Super 8 (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||J. J. Abrams|
|Produced by||J. J. Abrams
|Written by||J. J. Abrams|
|Music by||Michael Giacchino|
|Edited by||Maryann Brandon
Mary Jo Markey
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
Super 8 is a 2011 American science fiction-thriller film written, co-produced, and directed by J. J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg. The film stars Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, and Kyle Chandler and tells the story of a group of young teenagers who are filming their own Super 8 movie when a train derails, releasing a dangerous presence into their town. The movie was filmed in Weirton, West Virginia and surrounding areas.
Super 8 was released on June 10, 2011, in conventional and IMAX theaters in the US. The film was well received, with critics praising the film for its nostalgia, visual effects, musical score, and for the performances of its young actors, particularly those of Fanning and newcomer Courtney. It was also a commercial success, grossing over $260 million against a $50 million budget. The film received several awards and nominations; primarily in technical and special effects categories, as well as for Courtney and Fanning's performances as the film's two young leads.
In 1979, Deputy Sheriff Jack Lamb (Kyle Chandler) of Lillian, Ohio, and his 14-year-old son Joe (Joel Courtney), mourn the death of his mother Elizabeth (Caitriona Balfe) in a steel mill accident. Jack blames her co-worker, Louis Dainard (Ron Eldard), as she was covering his shift while he recovered from a hangover.
Four months later, Joe's best friend Charles Kaznyk (Riley Griffiths) decides to make a low-budget zombie movie for an international film competition. Charles enlists the help of Preston (Zach Mills), Martin (Gabriel Basso), and Cary (Ryan Lee), as well as Dainard's daughter, Alice (Elle Fanning). Though their fathers would be furious, Joe and Alice become smitten with each other.
Charles wants to film a scene at a train depot using a passing train to add authenticity. While filming, Joe witnesses a pickup truck drive onto the tracks and ram the train, causing a massive derailment that just about destroys the whole train and the friends barely escape. The children investigate the wreck and find crates full of strange white cubes, then discover the truck's driver is Dr. Woodward (Glynn Turman), their biology teacher. Woodward, barely alive, warns them at gunpoint to forget what they saw that night, or else their parents will be killed. The children flee the scene just as a convoy from the local U.S. Air Force base, led by Col. Nelec (Noah Emmerich), arrive at the scene. Nelec discovers an empty box of Super 8mm film, and assumes the event was captured on camera.
While Joe and Charles wait for their film to be developed, the town experiences strange events: All the dogs run away, several townspeople go missing, and electronics from all over are stolen. Overhearing military communications, Jack approaches Nelec to address the rising panic in town, but Nelec instead orders him arrested. Nelec orders the use of flamethrowers to start wildfires outside of town, as an excuse to evacuate people to the base. Suddenly, soldiers sweep into town to begin the evacuation. Meanwhile, Joe and Charles watch the derailment footage and discover that a large creature had escaped from the train.
At the base, Joe learns from Alice's father that she is missing, abducted by the creature. Joe, Charles, Martin, and Cary find a hole in the base's fence and slip back into town to rescue Alice. They break into Dr. Woodward's storage trailer and discover films and documents from his time as a government researcher.
They play the film, which reveals that an alien crash-landed in 1958. The Air Force captured the alien and was running experiments on it while keeping it from its ship. Woodward was one of the scientists experimenting on the ship, composed of the white cubes. At one point, the alien grabs Woodward, apparently establishing a psychic connection with him. Now understanding the alien, he was compelled to rescue it and help it escape from Earth. Finding out about the train years later presented him with the opportunity to help the creature. The boys are caught by Nelec, but as they are taken back to base, the alien attacks their bus. The airmen are killed and the boys escape. Meanwhile, Jack escapes from the base's brig and makes his way to the shelter housing the townsfolk. He learns from Preston about Joe's plan to rescue Alice. Jack and Dainard then agree to put aside their differences to save their kids.
