Skip to main content

Cannes 2011: Super 8 first look reaction!

Super 8 has had chins wagging since it was announced, and a marketing campaign that has built buzz without revealing much; the teaser trailer teased excrutiatingly.

But this morning Total Film was invited to see 20 minutes of the film... and wow.

JJ Abrams introduced the film via a video message from LA, where he's busy with post-production, "this is about Joe, a 14-year old kid from an industrial town in Ohio, the year is 1979.

"Joe's mother died when he was young, and his father is classic '70s dad," JJ continued, with a smile.

"His best friend Charles makes movies on a Super 8 camera. He is obsessed with making movies and production values.

"The scene you're about to see is 10 minutes into the film, Charles has asked a girl named Alice to star in his latest film. You can tell that Joe approves.

"It's not finished, and I'm sorry I couldn't be there in person. I hope you like it, see you soon." he concluded. Roll footage.

We're in 1979 and after a short, stifled exchange with his Dad, Joe (newcomer Joel Courtney) is radioed via walkie talkie by Charles (another newcomer, Riley Griffiths).

It's movie-making time.

The boys sneak out to meet the rest of the crew, Alice is due to pick them up and drive them to an old train station to film a scene.

The gang sit on the pavement singing 'My Sharona' and laughing.

Instantly you are reminded of Stand By Me, ET, The Goonies, The Monsters Squad and Dazed & Confused - despite its sci-fi allusions this is a classic coming-of-age drama, something producer Steven Spielberg is the past master at.

Well JJ the protege has certainly picked up where The Beard left off...

Alice (Elle Fanning) arrives - in a beat up Dodge Challenger - and there is intial friction when she recognises Joe as the son of the Deputy.

She isn't old enough to drive, and doesn't wanna get caught. But Joe talks her round, there is tension between the two, but Joe is excited she knows who he is.

At the old train station, Charles gets the scene ready. He darts around like a pint-sized Orson Welles, framing everything with his hands, exclaiming 'I've written a new line, it sounds better!' as the actors groan.

Charles is the kid that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas used to be. He is them. The chubby kid with a Super 8 camera and a dream.

The way he shouts direction sounds exactly like Lucas on the set of Star Wars - he is their analogue, making the kind of films they made when they were kids, and he ends up on the kind of adventure you can imagine they dreamed of.

The cast are excellent, you root for Joe as he tentatively applies Alice's make-up, and can't help but smile as she lets her guard down, finally, exchanging blushed glances with Joe.

Elle Fanning is superb. The promise she showed in Somewhere is more than delivered on, even amplified here.

As they boys rehearse the scene with her, she is so good that they can only stop and watch, mouths agape. That goes for us too.

Then the train arrives, and the scene hinted at in the teaser trailer is realised.

The train crash is nothing short of specatcular. A stunning, blend of CGI and sound design, you feel like you're in the carnage.

No 3D here, just fantastic direction. JJ Abrams fuses the adrenaline pumping action of his Star Trek with Spielberg's coming-of-age expertise with assured precision.

The look of the film is a triumph, it feels like 35mm and epic with it. Everything about the cinematography is gorgeous to look at.

Finally, we get a taste of the carnage whatever the train was carrying unleashed. The thing that breaks free from the carriage in the teaser trailer.

Whatever it is is big. We don't see it, the clip left it cleverly hidden behind objects in the foreground and in the reactions on it's victims faces - hopefully, like Jaws , they keep the monster hidden until the final act.

It tosses garbage dumpsters aside like matchbox cars, and smashes into a building like walking through paper.

From this you get an idea of the scale, we're dealing with something 10-15ft tall - putting it in the range of the concept drawings accidentally leaked online last December.

Brutish, extra-humanly strong and ferociously angry, we're left with the screams of an unwitting victim, and only guesses about exactly what the boys inadvertantly captured on their camera...

The monster on Super 8.