When we first saw the trailer to J.J. Abrams' top-secret upcoming thriller Super 8, it seemed less like the must-see movie of the summer, and more like a particularly slick AFI tribute to Steven Spielberg, who also produced the film. The early reviews say Super 8 can be enjoyed on its own merits (it's currently registering 83 percent approval on Rotten Tomatoes), which is a relief, because in our summer movie-loving opinion, there's really nothing better than a June flick about resourceful kids from the suburbs doing battle with shady government outfits and/or a monster you don't see on-screen for the first hour.
With an additional six minutes of Super 8 being leaked online before Friday's release, we decided to examine how much inspiration Abrams's movie draws from Spielberg. Here's the footage, along with a second-by-second guide to all of Abrams's knowing asides, as we imagine them, at least--we'd like to believe the similarities are intentional, a wink at Spielberg and the viewer.
00:05 It's nighttime and we're in a place surrounded by tall grass with only halogen beams cutting through the dark. This already could be A.I., Amistad, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Jaws, War of the Worlds, E.T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Of those titles, Close Encounters probably has the most striking visual similarities, even if these kids are making home movies, not meeting aliens.
00:23 A pushy, heavyset boy is the director of the kids' movie in Super 8. A callback to Wayne Knight's pushy, heavyset scientist in a yellow raincoat in Jurassic Park who tried to steal the dinosaurs genetic material, perhaps?
1:00 Dakota Fanning appears. She ran from an unknown enemy--also mainly at night--in Spielberg's 2004 adaptation of War of the Worlds.
1:23 Their suits are different colors, but the child playing the detective in the movie-within-a-movie take his fashion lead from Tom Hanks's similarly by-the-book lawman in Catch Me If You Can.
2:29 The pushy boy in the raincoat makes a big show of saying "shit" and "asshole". We're going to assume that's an homage to Drew Barrymore's infamous (and since cut) use of the phrase "penis breath" in E.T., which was originally included because Spielberg was worried about being given a G-rating.
4:20 An incoming train spurs a panic to get film in the camera. This is likely a subject near and dear to Abrams's and Spielberg's hearts as directors, but it was also a recurring problem for Julianne Moore's documentary filmmaker character in The Lost World, who was perpetually worried about having film in the camera, and not being eaten by a dinosaur.
5:53 It occurs to us that Spielberg has never filmed a train crash before. (The circus train at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade remained intact.) So Abrams is breaking new ground. As the kids escape from the debris, it's tough not to recall the aural assault of the Omaha Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan (listen for what sounds like the sound of incoming enemy fire from above) and the robot roundup in A.I.. (The second clip--the Saving Private Ryan one--is probably NSFW.)
6:20 Somebody escaping from the train crash asks "Are we alive?" In War of the Worlds, Dakota Fanning asks Tom Cruise during a chase scene, "Are we still alive?" Hopefully Spielberg caught the reference.