Might as well get this one out of the way before Star Wars hits when everyone and their mother has an opinion on JJ Abrams. JJ Abrams is one of my favorite new ‘Big’ directors to emerge out of the 21st century thus far. He’s taken Science Fiction in bold new directions, revitalized Tom Cruise’s spy Ethan Hunt, and he hasn’t forgotten to bring a bit of heart to everything he’s done.
Abrams has been touted as the ‘New Spielberg’ and that’s a title I certainly wouldn’t mind endorsing. This is most apparent in his 70’s era sci-fi throwback, “Super 8”. I absolutely love this movie. The film centers on a small group of elementary school friends on the verge of adulthood as they try to complete their own zombie horror flick. In doing so they witness a colossal train wreck and investigate its mysterious source as the film continues. The film’s lead character is Joe Lamb, a boy whose mother’s death begins the film and grounds us in his grief as he tries to connect with his father in understanding this tragedy. Joe then meets Alice, daughter of a family from ‘the other side of the tracks’ whose father works at the very same factory that Joe’s mother lost her life in. This budding attraction in the two leads is charming and wholesome despite the eventual upheaval around them as something lurks in the outer edges of town. Filled with intense moments, I adore this film because it treats the younger characters with an earnest seriousness that isn’t overplayed, or downplayed for that matter. The whole film is nostalgic in its visuals and performances, which isn’t all that surprising as Spielberg himself was an ‘on set’ producer for the flick. Seriously check this one out if you get the chance!
Before Abrams became this omnipresent wizard of science fiction, he dabbled in Monster movies, not in direction, but in producing. ‘Cloverfield’ was a fun perspective on the monster movie genre and one of the few, in my opinion, good found footage films. He also took on the Spy genre with Mission Impossible three from the Director’s chair, reigning the series back in from the less than stellar sequel. What’s clear here is that he isn’t opposed to jumping film flavors and getting his feet wet in other oceans of possibilities. I doubt anyone could have predicted his jump to warp speed when his ‘Star Trek’ revival came out back in 2009. Personally I was never a huge trekkie, always on the side of the force in that argument, but no sci-fi nerd can deny that Abrams’ two Trek films aren’t fantastic. I mean, they will, sci-fi nerds tend to do that, but both films were obviously good enough to get him the new Star Wars gig over at Disney, and that’s good enough for me. Those films got me into the entire canon of Star Trek and I’ve enjoyed that perspective on space ever since.
Perhaps the thing I admire most about JJ Abrams is that he doesn’t deviate from the idea that secrecy to serve the movie-going experience is important. In a world of instant gratification and constant advertising and marketing at work, school, and home- it’s refreshing to see somebody make the world realize that patience is a virtue, and that it will only better serve you the viewer in the end. Sure, you can have your cake and eat it too, just don’t be upset when the diabetes kicks in.
Star Wars Episode 7 excites me like no other, and I can’t wait until it releases this Christmas, but I’m happy to wait. I look forward to seeing how the galaxy far far away has fared in the last thirty years.I’m also vastly intrigued by what Mr.Abrams will do after Star Wars. Maybe it’ll be another original film like ‘Super 8’, hell maybe even ‘Mission Impossible 6’, that would make him the only returning director of the series. Hopefully taking on such a monumental project hasn’t broken him quite like ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ broke Joss Whedon. If I were him, I’d take all those Disney dollars and just enjoy life for a year before diving back into the next passion project.