Richard Edwards explains why JJ Abrams’ Super 8 should win him your vote for Best Director
When they say they don’t make them like they used to, it’s usually true. Super 8 is the exception that proves the rule. JJ Abrams’ love letter to the movies of his youth is so note perfect that – aside from some excellent visual effects of 2011 vintage; the train crash sequence is also worthy of your vote for Best Visual Effect – it could have been the movie Spielberg made after ET .
Indeed, his trip to the late ’70s plays like [minor spoiler] the movie that ET might have become if the authorities had got their hands on the long-necked spaceman, broken his will, and prompted him to turn that magic glowing finger on humanity. Despite the inevitable threat that comes from having a rogue alien on the loose, however, Abrams (who also wrote the script) is way too concerned about his characters to hang the movie on visuals alone. He doesn’t even show you his ET until the last act.
His gamble of populating Super 8 with a cast of young unknowns pays off spectacularly as he coaxes wonderfully natural performances from his adolescent ensemble. Rather than being culled from the “how to make a teen movie” textbook, they feel like a genuine bunch of friends: they bicker and talk in in-jokes, and get struck down with shyness when a girl (Elle Fanning – the movie’s standout performance) enters their ranks.
With its absent parent themes, Super 8 wanders perilously close to schmaltz territory, but Abrams has the Stand By Me touch and keeps things touching rather than nauseating. He loses his way slightly at the end, with an ending that threatens the credibility of what’s come before, but by the time you get there, you’re so taken with the movie’s heart and sense of wide-eyed wonder that you barely care. If cinema’s all about transporting you to another place and time, few movies do it better than Super 8 . Surely that’s a good reason to make JJ Abrams your number one director of the year.