A brief video intro by Abrams was offered before the first scene was introduced. It began with an intimate heart-to-heart between the main child protagonist and his father (Friday Night Light’s Kyle Chandler), a widowed police deputy who is insistent that his son attend summer baseball camp, and not idle his days away with a group of friends making short little Super 8 films. Following that brief piece of character conflict, we’re introduced to the group of said friends, who are all shooting a scene around what looks to be an old, abandoned train station. It’s pretty clear from here that Abrams hasn’t in any way lost his love for using multiple lens flares. This is not a criticism however, and what follows is a beautifully-acted scene as the kids rehearse for a take (see the clip we posted here yesterday to view), which culminates into what must rank as one of the most thrilling and awe-inspiring train crashes ever committed to celluloid. It’s an incredibly gripping sequence as huge, flaming cargo carriages swirl around the kids and plummet back down to earth as they make a frantic scramble to safety.
The resulting pile-up appears to unleash some strange and powerful unseen force from within a holding tank, and some equally otherworldly artefacts (which one of the group mistakes for some kind of enhanced Rubik’s Cube). As the understandably shaken-up kids (nice to see performers reacting appropriately to such a dramatic incident) stumble upon the cause of the accident, the arrival of the military forces them to flee the scene.
Lastly, we were presented with a shorter sequence where a gas station becomes the unwanted demolition site of what (presumably) escaped from the destroyed train. Both a cop and the station’s attendant become victims of a thoroughly vicious and destructive ET (which is hidden from the audience throughout).
Both scenes offered a tantalising glimpse into what will surely be a contender for one of the summer’s best offerings, particularly in a season awash with well-worn franchises and superhero product. There’s a lovely nostalgic glow to the 80’s setting, as well as a couple of nicely played in-jokes about the era (particularly a new music product called a ‘Walkman’, the gas station attendant sports, much to the bemusement of the cop).
Tonally, the footage had a War of the Worlds meets Stand By Me vibe, and as Abrams mentioned in the intro, he’d purposely cast kids who weren’t from a stage background. This really showed too, and even in the brief time spent in their company, the performances were very naturalistic and endearing.
The only frustrating aspect of the film is the fact that the UK release date is still almost three months away (5th August, to be precise) and 2 months later than the US and Australia. On the evidence here, Abrams has a very real shot of having another Trek-like success on his hands.