A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this exciting, 1979-set sci-fi drama -- which follows a group of young teens who witness a horrific train accident while making a homemade movie and get caught up in a military cover-up involving a mysterious and dangerous beast -- has some intense action violence, especially the truly terrifying train wreck. There's some blood and weapons use, and some scenes may make you jump out of your seat, but gore is minimal. Also expect some drinking/drug content (including someone trying to sell the kids pot) and swearing (including one use of "f--k," as well as "s--t," "a--hole," and more). Director J.J. Abrams manages to perfectly capture the feeling of similar movies from the period, largely by drawing shamelessly from the works of producer Steven Spielberg.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Summer 1979, Lillian, Ohio: Six teens are making a zombie movie that they hope to submit to a festival. For Joe (Joel Courtney), it's a chance to bury himself in a project that might help him move on from his mother's recent death ... and avoid the tense existence he shares with his father, the town's deputy sheriff (Kyle Chandler). Alice (Elle Fanning), a relative newcomer to the troupe, wants a respite from the home she shares with her tortured, alcoholic father (Ron Eldard). Wannabe auteur Charles (Riley Griffiths) longs to see a finished product, and so do their three other friends. But while filming a pivotal scene, the teens witness a mysterious train crash of monumental proportions, one that unleashes a military crackdown on their once-tranquil town, as well as a newcomer of extraterrestrial proportions.
Is it any good?
Let's forget any attempts at originality, why don’t we, because SUPER 8 won’t stun with innovation. It definitely feels like an homage to great movies past, particularly E.T., Stand by Me, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (Producer Steven Spielberg’s guiding hand is definitely felt.) And the bare bones of the plot are certainly familiar, as is much of the dialogue.
Yet, Super 8 is entertaining -- despite some overly obvious grabs for viewers' heartstrings -- because the personal stories that root the action-heavy film matter to the audience. We feel for Courtney’s aching Joe and Fanning’s compassionate Alice. We even care for the bossy, foul-mouthed fledgling director Griffiths plays because his friendship with Joe feels grounded and true. Abrams captures the tumult of adolescence, especially when buffeted by very grown-up insights ... never mind the intergalactic space monster threatening to tear this nostalgic town to pieces.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's messages about communication and peaceful negotiation. How does the movie's violence tie in to this message?
For those familiar with Spielberg's movies -- how is this an obvious homage to his films? What elements of Spielberg's movies are evident in the heroes, the story, the cinematography, the music?
How would this movie have been different if it was set in the present day? How does Abrams include '70s technology in the storyline?
Why are the kids so devoted to making Super 8 movies? What purpose does the activity serve? Do kids these days get to indulge in creative pursuits like these in the same way?
- In theaters: June 10, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: November 22, 2011
- Cast: Elle Fanning, Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler
- Director: J.J. Abrams
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and some drug use
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.