Super 8 preview

We managed to see a 20-minute preview of JJ Abrams' eagerly-awaited Super 8. And here's what we thought of it...

Super 8

Of all the upcoming summer movies, the real unknown quantity in among the various comic-book adaptations, sequels and remakes would have to be JJ Abrams’ Super 8. From its enigmatic title, through to its evocative yet evasive teaser trailer, quite what Super 8 is has been something of a secret.

However, with the release of its full trailer a few weeks back (and the new clip that arrived earlier today), that air of mystery began to lift, and so it was with some considerable anticipation that Den of Geek went along to a preview screening of 20 minutes of footage from the movie itself.

Prefaced by a short video introduction from the director, Abrams explained that Super 8 grew from two separate pitches he made to both Steven Spielberg and Paramount Pictures respectively.

To Spielberg he pitched the idea of a bunch of kids in the late 70s making a super 8 movie, while Paramount were seemingly sold on the rough notion of a film about something escaping from Area 51. But it wasn’t until those two ideas fused together that the project(s) really started to gather momentum.

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So how is Abrams’ two-for-one movie looking on screen?

Judging by the sequences we saw today, Super 8 looks mightily impressive. Seemingly pitched as something of an antidote to the more overtly spectacle-driven blockbusters we’re usually treated to, the basis of the scenes we were shown related back to character and performance, which was really heartening to see.

It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that Abrams chose to open his ‘sizzle reel’ with an intimate scene set in a diner between lead kid, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his father, town Deputy Jack (Kyle Chandler). Nicely setting up the slightly strained father/son dynamic at the heart of the picture, the scene was perfectly pitched by both actors and sharply scripted by Abrams.

Joel Courtney, in particular, comes across really strongly onscreen, while Kyle Chandler seems perfectly cast as the recently widowed lawman looking out for his movie make-up obsessed son whom he, clearly, doesn’t quite understand. They’re a hugely believable father and son combination and one you buy into straight away.

From here we cut to the main meat of the presentation – the build-up and aftermath of the train crash that we’ve seen fleetingly in the two trailers so far.

Suffice to say it’s a hugely impressive and spectacular sequence that the trailer barely even hints at. Even more impressively, it’s a sequence that’s topped and tailed by some fantastic (and funny) character moments from the hugely impressive young cast, while also hinting at the broader mystery that undoubtedly will drive the rest of the movie.

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The final sequence we were shown was a somewhat more obvious, but still impressively mounted scene revolving around the (still unseen) creature hunting and dispatching a couple of unwitting supporting characters at a gas station. It’s a sequence that’s somewhat reminiscent of the finale of Gareth Edwards’ Monsters, albeit with a fair dash of Jaws-era Spielberg thrown in for good measure.

All in all, we were mightily impressed by what we saw today. All the young actors seem perfectly cast, while the mystery underpinning the ‘accidental escape’ of whatever was inside the train is a neat curveball that should add a nice element of ‘men in black’ intrigue to proceedings.

Most of all, we were impressed by the tone of the piece, which seemed to blend together elements of Stand By Me, E.T. and The Goonies with aplomb. Like those movies, the characters and the world they inhabited felt tangible and real, while Abrams’ reunion with cinematographer Larry Fong seems to have given him a much stronger visual foundation than we’ve seen in his previous two films.

Naturally, all of these positive first impressions are totally dependent on how the rest of the film unfolds, but from what we’ve seen today, it would appear that Super 8 has everything in its locker to be the sleeper hit of the summer.