Much has been made of whether this is a Spielberg homage or missing movie from the moguls back catalogue as opposed to a film from J.J. Abrams with the 'Berg's input. Well, it feels like a feature with its feet in both camps - as in it is the best of both worlds.
Anyone familiar with Abrams' output will find themselves on comfortably stupendous territory from start to finish. With a simple, heart string-pulling intro that sets up the broken family scenario through to the young, confidence-lacking boy defy everything from his over-bearing put-upon dad to the mysterious arrival that turns his town, and his life, upside-down, Super 8 delivers everything that makes a good movie a great one.
Now, if you wish, you could list all the 80's films that come to mind whilst watching it - especially Spielberg's earlier ones - but then this is as much a form of love letter to the likes of E.T., Close Encounters, The Goonies and the like as it is to modern movie-making. As with his Star Trek, Abrams lets lens flare bathe the cast and surroundings whilst the camera itself rarely stays still throughout the proceedings; always sweeping or dollying into a zoom to add to the feel of fast-paced adventure and danger that the kids are going through.
With so much of the movie resting on their young shoulders, (alongside the inevitable Stand By Me meets The Goonies comparisons) the group surpass previous "kids growing up" attempts with their believable bond and two of the cutest sweet and innocent romantic leads seen in years. When you hear the line "I'm trying the best I can to save you,..." spoken to Fanning's teen object of desire from our wide-eyed hero, you will wish you were young again so you too could say that to the person you had a crush on.
Throughout, the emotions are batted back-and-forth like a swingball, from laughter - the attempts at the homemade zombie movie with "production value" - tension - the catacombs chase - horror - the Jurassic Park style sequences of the "monster" hidden in the treeline - through to awe - the life-changing finale for the watching heroes. Very few directors or screenplays can keep that up through a films entire running time but here this is easily achieved.
Watching it is like remembering what original Coke tasted like after having 30 years of pale, recent imitations such as sugar-free and diet versions. It's like a full-on, full-fat nostalgia hit that made you crave the cinema experience when you were younger just as you did that sugar rush. Anyone who grew up watching, or indeed, appreciates the type of films that stood out in the 80's and have stood the test of time, will cherish this slice of pure, unadulterated cinematic joy. It's truly hard to highlight or pick out a duff note in its song sheet salute to youthful yearning, wishing and finding out the kind of person you can be.
And finally, for those of you who get up and leave when the end credits start - don't. Stay seated and watch in humoured awe at the finished "movie" that the kids were making when all hell broke loose and see the hilarious "mouthing on the phone in the background" shot.
UK release date: 05.08.11Certificate: 12A