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#076. J.J. Abrams

Television and film are becoming less dissimilar every year. While directors that once worked on the big screen are starting to make television shows, the opposite can also be said. Sometimes the best directors can be the ones who mastered the shorter, compact format of television before jumping the gap to feature films. After all, while television series are starting to show some great strides in plot development across episodes, each episode must be an encapsulated part of the whole. One would only have to expand out the running time on a single episode in order to arrive at a movie. As we have seen with directors who are more famous on the small screen (like Joss Whedon and The Avengers), sometimes the two mediums are not that far apart. In fact, the television work of J. J. Abrams has truly evolved the landscape of the television drama, making them more movie-like than ever before. With shows like Alias and Lost in his resume, it’s no wonder Abrams does well on the big screen as well. This week’s two films show J. J. Abrams’ directing talents on the silver screen.

Star TrekStar Trek
Year: 2009
Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 minutes / 2.1 hours

I must be honest here. I’m more of a Star Wars kind of guy. However, when it was revealed that Star Trek would be rebooted with J. J. Abrams slated to direct, I was very excited. Even though some people might be disappointed with some of his TV series (like the ending of Lost), I still think his artistic vision is truly what makes his stuff fun to watch. Of course, I would consider myself an Abrams fanboy, and at the very least I’ll go and see anything that has his name on it, so I doubt my opinion is very unbiased here. Still, I do have to admit that the amount of lens-flare (even if it is computer generated) is a bit much in his films. Fortunately, he’s getting better with it and is starting to use it in situations where it would actually be applicable.

If there’s one theme that seems to crop up more often than not in J. J. Abrams’ work, it’s time travel. Star Trek is no exception. A Romulan by the name of Nero (Eric Bana) is travelling through time trying to find a man by the name of Ambassador Spock. Unfortunately, Nero runs into a Federation ship, which is powerless to stop him and is destroyed in the process. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) was on that ship, which was piloted by his father, albeit Jim was born that very day his father died. Many years later, Kirk joins the Federation and eventually becomes captain of the USS Enterprise, which just so happens to be the same ship that First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) is on. Now Kirk can get his revenge on Nero because the Romulan is gunning for Spock, by destroying the Vulcan home world. Can Nero be stopped, or will Spock and Kirk meet their untimely end?

Super 8Super 8
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 112 minutes / 1.86 hours

Just like the recurring theme of time travel, J. J. Abrams excels in the realm of the mysterious. He knows just how to slowly reveal things to keep the audience in the dark long enough to build suspense. As a result, while he is a great director for action, he is also a great science fiction director, since many of the plots he has directed revolve around sci-fi mysteries. Of course, an important aspect to note here is that while the Abrams does the technical aspects well, he also develops characters well. After all, why would we care about a story if it’s players are flat and uninteresting? While the flashy presentation is what gets me in the theater, the characters that Abrams creates are what keep me coming back for more. Not to mention that he’s got a knack for keeping a dark storyline light in just the right spots to keep it from being depressing.

Home movies have been around for quite a while. Even though most video footage shot today is from smartphones and hi-def digital camcorders, there’s a soft spot in all filmmaker’s hearts for the classic 8mm film known as “Super 8”. Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is in charge of makeup for a zombie movie he’s been making with his friends, with the hope to enter it into a film contest. When they go out to get a great location shot, a train derails in spectacular fashion, prompting the government to come in and cover it up. It turns out that there was something on that train which is now loose and causing trouble for the local authorities. Joe and his friends take it upon themselves to find out what had escaped, mainly because Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), the girl he has a crush on, was taken by the “something” that escaped.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 awesome Abrams movies

Bacon #: 2 (Star Trek (directed) / John Cho -> The Air I Breathe / Kevin Bacon)

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4 responses to “#076. J.J. Abrams

  1. Pingback: End of Act Two | Cinema Connections

  2. Pingback: #135. Wes Anderson | Cinema Connections

  3. Pingback: #240. Sam Mendes | Cinema Connections

  4. Pingback: #262. Tom Cruise | Cinema Connections

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