What did Abrams show off?
After being introduced by Grey, Abrams first told a couple of stories about his interactions with his producer Steven Spielberg over the years including a story of when he and Cloverfield director Matt Reeves were 15 and 16 and they had films entered in a Super 8 Film Festival that got the attention of Spielberg who asked them to repair his own early Super 8 films. A few years back, Abrams called Spielberg to pitch an idea of a group of kids making Super 8 films in the ’70s which Spielberg loved but even more when Abrams suggested combining it with another idea he had involving a train traveling from Area 51 to Ohio which crashes unleashing a captive alien.
Abrams seemed nervous to show the footage, not that he needed to be since the Super Bowl spot and recent trailer have gotten a lot of people excited for his new movie, but he also felt that it was important movie writers were made aware what he was trying to do with the movie. He also wanted to showcase the talent of his young cast, a couple of whom had never been on any kind of set of any kind, and even more than that, he really wants to keep a lot of the movie a secret so that there are surprises for later, which certainly makes sense to us, so we’ll be keeping details to a minimum.
Abrams introduced the first clip by saying that it took place roughly ten or eleven minutes into the movie and talked a bit about the lead character of Joe, played by Joel Courtney, who had lost his mother in an accident. Joe has an obvious crush on the slightly older Alice, played by Elle Fanning, who he has convinced to be in Charlie’s movie and she has agreed to drive them to the train depot.
After a touching scene between Joe and his father, the town sheriff played by Kyle Chandler, as the two eat dinner in a bar and clearly not really connecting, we get to meet Joe’s friends. Riley Griffiths is Charles, the guy who lives across the street from Joe who enlists the local kids to help him make Super 8 movies. As we meet this group of friends sitting on the curb waiting for Alice to pick them up to take them to the train depot, we’re reminded of movies like The Goonies or Stand by Me. Once they arrive, they rehearse the scene and all the boys’ jaws drop when they see how good Alice is. When they hear a train coming, Charles’ frantically calls for them to start filming because he is obsessed with having better production values. As they do the scene over, Joe sees a pick-up truck driving along the tracks which the train plows into. Now, one thing you can’t tell from the recent trailer is that this train crash is WAY bigger than anything you can imagine with train cars flying everywhere as the kids scramble to get out of its path. Once things die down, a train car in front of Joe starts shaking violently and the door goes flying into the air. (It was kind of odd that we didn’t see the shot of the train car being pummeled from the inside that’s been shown in both previous trailers.) The kids then go over to what remains of the pick-up truck to see who was driving it and learn it’s their biology teacher who seems to know something about the contents of the train he just derailed. Before we can learn more, the kids are told to run and not tell anyone what they saw, and a group of soldiers led by Noah Emmerich show up on the scene with flashlights.
The second shorter clip was a scene of a couple of humans falling foul of the unleashed creature, as a police officer filling up his car at a gas station has an encounter with something we don’t actually get to see. (Abrams mentioned later that he wants to try as best he can to keep how the alien looks a secret a bit better than they did with Cloverfield.) It was a fairly intense and scary sequence where we don’t exactly know what’s going on, but it ends with the clerk at the register being dragged off, something that we do see briefly in the trailer during the montage section of it.
The footage really looked great–abundant lens flair and all!–though Abrams warned us that the FX weren’t finished, and though he also said it was mainly temp music, the use of tunes from the times like Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” “My Sharona,” and the Cars really helped create the feel of 1979, the year in which we were told the film takes place.