Super 8 (12A)
Release date: Friday 5 August
Cast: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning (Somewhere, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Kyle Chandler (King Kong, The Day the Earth Stood Still), Noah Emmerich (The Truman Show, Beautiful Girls).
Director: J.J.Abrams (Star Trek, Mission Impossible).
Screenwriters: J.J. Abrams (Forever Young, Armageddon)
Running Time: 111 Minutes
In a market flooded with sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots, an original concept is a much treasured property. With it's producer Steven Spielberg's beard hairs all over every frame, just how much of an original property this coming-of-age/creature feature can claim to be is open to debate.
But entering the cinema the big commendation for Super 8 is that it presents us with a new story, a setting we haven't visited before and an introduction to characters we haven't met.
Anchoring the heart of the film is Joe (Joel Courtney), a middle America kid, struggling to cope with the loss of his mother, and, more importantly, his father's inability to deal with her removal from the family unit. Joe finds solace in his friends, a rag-tag mix of movie staples - fat spoilt kid, weird pyro kid, scaredy cat kid - who in turn find joy by making movies. When, during one pre-teen shoot, filming is interrupted by the most spectacular of train derailments, things take a turn for the B-movie, as some 'thing' escapes from the wreckage.
It's at this point that Super 8 becomes two features. One, a touching Stand By Me-like tale of friendship and growing up, the other a balls-to-the-wall monster movie complete with easy-come-easy-go characters being picked off one by one. Sadly, the second film fails to capture in the way that the first does. Perhaps it's testament to how good the youngsters are (Elle Fanning, sister of Dakota, in particular is like watching a star being born) but every time we leave them to check in with the dastardly military (Noah Emmerich) or the Brody-esque Sheriff (Kyle Chandler) we're left wanting.
Speaking of the hero of Jaws, it's time to acknowledge just how much of a debt Super 8 owes Spielberg. ET, Close Encounters (hell, even Jurassic Park 2 and Saving Private Ryan get nods) if director JJ Abrams had found a way to crowbar Oscar Schindler into the frame you can bet he would have.
Thankfully this affection for all things Señor Spielbergo pays off beautifully. Shots are given length and patience, images are meticulously constructed and when compared to the wham, bam style of most of today's blockbusters, Super 8 is, at times, gloriously prosaic.
With it's denouement it captures the Spielberg sentiment perfectly. Sugary, sure, but it earns it. A film where a father's hug or the close-up of two kids holding hands can bring a tear to your eye is a rare thing in a blockbuster, and should be cherished.
For its faults, and it does have them, we'll take Super 8 over The Never-Ending Tales of Captain Jack and the Deathly Autobots of Avenging X-Men anyday.