Everyone that watched the Super Bowl (and many who did not) had the pleasure of viewing the glorious TV spot for J.J. Abrams’s new film, Super 8. The teaser is thoroughly engaging, unexpectedly lighthearted, and completely different than the theatrical trailer we saw earlier. It also won Alex’s poll in a landslide. So what does this tell us about the film?
Well the fact that the teaser is better than the rest of the idiotic droll of summer blockbuster-dom that is devoid of all artistic integrity and was present during this year’s beyond-awful advertising attemptsÂ says very little. But looking at the trailer as insight to the film’s innate possibilities is potentially revealing. The first teaser (offered up last fall) made the film out to be a repeat of the Abrams produced Cloverfield. This was a disappointing prospect from my perspective as it implies a lack of versatility within a talent that I am both eager and hesitant towards. But this spot demonstrates the potential for a uniquely classical piece of cinema.
The difference between the two trailers is in the tone. The first one looked like a suspenseful monster flick. This one looks like classic Spielberg. Many have interpreted it as possessing characteristics of E.T. But I think it looks more like Close Encounters of the Third Kind.Â But more important that singling out individual films from the classic filmmaker’s history is understanding why it seems so familiar. The answer is simple: like the work of Spielberg, this teaser views the supernatural through a sense of awe rather than a sense of terror. Two specific elements create this. First is the intense John Williams-esque music that starts small and builds to a crescendo as we witness a montage of fascinating visuals. Secondly, the opening shot of the teaser is a child (or teenager) riding a bike. While the montage of visual chaos also shows various forms of legal authority, the protaginist appears to be the child. It almost makes me wonder if this will be a family-friendly film.
Oh, and it also doesn’t hurt that the overarching dialogue is the rather epic sounding, “Do not speak of this, if you do, they will find you.” It could not possibly be more foreboding.Â The trailer just makes the film feel important. Although it may not have much competition, it is the best bit of cinematic advertising I’ve seen in a while and it has me hooked on a film that I previously dismissed entirely. I still don’t know what Super 8 will be, but I am definately excited to find out.
Even beyond just the tone of the trailer, and the music, and the child protaginist, the trailer reaks of Spielberg. For starters, the monster (or whatever it is) is a mystery that is held from the viewers but we get plenty of shots of people watching what we don’t get to see. At one point a tripod is shown on the ground. This reminds me of a very specific moment in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds when the only glimpse of the impending destruction comes from looking through a camera that has been dropped. Later in the trailer there is a shot of Police car lights flashing. I can’t explain exactly why this feels like Spielberg to me, but it really does.
Being the Executive Producer doesÂ means any sort of legitimate involvement, so this is by no means a Spielberg picture. But I think it is interesting to note the similarities between J. J. Abrams and Spielberg. They both are as much producers as they are directors and they both make blockbusters that are expertly crafted with nostalgia and humor to resemble classic cinema. It is idiotic to entitle someone “the next so-and-so,” so I won’t do that. But I do see notable similarities between the two and would like to believe that Spielberg is a considerable influence on the young talent. I hope to continue to see that influence.
I also hate to try to pull anything related to year-in-advance Oscar predictions, but I will say right now that I believe if any blockbuster is going to gain Oscar momentum from 2011, I think it will be J. J. Abrams’s Super 8. I’m excited.