In town, their hardware malfunctions as the military attempts to kill the alien. Martin is injured in an explosion, so Charles stays behind with him while Joe and Cary head to the cemetery, where Joe had earlier seen something there that made him suspicious. Inside the cemetery's garage, they find a massive tunnel leading to a warren of underground caverns. In a chamber beneath the town's water tower, they find the alien has created a device from the town's stolen electronics, attached to the base of the tower. The alien also has several people, including Alice, hanging from the ceiling and unconscious. Using Cary's firecrackers as a distraction, Joe frees Alice and the others, but they end up trapped in a dead end cavern after the alien chases them down. Alice and Cary scream and run, but Joe steps forward and tries to talk to the alien. The alien grabs Joe, who quietly speaks to the alien, telling him over and over that "bad things happen" but that the alien "can still live". After studying Joe for a moment, the alien releases him and departs, allowing the three to return to the surface.
As Joe and Alice reunite with their fathers, everyone watches as metal objects from all over town are magnetically pulled to the top of the water tower. The white cubes are also pulled in to assemble into a spaceship around the water tank. The locket that used to belong to Joe's mom is also drawn towards the tower and Joe, after a brief moment, decides to let it go. The alien enters the completed spaceship; the water tower implodes and the ship rockets into space. Joe takes Alice's hand as they watch the ship depart into the night sky.
During the credits, the kids' completed film, entitled The Case, is shown.
Detective Hathaway meets with a witness who says he saw a zombie attack. He presents Hathaway with a building access pass that fell out of the attacker's pocket. The pass is for the Romero Chemical Plant. Hathaway then goes to the President of Romero Chemicals. He confronts him about an incident that occurred in the plant. The President disregards it as an accident, so Hathaway states that he is going to look around the building. After he leaves the President makes an urgent phone call saying, "He knows." Hathaway is attacked by a zombie in the building. He manages to kill it by knocking its head into some exposed nails on the wall. He then calls someone to buy his wife a ticket to Michigan because it is not safe for her. That night at the train depot, she tells him that she loves him and doesn't want him getting into danger. Seconds later, a massive train wreck occurs, keeping his wife there. The next morning as they look at the wreck, they are attacked by a zombie, whom Hathaway shoots.
That night, Hathaway records in his audio journal that the attacks are putting stress on his town and his marriage. He then gets a call from an Air Force officer that served with Hathaway in Vietnam. He tells him that an airman committed suicide because there was a secret he could no longer keep. He then gives him top-secret information about a doctor that the late airman worked for. He goes to meet this doctor who says that he has found a cure for the zombie epidemic and begins to test it on a victim of the virus. However, the victim wakes up and bites the doctor turning him into a zombie. Hathaway shoots them both. He goes home to see that his wife has been turned into a zombie. She suddenly attacks him, but he injects the antidote into her neck. He gets ready to shoot her but she is cured of the virus and they embrace. The film ends with a small announcement from the director, Charles Kaznyk, who tells the audience how much fun they had making it and that he hopes they choose his film for the festival. Alice, in zombie makeup, then interrupts and pranks the viewer into thinking she is a real zombie when she attacks and bites Charles, before she lunges at the camera.
- Joel Courtney as Joseph "Joe" Lamb
- Elle Fanning as Alice "Allie" Dainard, Joe's love interest
- Kyle Chandler as Jackson "Jack" Lamb, Joe's father
- Riley Griffiths as Charles Kaznyk, Joe's best friend
- Ryan Lee as Cary, a hyperactive, firework-obsessed friend of Joe and Charles.
- Ron Eldard as Louis Dainard, Alice's drunk father
- Gabriel Basso as Martin, a shy, paranoid friend of Joe and Charles.
- Noah Emmerich as Colonel Nelec
- David Gallagher as Donny
- Bruce Greenwood as Cooper, the name used by the cast and crew for the alien
- Zach Mills as Preston
- Amanda Michalka as Jen Kaznyk, Charles's older sister
- Glynn Turman as Dr. Thomas Woodward, a biology teacher
- Michael Hitchcock as Deputy Rosko
- Caitriona Balfe as Elizabeth Lamb
- Joel McKinnon Miller as Sal Kaznyk
- Jessica Tuck as Mrs. Kaznyk
- Dan Castellaneta as Izzy
- Richard T. Jones as Overmyer
- Dale Dickey as Edie
- Colin Mathews as Crazy Beto's Customer
- Brett Rice as Sheriff Pruitt
- Katie Lowes as Tina
J.J. Abrams had the idea to start a film by showing a factory's "Accident-Free" sign long before he came up with the rest of the idea of the film. Super 8 was actually the combination of two ideas; one for a film about kids making their own movie during the 1970s, and another for a blockbuster alien invasion film. Worried that the former idea would not attract enough attendance, Abrams combined the ideas.
