As his homage to Spielberg’s ET, J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 is a minefield of nostalgia. Set in the 70s with a cast led by children, the film creates a dual sense of nostalgia: the yearning for a simpler time meshes with the desire to be young again beautifully.
On the one hand the troupe of young actors hearkens back to films like ET, Stand By Me, and The Goonies. The cast’s performances and chemistry bring back the memories of being young again. Ranging from getting called to dinner, sneaking out at night, or acting against your parent’s orders to childhood crushes, the bonds of friendships formed so young, and the passion of the first hobby that really meant something to you, Super 8 delivers a full-fledged recreation of childhood–even to those who grew up in a later time than Abrams himself. The sub-plots of the gang of kids trying to make their own zombie movie and Joe’s crush on Alice give an emotional nostalgia that is largely responsible for the audience’s connection to these characters. We feel for them because we remember feeling this way, we root for them because we remember being in their shoes.
There is a wonderful shot of Joe riding his bike from Charles’ house back home to eat dinner with his father. There really is nothing more nostalgic than a bicycle. The one simple object reminds the viewer of both their own youth and days past when it was commonplace to ride a bicycle or walk everywhere–as opposed to today when driving has become far more usual–as such, the double nostalgia is most apparent in this scene (along with others like it) because we see the portrait of small town life in 1970s America overlap with the responsibilities and restraints of childhood.