'Super 8' is a super nostalgic trip back to 1979, when Harvest Gold refrigerators were in every kitchen and every kid had a 'Star Wars' poster on his or her wall. Retro details like that (and, of course, the warm Spielbergian glow), help make the movie feel like it really takes place somewhere between 'Close Encounters' and 'E.T.'
But a few possible anachronisms caught our eye: Were Rubik's cubes really around that early? What about that Walkman with which the oblivious gas station attendant grooves to Blondie's 'Heart of Glass?'
We've done the research for you: Keep reading to see what's dead on and what's a little off, time-wise. (No, we're not fact-checking the sci-fi angles or whether five kids and their car could escape a horrific train crash with little more than a scrape.) Mild spoilers for the film.
When explosive enthusiast Cary (Ryan Lee) sees the strange, gray cubes scattered by the train wreck, he notes, "They look like Rubik's cubes." Cary would have to have been really, really ahead of the curve to have known about them in 1979. The toy was invented by Ernö Rubik in 1974, but not licensed to be sold in the U.S. until 1980. The Rubik's craze didn't really hit until 1982 and it's rightly remembered as an '80s -- not a '70s -- fad.
2. Three Mile Island Meltdown
As Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) walks into his living room, Walter Cronkite is on the TV, talking about the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. Since we just saw Joe and his friends on their last day of school, the actual date of the meltdown: March 28, 1979, doesn't gibe with the start of summer vacation.
3. Sony Walkman
The first Sony Walkman did go on sale in 1979, July 1, to be exact, so 'Super 8's Blondie-loving gas station attendant is one very ahead-of-the-trend dude, especially considering that he lives in the backwater of Lillian, Ohio. And yes, sheriff, personal music devices are a slippery slope. The Walkman line still exists, but now they're digital. (Enjoy this classic commercial for the latest line of Sony products, circa 1979.)
4. Pee Chee folders
Unless you had one of these as a student, the trademark folder probably didn't even catch your eye in Charles (Riley Griffiths)'s messy room. In 1979, they would probably have come in the standard goldenrod color, with the classic athlete illustrations that kids for decades loved to doodle on and defile in various creative ways. Although they were first manufactured in Michigan, they seem to have been a mostly West Coast phenomenon, judging by our own anecdotal research, this Pee-Chee inspired memoir set in LA and this Washington-state-based blogger, who found that no one outside of the Northwest had ever heard of them. So, J.J. Abrams, who grew up in California, would certainly have had one. Would a kid in Ohio be as likely to? You tell us! Once discontinued, the peachy Pee Chee is now sold by Mead and comes in a variety of colors, including blue, like the one in the film. The Pee Chee even has its own Facebook page.
5. Gas at 94¢ a gallon
Unless you sat through the movie twice (and had the benefit of viewing it in IMAX), you probably didn't notice that the gas at the ill-fated Kelvin gas station was priced at 94¢ a gallon. That's dead on, (at least for the Los Angeles area), according to the LA Almanac. Later that year, a serious gas crunch hit the U.S., with prices jumping to the then-unthinkable price of more than a dollar. Gas was rationed and ridiculously long lines at the pump became a common sight. If only nostalgia for all things from the late '70s extended to today's gas prices!