Undoubtedly, one of the biggest movies of this summer is Super 8, the creature feature blockbuster with heart, written and directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by the iconic Steven Spielberg. In the film a group of youngsters in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making their own super 8 movie and start to think that it may not have been an accident.
Soon people in the town begin disappearing and the group of friends come to realize there’s something more terrifying going on around them than any of them could have ever imagined.
Over the weekend Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with Abrams during the Super 8 (REVIEW) press day to talk about the nostalgic feel of the film, why creatures are fun but story always reigns with his films and a brief update on Star Trek 2 (which isn’t necessarily horror, but still noteworthy to a lot of genre fans worldwide).
Abrams discussed how his own nostalgia for making super 8 movies as a kid and the films created earlier by producer Spielberg were both huge inspirations behind his latest feature film. “The thing about making Super 8 is that it was inspired initially by my desire to go back in time and tell a story about a kid making those kind of movies on super 8 that I used to make but were often not great films really. But going back to that experience was the first thing. So when I had this idea to go and do a movie about this time period, the very first thing I did was call Steven because I knew he had also made super 8 movies like I did, and luckily he said yes.”
“Then we were working on the story over time, and as it developed, it was clear that it fell under the umbrella of the Amblin kind of movies,” added Abrams. “They’re all very different movies, but they do share a basic DNA about suburban America with ordinary people going through extraordinary circumstances when either hyper-real or supernatural things came into their lives. It was about the relationships or broken families in some form with kids often at the center of the films. So there are all these different elements that I love in Super 8, especially the spectacle of seeing something you’ve never seen before.”
For Abrams, though, he knew it would take a lot of different key elements to create the perfect sense of nostalgia in Super 8, and he discussed how even though the movie is very much a monster movie, a solid story with compelling characters was just as important to him as a storyteller.
“Part of the ambiance of Super 8 was about the era, the wardrobe, the set design and all that stuff,” explained Abrams. “Those were definitely huge elements to the movie, but what really was important to me personally was that after all the visual effects, the action sequences and that stuff were done and over with, that audiences felt something and you cared about the story.”
“There are times when a monster is great for a particular scene or an action sequence. Or there are even times when a monster is a great premise for a movie, but in this case the idea of a creature was cool to me but just because the idea was to make it externalize as a metaphor for what this kid was going through. This creature represented what he was going through, which was the idea of never getting past his loss. Obviously, physically and technically I had to do the creature as one thing, but to me, I’m more interested in the idea of why something is there. What does it represent? What does it mean for a character? Obviously, it’s fun to do just monsters. But I remember seeing the original Hunchback of Notre Dame when I was a kid and just sobbing at this movie. The idea of finding a way to make you feel something while using effects (visual effects, make-up effects, whatever) has always been really exciting to me,” added Abrams.
Despite Super 8 being one of the few original blockbusters to be hitting theaters this summer, Abrams spoke about how he doesn’t really see his latest feature as truly original, but more as an homage to the summer blockbuster films many of us grew up with in the late 70s or early 80s. “The funny thing about Super 8 is that while it’s an original story and an original idea, it owes so much to the films that it was inspired by so it was a fun way to riff off those themes that matter to me so much. I love that if it works for people, it’s probably because Super 8 feels like a sister film to those movies that existed back then.”
With Super 8 set to storm theaters this Friday, Abrams is clearly focused on one project in particular and nothing else currently: the follow-up to the 2009 summer hit Star Trek, which breathed some long overdue life into the franchise.
“The next thing I’m focused on is the next Star Trek movie, which we’ll hopefully have news on soon,” said Abrams. “Honestly, I care much more that Star Trek 2 be good than be ready by the already announced release date, and we’re still working on the script right now. Then we have to make sure everyone’s schedules work so we’re a ways off still.”
So will Star Trek 2 be coming out in 3D then? Abrams addressed the matter by saying, “I’m not yet considering doing the movie in 3D until the phone call comes in from the guys in the suits who say any differently. But so far I have no plans for 3D.”
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