Abrams and Spielberg collaborated in a storytelling committee to come up with the story for the film. The film was initially reported to be either a sequel or prequel to the 2008 film Cloverfield, but this was quickly denied by Abrams. Primary photography began in fall (September/October) 2010. The teaser itself was filmed separately in April. Super 8 is the first original J. J. Abrams film project produced by Amblin Entertainment, Bad Robot Productions, and Paramount Pictures.
Abrams wanted to find new faces to play the parts in his movie. He conducted a national talent search in order to find the child actors to play each of the leading roles. Courtney (who was hoping to land a part in a commercial) was picked out of many boys because Abrams found something "different" in him. Riley Griffiths sent Abrams a tape of himself in order to land the part of Charles.
Filming took place in Weirton, West Virginia, from September to October 2010. To promote the film, Valve Corporation created a short video game segment and released it alongside the Windows and Mac versions of Portal 2.
Abrams' original plan was to film all of the sequences for the film-within-a-film, "The Case", in Super-8 using Pro8mm stock and cameras. However, this approach proved unsuccessful, as visual effects house Industrial Light and Magic found it impossible to integrate CGI into the footage due to the format's graininess. For sequences involving CGI, cinematographer Larry Fong used Super-16 instead.
|Film score by Michael Giacchino|
|Released||August 2, 2011|
|Michael Giacchino chronology|
The score for the film was composed by Michael Giacchino, Abrams' long-time collaborator. The soundtrack was released on August 2, 2011, by Varèse Sarabande. It won the 2012 Saturn Award for Best Music.
During the ending credits, the songs "Don't Bring Me Down" by Electric Light Orchestra and "My Sharona" by The Knack are featured. The Blondie song "Heart of Glass" and The Cars song "Bye Bye Love" are also featured in the film.
All music composed by Michael Giacchino (although track 33, "The Case", is credited on the liner notes to the film character Charles Kaznyk).
|6.||"Thoughts of Cubism"||0:48|
|7.||"We'll Fix It in Post-Haste"||0:44|
|9.||"Train of Thought"||0:35|
|10.||"Circle Gets the Cube"||1:06|
|11.||"Breen There, Ate That"||1:12|
|12.||"Dead Over Heels"||0:48|
|13.||"Gas and Go"||1:34|
|14.||"Looking for Lucy"||0:49|
|18.||"Thoughts of Mom"||1:41|
|19.||"Woodward Bites It"||1:54|
|20.||"Alice Projects on Joe"||2:29|
|21.||"Neighborhood Watch — Fail"||4:45|
|22.||"The Evacuation of Lillian"||3:40|
|23.||"A Truckload of Trouble"||0:57|
|24.||"Lambs on the Lam"||2:40|
|25.||"Woodward's Home Movies"||2:40|
|27.||"Air Force HQ or Bust"||1:04|
|28.||"World's Worst Field Trip"||3:36|
|29.||"The Siege of Lillian"||2:57|
|32.||"Super 8 Suite"||5:54|
Viral marketing campaign
Like Cloverfield, an earlier J. J. Abrams-produced film, Super 8 was promoted through an extensive viral marketing campaign. The first trailer for the movie was attached to Iron Man 2, released in May 2010. The trailer gave the premise of a section of Area 51 being closed down in 1979 and its contents being transported by freight train to Ohio. A pickup truck drives into the oncoming train, derailing it, and one of the carriages is smashed open while a Super 8 camera films. Fans analyzing the trailer found a hidden message, "Scariest Thing I Ever Saw", contained in the final frames of the trailer. This led to a website, Scariest Thing I Ever Saw, which simulated the interface of a PDP-11 and contained various clues to the film's story-line; the computer was eventually revealed to belong to Josh Woodward, the son of Dr. Woodward, who is trying to find out what happened to his father. Another viral website, Rocket Poppeteers was also found, which like Slusho from Cloverfield plays no direct part in the film but is indirectly related. The official Super 8 website also contained an "editing room" section, which asked users to find various clips from around the web and piece them together. When completed, the reel makes up the film found by the kids in Dr. Woodward's trailer, showing the ship disintegrating into individual white cubes, and the alien reaching through the window of its cage and snatching Dr. Woodward. The video game Portal 2 contains an interactive trailer placing the player on board the train before it derails, and showing the carriage being smashed open and the roar of the alien within.
