It’s hard to believe that Steven Spielberg didn’t direct “Super 8,” much less write it. The credited writer/director is J.J. Abrams (TV “Lost,” film “Star Trek”), with the master listed as producer. However, “Super 8” is paint-by-numbers Spielberg all the way.
It has a group of goofy pre-teens on an adventure (“The Goonies,” “E.T.”), the understood space alien who wants to go home (“E.T.”, again), the kids on small bikes in suburbia (again, “E.T.”), the police hero up against the establishment (“Jaws”), the hard-hat utility repairman confronting the alien (“Close Encounters of the Third Kind”), ominous military types staging investigations and false evacuations (“Close Encounters,” “E.T.”), and on and on.
What’s different is the Super 8 idea. That is, the kids (circa 1979) are making an amateur horror movie on Super 8 film. This is something both Spielberg and Abrams did as kids themselves. Young Spielberg, in fact, was influenced by the spectacular train wreck scene in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Greatest Show on Earth.” After seeing it, he promptly set up his Super 8 camera and filmed his electric trains crashing into each other. And, what do you know? A spectacular train wreck scene is in “Super 8” and captured on camera by the filmmaking kids. An important plot point is established here, as the train is transporting secret cargo that escapes. But, in the ensuing chaos and confusion, that plot point concerning the kids’ camera is forgotten.