Super 8 is currently playing in theaters. Let’s begin by saying that I saw the movie last night. I liked it. The movie is set in the year 1979. Take it from someone who was 8-years-old, going on 9, in the Summer of ’79. The clothes, the cars, and the music were spot on.
Kudos to director J.J. Abrams for capturing the look of 1979.
The movie itself is engrossing, at first. The audience learns in the beginning of the movie that an industrial accident has claimed the life of a woman. The woman’s son and husband are left to begin the grieving process. The film moves to four months after her death.
The son, Joe, deals with the loss of his mom while helping his three friends make an amateur zombie movie. The movie’s script calls for a girl. So, the four boys ask a girl named Alice to participate in film. Joe apparently has a crush on Alice.
On the first night of the filming with Alice, the pre-teens witness a spectacular train accident, which begins another storyline in the film. The military moves in to town, pet dogs clear out of town, and people begin to disappear from town without a trace. Strange things are afoot in town, but the filming of the film within the film continues. So does the grieving process of a widower, as well as a son left without a mother. (Warning: major plot twist revealed in the next paragraph. Skip it and move on to the next if you don’t want to know.)
The widower, who is also the local deputy sheriff, quickly moves on to the blame and anger stages of grief. We learn that his deceased wife was only working that particular shift four months prior to cover for a co-worker. It’s revealed that the co-worker couldn’t work his shift that day, because he was drunk. We learn that alcohol helps him to deal with his wife leaving him and his daughter, some time before. The daughter is Joe’s love-interest, Alice. Alice and Joe are forbidden to see each other by their fathers. So begins a sort-of Romeo and Juliet story in the summer of ’79.
The clothes, the cars and the music, like I said, are spot-on for 1979. What was happening in the world around the fictional town was not. One reference to popular culture, early in the film, was incorrect: the Rubik’s cube. When this reference was made early in the movie, I fell out of my own personal time machine and hit the ground hard. I spent the rest of the time in the theater trying to recall that particular summer, since my memory seemed to be failing me.
I couldn’t put my finger on it until I got home. The Rubik’s cube reference would have fit the following year, 1980. So that reference threw me. Something else mesmerized the world in 1979, which I would have recalled if I wasn’t puzzled over the Rubik’s cube:
Skylab was falling that summer.
During the summer of 1979, people all over the world pondered the falling-back-to-earth of Skylab. NASA had no idea where on earth the 85-ton space station would land. Of course, it would largely break up when it entered the earth’s atmosphere, but pieces of it could still kill you.
I was terrified of Skylab. I didn’t want to die. Neither did anyone else. It was a big, big deal.
Skylab caused an international media frenzy. Who can forget those 12 million radio listeners who participated in a mass meditation to halt a potential disaster? Those listeners employed “mental energy”, on a day in May, to try to push Skylab into a higher orbit to prevent its re-entry. It didn’t work. It fell back to earth in July 1979.
It fell into the ocean and no one died. Still, it was a big, big deal at the time. At the time, which would perfectly correspond with the time frame captured in Super 8. Abrams missed a great opportunity to incorporate Skylab into the plot. It would have been a better reference to popular culture than the Rubik’s cube.
Okay, back to Super 8. The rest of the movie is great. It’s revealed that an alien from outer space is behind the strange goings on in town. The alien also happens to have some issues dealing with his own personal pain and grief. So, it basically all ties together and works out in the end.
If you seek nostalgia, think back to what you were doing when Skylab was falling. This, of course, doesn’t apply to younger viewers who won’t know the difference.
The film is directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg. It stars Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler. The film has a run-time of 112 minutes and is rated PG-13.