven,” “Joe Writes New Pages,” “Joe Gives Charles New Pages,” “Jack Searches the Gas Station,” “Inside the Car Dealership,” “Joe Gets in Trouble,” “Lucy Goes Missing,” “Dry Brush Technique,” “Army Navy Store,” “Joe Watches Home Movies,” “Saying Goodnight,” “Cubes Shake the Red Trucks,” “Jacks Finds Joe’s Backpack,” and “Joe and Cary Discover the Coffins.” As the scenes average out to less than a minute apiece, fans shouldn’t expect any significant plot or character development, but rather a few straggling moments cut for running time reasons.
Also included with this two-disc set is a DVD/Digital Copy of Super 8.