Super 8 is a particularly special film. I remember loving it almost instantaneously back in the summer of 2011 and somehow, we’ve already reached its 10th Anniversary! With that in mind, this is the perfect time for a deserved 4K UHD release from Paramount Home Entertainment and an easy excuse to watch it again – and I’ve viewed it a lot over the past ten years.
Back in 2011, Super 8 was initially shrouded in mystery – much like the story here is in the early stages. J.J. Abrams had relaunched the Star Trek universe and breathed new life in the Mission: Impossible franchise, so anticipation grew. Abrams’s film was also one of the early viral marketing campaigns, and across the internet secrets arrived, hints of monsters were revealed but while the likes of Cloverfield and LOST were drowned in mystery, this time JJ came out to tell us what it was about, which was still just as stirring.
While it might be lazily dismissed as a Spielberg copy, and the basis of that influence is logical, for me that misunderstands the very heart of the film, the motivations over why it came to exist and even how Steven Spielberg himself was involved as Producer, and literally on set, for all the right reasons. As a general overall theme, Super 8 is about friendship and self-discovery, and this film celebrates those relationships and positive memories you made as a kid with friends.
In the specific case of Super 8, it tells the story of six friends who are trying to make their own film over the summer of 1979, so they can enter a local film competition. Whilst they are setting up a big scene in their story at a Railway Station, they witness a mysterious train crash and eventually they learn there’s even more to the disaster, as they accidentally have filmed a creature crawling and fleeing the aftermath. From here, they’ll have to elude the military and their parents to find out what it was, and what’s actually going on beneath the surface in the fictional town of Lillian, Ohio.
The key to everything great about the film is the group of kids and, as you’ll learn from the extras, this was a huge casting process to get it right. The lead role went to Joel Courtney in literally his first film role, and he excels as Joe. He has a fraught relationship with his father Jack (the superb Kyle Chandler), who’s the local Sheriff but they’ve also both recently lost Joe’s mum and Jack’s wife to an accident in the local Steel Factory. Somehow, even so early, their scenes are deeply poignant and helped by honest performances from both, as well as an equally stirring and emotive score from Michael Giacchino.
While the whole collective are great, it’s also Elle Fanning’s Alice who stands out, bringing an emotion to her role that’s beyond her years – even back then, and she’s also contending with her father (with a great turn from Ron Eldard), a man who’s struggling with his day-to-day after calling in drunk to the Steel Factory, and discovering it was Joe’s Mother who took his shift on her fateful day. As well as those four, we also get great moments for everyone including Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Riley Griffiths and Zach Mills – a really talented set of young, natural actors.
Super 8 sets its story in a small town but has a big heart, and an even more explosive narrative that brings in so many elements with an energy that never drops. If you’re reading this, you might be a fan already but if you’re not, I think it’s best to go into the film without too much background knowledge and enjoy the sheer escapism.
Once you’ve done that, you must dive into the extras. While these are verbatim to a previous Blu-ray release, it’s the 4K UHD remaster that makes this shiny and new, and that side of things is effortless. In truth, this was a fine-looking film already and this upgrade means you get even more of that fancy lens flare and world-building, that Director of Photography Larry Fong and Abrams bring to life so impressively. I’ll also defend the special features here because there’s an absolute wealth of content, with nine featurettes and 14 deleted scenes, plus the exceptional commentary on the film with J.J. Abrams, Larry Fong and producer Bryan Burk.
As well as numerous revealing insights on the featurettes, the director’s commentary basically tells us (from the horse’s mouth) how much of a passion project this was for everyone involved. As a kid JJ was friends with cinematographer Fong, as well as eventually meeting Matt Reeves (director of the likes of Cloverfield and upcoming The Batman), and so they used to make actual Super 8 films together. Spielberg even knew about these young filmmakers because they were in the local paper, and he sent Abrams and his mates his own 8mm films he made as a kid for them to fix up, even though they only physically met many years later. It’s an amazing story.
The featurettes are all in HD, so look great, and dive into how warm and welcoming the set atmosphere was, talk about the viral campaign (which I got involved with from the UK and still have things from!), how the monster came to be with creator Neville Page – and a bit of mo-cap with Bruce Greenwood, the development of the film through those personal friendships, and you must watch Fong’s amazing magic tricks as well. One of my favourites was also how they used the town of Weirton in West Virginia to film the location shots and how important the community became to the filmmakers, and vice versa with the residents. Take your time exploring them all.
Super 8 has all the hallmarks of the Spielberg classics but it’s very much a unique world all of its own making. Sure, you’ll get hints of Close Encounters and E.T., but the lives of the characters that come to life are captivating from start to finish, making for a beautifully timeless film that you can revisit at any point.
Super 8 is available on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray now from Paramount Home Entertainment, order here: https://amzn.to/3fG5o8n
4K Ultra HD Disc
- Feature film in 4K Ultra HD
DISC 2: Blu-ray Disc™
- Feature film
- Commentary by J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, and Larry Fong
- Deconstructing the Train Crash – Uncover the Secrets Behind Filming the Astonishing Scene
- 14 Deleted Scenes
- The Dream Behind Super 8 (HD)
- The Search for New Faces (HD)
- Meet Joel Courtney (HD)
- Rediscovering Steel Town (HD)
- The Visitor Lives (HD)
- Scoring Super 8 (HD)
- Do You Believe in Magic? (HD)
- The 8mm Revolution (HD)
- Easter Eggs (HD)