Super 8

JJ Abrams channels Spielberg with his retro sci-fi blockbuster

At first glance, JJ Abrams’ new sci-fi flick stands out from the rest of this year’s blockbusters by virtue of not being a remake or based on an existing property. But looks can be deceiving. While Super 8 is essentially an original story, it’s so heavily indebted to the early films of Steven Spielberg (right down to the pre-credits use of the original Amblin Entertainment logo) that it actually feels like a remake.

Playing out like a more violent version of E.T., Abrams’ film takes place in small town America circa 1979 and follows a group of kids who realise that a nearby train crash has unleashed something unearthly in the area. And for the most part Super 8 really hits the mark. The young cast are excellent, the set-up delivers plenty of thrills and chills, and the evocation of the period is wonderfully believable. What a shame then that it stumbles somewhat at the end, delivering a rather schmaltzy and fat too convenient finale for what had previously been an exciting and affecting piece of blockbuster cinema.

Picture: While its treatment of catalogue titles has been a little hit and miss, Paramount frequently pulls out all of the stops when it comes to AV performance on new releases. Super 8 is no exception.

Presented as an AVC 2.40:1 encode the film’s 1080p visuals are nothing less than astonishing. Blacks are rock solid and exceptionally deep, colours are warm and vivid, and detailing is impeccable throughout. All told, it’s a beautifully cinematic encode that is undoubtedly a superb representation of the filmmakers’ original vision. Which just leaves us with the amount of lens flare evident in the film. It’s a visual technique that Abrams clearly relishes (see his Star Trek reboot for further proof), but may prove distracting for those who favour a pristine HD image.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: For the most part, this Blu-ray’s native Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix is an effective, if not exactly grandstanding affair. Dialogue is pin-sharp and entirely natural, while terrific use is made of ambient effects across the entire soundfield. And then there’s Chapter 3’s train crash. One of the most aggressive and powerful audio experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure to run through my system, this particular sequence is swash with dynamic surround effects as pieces of carriage crash all around you and room-rumbling bass accompanying each impact and explosion.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: While it doesn’t exactly set any new benchmarks for innovation, Super 8 comes to Blu-ray with an interesting and informative batch of bonus goodies. The commentary by writer/director JJ Abrams, producer Bryan Burk and cinematographer Larry Phong covers a lot of the production details and is supported by eight featurettes. There’s also an interactive look at the train crash (featuring script extracts, interviews, pre-viz and much more), 14 deleted scenes, plus a DVD and Digital Copy.
Extras rating: 4/5

We say: Super hi-def package for a fun sci-fi throwback

Paramount, All-region BD/R2 DVD, £25 approx, On sale December 12