The film was released on June 9, 2011, in Australia; June 10, 2011, in the United States; and August 5, 2011, in the United Kingdom. On June 8, Paramount also launched a “Super 8 Sneak Peek” Twitter promotion, offering fans a chance to purchase tickets for an advance screening, taking place on June 9, 2011, in the United States. The film opened at #1 in the U.S. Box Office for that weekend, grossing about $35 million.
Super 8 received very positive reviews from critics. On the film-critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a score of 82%, based on 251 reviews, and a rating average of 7.4/10, with the consensus that: "it may evoke memories of classic summer blockbusters a little too eagerly for some, but Super 8 has thrills, visual dazzle, and emotional depth to spare." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score from 1–100 to reviews from critics, assigned the film a Metascore of 72 based on 40 critics, signifying 'generally favorable reviews.'
Chris Sosa of Gather gave the film an A rating, calling it, "a gripping and exciting tale of finding one's place in the world amidst tragedy". His review concluded, "While the genre-bending occasionally unsettles, the film's genuine and emotionally gripping nature make its journey believable."
Roger Ebert gave the film 3½ stars out of 4 and said, "Super 8 is a wonderful film, nostalgia not for a time but for a style of film-making, when shell-shocked young audiences were told a story and not pounded over the head with aggressive action. Abrams treats early adolescence with tenderness and affection." Richard Corliss of Time gave it a similarly positive review, calling it "the year's most thrilling, feeling mainstream movie". He then named it one of the Top 10 Best Movies of 2011. Jamie Graham of Total Film gave the film a perfect five-star rating, saying, "like Spielberg, Abrams has an eye for awe, his deft orchestration of indelible images – a tank trundling through a children's playground, a plot-pivotal landmark framed in the distance through a small hole in a bedroom wall – marking him as a born storyteller". Christopher Orr of the The Atlantic called it a "love letter to a cinematic era", while Claudia Puig of USA Today praised it as "a summer blockbuster firing on all cylinders".
Critics and audiences alike were polarized on the film's ending. Some found it to be emotional, powerful, and satisfying while others found it rushed and forced. For example, writing for MUBI's Notebook, Fernando F. Croce alleged that "no film this year opens more promisingly and ends more dismally than J.J. Abrams' Super 8." Other critics commented negatively on the film's frequent homages to early works of Spielberg, particularly in its depiction of broken families (a theme Spielberg has explored in nearly all of his films). For example, CNN's Tom Charity felt that "Abrams' imitation [was] a shade too reverent for [his] taste." David Edelstein, of New York magazine, called it a "flagrant crib," adding that "Abrams has probably been fighting not to reproduce Spielberg's signature moves since the day he picked up a camera. Now, with the blessing of the master, he can plagiarize with alacrity."
Super 8 had a production budget of $50 million. It was commercially released on June 10, 2011. In the United States and Canada, it opened in 3,379 theaters and grossed over $35.4 million on its opening weekend, ranking first at the box office. The film grossed $127 million in North America with a worldwide total of some $260 million.
|List of awards and nominations for Super 8|
In addition to these awards, the film was short-listed for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score, and the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound, and Best Special Visual Effects. Paramount submitted it for several considerations for the BAFTAs including Best Film, Best Director (J. J. Abrams), Best Original Screenplay, Leading Actor (Kyle Chandler), Supporting Actress (Elle Fanning), Supporting Actor (Joel Courtney, Gabriel Basso, Noah Emmerich), Cinematography, Production Design, Editing, Costume Design, Original Music, Sound, Makeup and Hair, and Special Visual Effects.
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