One thing that you very rarely read about (understandably so) in any critic’s reviews is the conditions in the cinema itself.

The mood they were in – by all mean yes. Perhaps even whether or not they were tired and maybe therefore missed some of the nuances the director had been aiming for.

And that, dear reader, is why I have held off on my review of Super 8 for some time, as the simple truth is the press screening of this effort was one of the more uncomfortable viewing experiences of my life.

Wedged in to a packed Odeon West End, with the air conditioning off and the temperature becoming more unbearable by the second, my critical juices were running very dry as time ticked by in JJ Abrams’ opus.

This may explain just why my overall impression of the flick – good but not great – seems so at odds with the gushing reviews I have seen elsewhere.

Or, of course, it could simply be that the stampede to name this ‘film of the summer’ (as one high-profile mag has) is well wide of the mark.

Clearly marketing itself as a Goonies for the modern generation (I know – I really did not want to namedrop that effort but it was just too tempting), Super 8 unravels as a kids versus the world movie.

A bunch of youngsters in 1979 (a nice touch which allows some very cool ‘retro’ design) decide they want to cobble their resources and make their very own, no-budget zombie flick.

Deciding to film a scene at a deserted train station, their filming conveniently coincides with an Army train spectacularly crashing at said station.

Turns out the kids’ camera continued to roll throughout, so when the military arrive en masse to try and hush the whole situation up, the young whippersnappers know better as their footage reveals the real reason why the train crash is such big news.

What then follows is part investigation and part chase movie as the children battle time, their parents and the authorities to uncover the truth.

A big plus has to go to the kid actors themselves (including Dakota Fanning’s little sis Elle) as they all turn in quality performances, although the dialogue sometimes lets them down (most notably one character who quickly becomes annoying by tacking the word ‘mint’ on to every one of his sentences).

There is also plenty of mileage in the storyline, and the effects both in the train crash sequence and the ‘attacks’ at the film’s conclusion are well handled.

The main problem I have is with the ‘mood’ of the piece, which contains so much schmaltz and sentimental claptrap as to become tiresome.

Abrams is clearly trying so hard to ‘do a Spielberg’, putting a Cloverfield-esque spin on a kid’s tale and harking back to a vintage era, but sections of the movie just simply dragged.

The sequences that show the short film the kids were putting together though (especially over the end credits) are ace – but when the film-within-a-film proves the highlight, something must be wrong.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.