When we first broke the news that J.J. Abrams’s next project was “a tip of the hat to [Spielberg’s] movies of the seventies and eighties,” we weren’t sure what kind of influence we’d see. But after watching the teaser trailer of Super 8 that emerged last night before Iron Man 2, we see that the main hat being tipped is an engineer’s cap, nodding to Spielberg’s obsessions with trains.
In 1971’s Duel, the “demonic tanker truck” nearly pushes Dennis Weaver’s car into a passing freight train at a railroad crossing. In Super 8, a truck swerves onto the train tracks at a railroad crossing, and smashes into the train.
In 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a news report of a massive train wreck near the Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming is the government’s cover-up for the alien landing.
In 1982’s E.T., as government scientists invade Elliot’s home to collect the Cutest Alien Ever, a Lionel model train set suddenly comes to life.
And in the Super 8 trailer, which vehicle brings us into contact with the aliens? A yellow pickup truck at a railroad crossing? A scene practically lifted from Close Encounters?
Then there’s this autobiographical detail: Born in Ohio, a teenage Spielberg would later use his Super 8 camera to make homemade adventure movies, using his Lionel model railroad to film train wrecks. And where’s that mysterious government train in Abrams’s Super 8 headed to before it wrecks? Ah, yes: Ohio.
And that’s just in 90 seconds. Imagine what Abrams will fit in the whole movie.