Super 8 thrives on something that’s been missing from many recent summer blockbusters. Watching it, I realized that this same element is too often missing from my faith.
An acknowledged throwback to the early science-fiction films of Steven Spielberg (who serves as a producer), Super 8 follows a group of teens in 1979 Ohio who sneak out late at night to make a no-budget film. Without warning, a top-secret military train comes rushing out of the dark and derails. The characters watch as something astonishing and unfamiliar emerges from the scattered wreckage.
Like any summer flick worth its popcorn salt, Super 8 has big explosions and intricate special effects. But what it’s best at is something less tangible: creating a genuine sense of wonder. It captures that rush of amazement that washes over us when we encounter something powerful and mysterious. We feel a burst of awe, even if we don’t fully understand what we’re witnessing.
Writer-director J.J. Abrams makes this happen on two levels. As their rickety little movie starts to come together, the teens experience the wonder of creating art. There’s a great scene where the girl in the group (Elle Fanning) actually acts—and all of them recognize that a true creative moment has been captured. The events after the train wreck amp up this sensation. In both instances—the personal and the fantastic—the characters are humbled by something greater than themselves.
I don’t always allow room for wonder in my spiritual life. I give in to moments of worshipful awe when immersed in nature—the sort of instinctual thanks for God’s creation that even an atheist can give—but when it comes to actually defining my faith, I rely on reason. Sometimes in my faith journey, however, I need to be overwhelmed with wonder. Of course, the wonder that God delivers is so much more than a movie or fictional story could ever hope to.1