Movie Math: 'Super 8' is a little bit 'Stand By Me' and a little bit 'Ed Wood'


Image Credit: Everett Collection (2); Gabor Szitanyi; Suzanne Tenner; Disney; Francois Duhamel

Director J. J. Abrams has always been a pop culture polymath, and his new film Super 8 is a cinematic ode to an assortment of his influences (not least the early films of Super 8 producer Steven Spielberg.) If you wanted to see the mysterious chemical equation behind Super 8, read on… (MILD SPOILERS AHEAD)

1. Stand By Me: A key influence on J.J. Abrams, Stand By Me is director Rob Reiner’s 1986 film about small town kids on a creepy adventure. It was a nostalgic ode to his sixties childhood via a creative communion with Stephen King, whose 1982 novella “The Body” provided the basis for the movie. Both films have an awesome barfing scene, too. Of course, Abrams was a child of the seventies, so…


2. Dazed and Confused: Add a big dash of director Richard Linklater’s 1993 nostalgic ode to Me Decade adolescence, which like Super-8 is filled with super sounds of the seventies and finds its scruffy-shaggy heroes heading into summer vacation.  Also: Stoner humor!


3. (Day for Night x Ed Wood):  Whereas the junior high kids in Stand By Me were fixated with TV and the high school kids of Dazed and Confused were focused on rock music, Super-8’s geeky boys are wannabe filmmakers in love with horror movies. Super-8 producer Steven Spielberg, who grew up making 8mm movies in Arizona, tells EW he had been toying with making a coming-of-age tale about movie making kids before Abrams pitched him on a similar idea, inspired by his childhood days making super-8 movies. Spielberg envisioned “a junior Day For Night” — a reference to director Francois Truffaut’s 1973 classic about moviemaking. Filter that idea through the mind of Abrams, and the result is more Ed Wood, Tim Burton’s 1994 loving portrait of the infamous B-movie maestro.


4. (Jaws x E.T.): Did we mention Super-8 is also a monster movie? It is! In the same way Roy Scheider played a cop trying to protect Amity Island from an awful, human-chomping creature in Spielberg’s 1975 summer-set summertime thriller, Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) plays a cop trying to save landlocked Lillian, Ohio from a possibly-awful human-snatching entity in Super-8. “Possibly awful” because it’s very possible that the entity in Super-8 is actually a horribly misunderstood alien trapped on our planet and desperate to get home.


5. Bambi: At heart, Super-8 is a very animated movie about a doe-eyed boy grieving the loss of his mother with a distant father who falls in love with a doe-eyed girl whose rural home nearly goes up in smoke due to men with guns.


6. Cloverfield: Another secrecy-shrouded 2008 creature feature produced by Abrams. The entire last act of Super-8 is basically Cloverfield in miniature — and better.


Super 8

Sound good? EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum sure thinks so! PopWatchers, did we miss anything?

Comments (35 total) Add your comment
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  • Bobby F

    This movie was good, but seemed way too long and a bit talky. I liked the character development, but it could’ve used some editing.

    • Katie Stevens

      I can’t believe that Elle Fanning the girl who played Alice is only 13. She looked AT LEAST 17. And the main guy who looks like Bieber is 15? I thought he was 12.

    • JD

      It wasn’t even two hours…definitely not too long.

  • matt

    i feel like The Goonies should factor into the equation somewhere.

    • elena

      Definitely. I got a mega Goonies vibe from the kids. I kinda loved that, though. There haven’t been movies where a quirky band of kids go on adventures in FOREVER (probably since the 80’s). Although them constantly calling that guy Old Man Woodward = One Eyed Willy. Just sayin’.

  • Natalie

    This movie was fantastic! So many different dimensions to it…humor, poignancy, excitement, nostalgia, suspense… The “talky” parts brought the heart. I would never have wanted those left out.

  • Pissed

    Jeff, I trust you, so when you said “mild spoilers” I expected mild spoilers. But honestly. . . you consider “the entire last act of Super-8 is basically Cloverfield in miniature — and better” as MILD? Thanks a lot, Jeff.

    • Ghost of Pia

      I don’t consider “…it’s very possible that the entity in Super-8 is actually a horribly misunderstood alien trapped on our planet and desperate to get home” to be a MILD spoiler. Another F-up from EW! I think you people are TRYING to kill this movie, your coverage notwithstanding.

  • Thad

    A bit long, + Jurassic Park, quick cuts, loud sounds, little blood, but quite good movie

  • TheHil

    Doc Jensen: irreverently connecting his favorite pieces of pop culture to every other piece of pop culture ever made ever, since 2004.

  • Amy

    Stand by me is one of my favorite movies I like it better than super 8, but super 8 was pretty good

  • Kim

    Just reading “Stand by Me” gives me anxiety. The scene in the movie where the kids the find dead boy – the look of that dead kid’s face spooks me to this day. I will not go near that movie because of that scene. There is something about his face that greatly disturbs me.

    I want to see “Super 8″ though!

  • Funback Joe

    Super 8 = Close Encounters of the Third Kind + 30 years

  • Jim

    I just saw “Super 8″ and loved it. It is the first movie I have seen this year which might be in the Academy’s list of 10 best picture nominees. It is definitely worth watching.

  • Gimlet

    Why is no one mentioning Stephen King’s “It” i connection with this movie? Setup seems similar: close knit group of kids are only ones who know about a monster in their town.

  • sarah

    I loved this movie it was funny,cute,had lots of action,and had a really good hearted ending. the little kids reminded me of the movie ,the sandlot .

  • JennTrip

    I LOVED this movie!!! It has everything a good movie shoyld have:plot, acting, suspense and characters you care about. It is a movie I feel comfortable bringing my kids to (and there’s no T&A and the four letter words are used sparingly. There’s also no really graphic blood and gore) The kids, Kyle Chandler and Ron Eldard deliver solid performances. It was fantastic from beginning to end- and speaking of the end, stay through the credits for a surprise gem!

  • MysterWright

    Here’s the problem with movies like these: Its great that Spielberg is still willing to wing it and that Abrams has alot of fresh ideas on stuff but that is also part of the problem. See, if you got two dudes that are willing to be loose with how they make their creations then nobody is taking charge. Its like they’re trying to be silly and bonk the audience over the head with a squeaky hammer-shaped balloon instead of really cracking a grand slam out of the ballpark. This sorta roughhousing is how accidents happen. Then you get fans like me hollering when in reality you were doing a nice gesture and its like we’re more mad at ourselves. We’ve come to expect alot out of our movies and I love that there isn’t that pressure anymore to be the best over someone else but that’s not to say we should let ourselves go either. Was this not the same Spielberg whom previously covered this very crisis in Hook?

  • Bored

    This movie was such a let down. It would have been much better if the whole alien element was replaced with something more down to earth.

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