'Super 8' Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need To Know

We recap the mystery surrounding the project before you learn the mystery within.

Almost exactly one year to the day that J.J. Abrams' rebooted "Star Trek" hit theaters, rumors started to circulate in May 2010 that the director had already shot a theatrical trailer, to run in front of "Iron Man 2," for a secret new project called "Super 8." While the film seemed to have a connection to the Abrams-produced alien-disaster flick "Cloverfield," we soon learned that wasn't true. Instead, the film was an original tale, produced by Steven Spielberg and having something to do with an escaped creature from Area 51, the mysterious government site long suspected to be involved in alien experimentation.

But that's about all we'd find out for a while. Over time, though, we began to put together the pieces. And eventually, Abrams himself started to dole out info about the movie. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's flash back in time with an MTV News cheat sheet before we can truly say we know everything there is to know about "Super 8."

The Explosion

The teaser trailer arrived, as rumored, in May. It featured a fiery train crash and the unseen presence of the mysterious creature. Sources connected to the film said the story would focus on a group of small-town kids in 1979 who begin filming a home movie on a Super 8 camera, only to capture the crash and the emergence of the creature. At this point, though, production on the flick hadn't even begun.

The shoot kicked off in September. By that point, Abrams had cast a collection of unknown young actors, plus Elle Fanning ("Somewhere"), to play his featured kids, as well as Kyle Chandler ("Friday Night Lights") to portray the town deputy and central boy's father. That's about all we knew. The next month, all "Cloverfield" director Matt Reeves would tell us was that the film "is very, very intimately connected to an aspect of [Abrams'] childhood and to this idea of Super 8 [films]."

The Dust Settles

By February of this year, as Abrams got set to debut a "Super 8" Super Bowl ad and a full trailer, the director finally began to open up about the project, albeit reluctantly. "To me, all people need to know is that it's an adventure about a small town and it's funny, it's sweet, it's scary and there's a mystery: What is this thing that has escaped? What are the ramifications of its presence? And what is the effect on people?" Abrams explained to the Los Angeles Times. "But I know that's not enough. Look, I feel we need a little bit of a coming-out party because we are up against massive franchises and brands and most people don't know what 'Super 8' means. We're a complete anomaly in a summer of huge films ... and we don't want to be so silent or coy that people don't care or don't hear about it."

Then in April, we caught up with Abrams himself, as the helmer was putting the finishing touches on the film's score. In a long-ranging conversation, he touched on the Spielbergian influences in "Super 8" that so many observers had noticed. "He's a real producer of this movie," Abrams said. "He worked with me to develop the story. We had countless story meetings prior to and following the script. What was wonderful about working with him is the ongoing conversation. Because I was working with him, I felt free to allow the influences of his films to rise to the surface."

Seeing Clearly

With "Super 8" just days away from release, we debuted an exclusive clip at the MTV Movie Awards — one that began with a close look at the train crash and segued into a mini-trailer. Abrams, Spielberg and the kids were on hand at the show to introduce the footage. It wasn't the first time we met them face to face. At a press event in May, the kids took us behind the scenes of that epic train crash and tried to explain what the film was all about without giving away the secret.

And then on Wednesday evening in Los Angeles at the film's red-carpet premiere, the cast had fun laughing off some of the wackiest theories they've heard about the mysterious creature at the heart of "Super 8." "I've seen on IMDb that a lot of people thought it was a giant lion," co-star Zach Mills said. "I don't know why. That's the craziest thing I've heard."

Check out everything we've got on "Super 8."

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