J.J. Abrams Reveals Some ‘Super 8′ Secrets

Published 4 years ago by , Updated August 23rd, 2013 at 3:58 pm,

No filmmaker is better versed in the art of piquing fan interest in an unreleased, non-brand title than J.J. Abrams, as best evidenced by the viral marketing campaign for his and Matt Reeves’ “found footage” monster pic, Cloverfield. That Abrams has built up a similar aura of mystery around his next directorial effort, Super 8, is all the more expected by (and infuriating for) his fans.

A full-fledged preview for Abrams’ new project aired as part of the 2011 Super Bowl Movie Trailers, and now the man with the glasses himself (not Doug Walker, for those who get the reference) has spilled a few tidbits about just what Super 8 is and why it’s a film that’s close to his nerdy, sci-fi-loving heart.

Super 8 takes place in small-town Ohio (is there another kind?) circa 1979 and follows a group of six kids who are shooting their own zombie invasion movie, with the use of now old-school 8 mm film stock. As anyone who watched the official Super 8 teaser trailer or last night’s Super Bowl clip know, the youngsters are filming one night when they witness a furious collision between a truck and passing locomotive – and the emergence of a mysterious creature from the subsequent wreckage.

Abrams himself offered the following intriguingly cryptic description of Super 8 to Hero Complex:

“To me, all people need to know is that it’s an adventure about a small town and it’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s scary and there’s a mystery: What is this thing that has escaped? What are the ramifications of its presence? And what is the effect on people?”

Super 8 movie image J.J. Abrams Reveals Some Super 8 Secrets

Not only does Super 8 stylistically pay homage to the 1970s and 80s-era sci-fi cinema of Abrams’ childhood, it’s also a throwback piece to coming of age pics from that period as well. In order to fully capture the mood and atmosphere of his influences, Abrams employed the assistance of Steven Spielberg, and also reached out to the likes of Rob Reiner (Stand by Me) in order to better assemble a strong cast for his own tale of maturing adolescents on an adventure that stretches the boundaries of their imaginations.

Abrams spent a fair amount of time shopping two unrelated projects – a drama that concerned young people whose perception of the world is shaped by their use of a Super 8 camera, and a spooky tale about the notorious military base Area 51 and its inhabitants – around Hollywood, but neither attracted more than lukewarm reactions from studio execs and screenwriters on its own. It eventually occurred to the Star Trek reboot director to combine the two premises, with inspiration in part coming from Spielberg and a discussion about how E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was essentially an amalgamation of two themes important to the filmmaker – the heartbreak of divorce and life beyond the realm of Earth. To quote Abrams specficially:

“As the process went along I  realized I had the potential makings of  my favorite sort of movie, which is the one that is the hardest genre to define. That because you could say — and be right — that ['Super 8' is] a science fiction movie; or you could say — and be right — that it’s a love story; or you could say — and be right — that it’s a comedy; or you could say — and be right — that it’s a special-effects spectacle. That sort of cocktail is for me what I love about movies…that was the beginnings of this movie coming together.”

Elle Fanning in Super 8 movie J.J. Abrams Reveals Some Super 8 Secrets

Super 8 will have its work cut out this upcoming summer, having to compete against the likes of several established franchise titles, comic book hero pics, and the customary action-happy blockbusters that roll into theaters every summer. With an interesting premise and the involvement of some solid creative talent behind the scenes, there’s good reason to be excited about Super 8 and hope that it doesn’t get ignored by the moviegoing masses upon release.

Super 8 hits regular and IMAX screens around the U.S. on June 10th, 2011.

For more from Abrams about the casting process for Super 8 and why he prefers to not overexpose his films prior to their release, read his full interview with the LA Times.

TAGS: Super 8
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  1. Cant wait everything JJ does is amazing to me

  2. I hated ET, this sounds like ET. Got to say I love JJ’s work but Im not intrested in ET. unless its like Paul, which looks hillarious

    • “I hated E.T.”

      Your argument is invalid.

      • it is , why cause i didnt like ET and I think it reminds me of ET and I d rather not see That type of movie? ok sorry

        • Your argument is still invalid.

  3. I am excited for this!

  4. Initially, I was ‘hell yeah!’ an alien movie closer to ‘Cloverfield’ and the original ‘Alien’ but, with the new trailer, I seems to be closer to ‘Signs’ and Disney films of the 80′s. The ‘E.T.’ and ‘Flight of the Navigator’ impression I get is unsettling and, at the moment, feel a little betrayed because of the way the first trailer portrayed the film. I was actually more impressed by the new Transformer 3 trailer and I don’t plan on seeing TF3 in the theater, if at all.
    We’ll see if I move ‘Super 8′ into the DVD column.

    • Why unsettling? I saw style comparisons with ET and Close Encounters. I mean, if comparisons are to be drawn at all, drawing them with early Spielberg, when he was at the height of his genre work, are comparisons I would find comforting. Keep in mind, the trailer gives nothing away as to what the actual storyline is, and all we can respond to are vague impressions.

