Don’t quote me on this, but I, in my infinite wisdom, seem to remember hearing something about smell being the sense that carries with it the biggest relation to triggering specific memories. I would have jumped on the bandwagon and supported this hypothesis at any point before Friday, June 10th. What caused my change of heart? Seeing the nostalgia-laced Super 8, of course. Screw smells; I now feel as though seeing and hearing a movie can evoke memories that haven’t been prevalent for years and simultaneously result in a truly unique, magical experience.
The release of Super 8 has been shrouded in secrecy, as is much of the work of director J. J. Abrams (Lost, Alias, Star Trek), so I’ll keep my synopsis of the plot short and simple (AND spoiler-free!): a group of young friends decide to shoot an amateur zombie movie. While filming the movie one night, they witness a train crash that unleashes an ominous secret upon their small hometown. Moving on…
Super 8 takes place in the summer of 1979, and even though I was the ripe age of -7 in 1979, I still felt an intense wave of nostalgia for my childhood while I was in Super 8’s grasp. I thought back to the Steven Spielberg productions I grew up on (E.T., Gremlins, The Goonies, Back to the Future, Poltergeist), not just in terms of the movies themselves, but also in relation to the experience of falling in love with movies and with the carefree, spirited summers of my youth. I was immediately transported back to Blockbuster Video in the summertime of the early 90s, which is where I first discovered my passion for movies and for the unique work of directors such as Spielberg (a producer of Super 8) and John Hughes, to name a few. This may seem like a weird set of memories for a 1979-set movie released in 2011 to evoke, but that is why Super 8 is truly magical. The movie does such a specific job at recalling nostalgia not only for youthful summers spent perusing video store shelves with friends and gallivanting outside for hours, but also for movie lovers and anyone who has ever been impacted by the power of well-crafted cinema.
One of the major strengths of Super 8 lies within the film’s ludicrously talented young cast. Each and every young actor in the movie is spot-on in their portrayal of youthful innocence immersed in wonder and danger, with standouts including newcomer Joel Courtney as Joe, the film’s protagonist, and Elle Fanning, sister of Dakota and the only young girl in the film’s main cast, as Joe’s rebellious love interest. The adults are definitely present, and they include Friday Night Lights’ Kyle Chandler as Joe’s father, but these characters all take a backseat to the kids, who are granted much more emotional depth and screen time. The film’s central conflict (which I will not divulge in this review) is certainly important to the story, but it also, along with the adults, comes second to fleshing out the kids and making them relatable and extremely likable, which is refreshing in today’s cinematic world of intense back story being given when it is completely unnecessary to anything happening in the present.
In a sea of remakes and sequels, Super 8 does something truly remarkable: it gives audiences familiar feelings of nostalgia while remaining fresh and exciting. Too many movies have recently been coming out without heart and soul and Super 8 wears its heart on its sleeve while inviting its audience to open up their own hearts to the magic of a well-told story. I’m sorry this review didn’t go in-depth into the movie, but trust me, knowing less will make the experience all the more rewarding.

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