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It is fast approaching that time of the year when movie studios are ready to unleash their blockbuster slate upon the masses, with hopes of making a pretty penny at the box office. Yet there is one film prime to reel in the punters with no need for assistance from the movie gods, and that is the latest offering from writer/director/producer and all around good guy, J.J. Abrams and his Super 8.

We first got a glimpse at Super 8 mid last year with a tasty teaser trailer promising much fun. A full length trailer followed during Super Bowl weekend, and fleshed out the story of a sci-fi thriller set in 1979 that focuses on a group of friends who investigate mysterious happenings around their small town following a mysterious train crash.

Now here we are barely a month from the official release of Super 8 and Paramount Pictures have arranged for a sneak peek to a room full of bloggers and critics, and if this glimpse is any indication of what to expect, then Abrams has another hit on his hands.

The footage begins with Abrams talking about the origins of Super 8, with the film a combination of two different ideas: the first a nostalgic drama about a group of kids who create movies on their Super 8 camera, and the second as sci-fi thriller about a creature who escapes Area 51.

With the blessing of none other than Steven Spielberg (the film’s producer who green lit the idea with a click of his fingers), Abrams went about casting his characters with one golden rule: no “Hollywood kids” would get to play these young characters, who were influenced by the “goofball I was and the goofballs I knew growing up”, to quote Abrams.

After several reminders of the unfinished quality of the footage (SFX and score still need some tweaking), Abrams introduced a 10+ minute scene which begins with main goofball Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) eating dinner with his father (Kyle Chandler).

It quickly becomes known that Joe’s mother is dead, leaving the men on their own. Concerned that his son spends too much time with “kids who run around in monster makeup”, Papa Lamb signs his son up for baseball camp that summer.

Undeterred, Joe sneaks out of the house later that night to join his friends for another round of filming their movie, written and directed by Charles (Riley Griffiths) a perfectionist with a taste for quality production value and last minute script changes.

Joe’s love for making this movie is equal to that for Alice (Elle Fanning exuding a confidence beyond her years), the wild child and only girl in their movie project, who “borrows” her dad’s car so the crew can make their way to a train station on the outskirts of town, where the next scene of their opus is to be filmed.

This gives way to the money shot seen in all of the promotional material: the derailment of a cargo train, carrying something out of the ordinary which escapes into their town. Big, loud, and undeniably thrilling, it is a scene which will no doubt feature at the top of many “best scenes of 2011” lists, with train carriages dropping from the sky like bombs, while Joe and his friends run for cover and away from the army who arrive on the scene to inspect the collateral damage and any signs of whatever was being transported.

Another scene was also shown, this time set in a service station where the clerk and a police officer come face to face with the unidentified beast, to their misfortune and our viewing pleasure.

As quickly as it began, the sneak peak at Super 8 was over, and just like any other tasty morsel a demand for more was evident by the vibe from a satisfied audience of film writers.  

Who can blame them? In no more than 15 minutes, Super 8 has proven itself to be a film which heralds back to a time where movies were filled with wonder and excitement. Tone wise it is clear that Abrams is going for the Spielberg-ian vibe of his 1970s and 1980s work such as E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the child actor classics Stand By Me and The Goonies.   

Action, comedy and suspense were rolled into one exciting yet all too brief package. June never felt so far away.


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