      • Unsettling is just a feeling. When I saw the first trailer I was not aware that the ‘kids’ were this young and it looked to be a lot more dramatic and scary than the Super Bowl trailer.
        Unsettling because you can cut a trailer for a movie and make it just about any other genre. There is a whole set of awesome fan-based videos that do just that.
        But there is this trend within the Hollywood system of misrepresenting movies to sell tickets. Not saying this is what happened here, hell, the movie wasn’t even cast when the first trailer popped up last summer, but that trailer now seems to be an artifact of his earlier ideas he combined and, while I am not questioning Abrams’ process, doubts creep in for me when the movie is an amalgam of many ideas and may have been altered as the film was shot.
        This often is not good.
        Maybe the film is the vision he had from day one. Maybe it’ll be the best thing since sliced bread. The squirmy thought in the back of my mind keeps reminding me that heartwarming nostalgia can backfire.

  5. Love what Abrams can do with a movie. He made M:Impossible III worth our attention and pulled off the near impossible with “Star Trek.”

    Heck yeah, I don’t know beans about “Super 8,” but I still can’t wait to see it. Abrams understands good popcorn cinema and the joy of the unknown.

  6. the TV spot was great…my hopes are high!

  7. I’m calling it now. It’s a variation on E.T.

    • Yeah, seems like E.T. 2 and that’s the LAST thing I expected this to be.


  8. The trailer I saw made it look scary but I told a friend watch a fuzzy little blue thing pop out. Is that what this is heading for?

  9. Star Trek 2 please!

    • It’s coming Sam, it’s coming!!

      • Not soon enough!

    • I’m with you Drsam.

      I didn’t plan on seeing this after the horrible mess that was cloverfield god that movie was so awful, but I’ve been keeping an eye out just in case something interesting developed. Nope nothing has. I didn’t think I could look forward to it less but I do. I’m not a fan of ET or 90% of coming of age stories. So this is about as interstitial to me as it gets.

  10. Anyone else feel like they need to take on a second job to be able to go to all the movies they want to see this coming year?

    • Lucky to have a dollar theatre in my city. Unless I want to see a pristine copy or its in 3-D (that I even want to bother with), I wait for this theatre to get the film. Waiting for True Grit and Tron Legacy to come there. Snacks still cost half a pay check though.

      • We got one of them not too far away, but I am waaaaaaay too impatient for that ;-)

  11. Totally agree with you there Doom. Thank goodness our prices before noon is 6 bucks! 3D and IMAX are a bit more but I plan to be very careful of what I NEED to see in IMAX.

    • $6? Well arent you lucky! Where I live in the UK it costs the equivalent of $26 to see a film at IMAX and $17 to see a regular film.
      Maybe that’s why I only go once every couple of months now, when I used to go every week, and that’s why I download movies.

      • We in the States are indeed lucky Sam, but I see the ticket prices in the near future just skyrocketing here.

        • Tickets are $5 for the bargain matinee, $7 for afternoon, and $10 for evening and on. AMC seems to be committed to keeping prices low to maintain attendance. Though I’ve heard of way higher tickets in cities like NY.

      • Ouch Sam that’s harsh.

        Where I live it’s 6 for before 6PM and after it’s 11 bucks. Imax I don’t know the pricing of I have not been in a long time it’s about 400 miles away from my home no film is worth that drive just to see in Imax. Imax is nice and all, but it’s not that Impressive to me to be worth the long drive.

        • In London they don’t really do different prices for different times of the day, it always expensive. I have only been to the imax once, and yeah its cool, but it is in no way worth the horrendous price.

      • WOW!!! man that sucks I was mad about paying 8.00… I guess i should shut up :)

  12. As much as I can’t stand Abrams, except for (Cloverfield) this sounds cool.

    And its not in 3D, right?

    • I heard Abrams wasnt a big fan of 3D.

      • I heard that Abrams does like 3D, but not when they write a scene with the intent of it being in 3D. And yes, there’s been talk about Star Trek 2 in 3D.

  13. Yeah and I have to agree this looks like E.T.2 and as a kid I liked ET but when I watched it again as an adult I hated it…So I may have to sit this one out till it comes out for rent

  14. I was on the fence after seeing the SB trailer and now i’m tendering my official resignation as a Fence Sitter.
    I’m not interested. A Cloverfield prequel/Sequel.. helz yah!
    Witch Mountain meets ET meets Goonies meets Nick at night… No thanks!

  15. Abrams is one of the most original director/concepts developer to come to the forefront during this era of remakes, and ripoffs. He always talks about the inspirations behind his projects and some people respond to that by saying; “ok, then it’s gonna be like this movie, or that movie”

    Wrong. His movies and tv shows communicate much more than an omage to his inspirations. Super 8 should be good but hopefully great.

  16. i already loved this website, but that THATGUYWITHTHEGLASSES reference in there made me love it a billion times more!!!!