JJ Abrams Movies


I think I’ve probably railed against JJ Abrams movies around these parts more than those of any other director, and that’s probably unfair. JJ Abrams has a flair for a very specific type of entertainment, and it’s one that I’ve simply grown out of favor with over the years. “Too slick for its own good” is a term I used to describe his latest, Star Trek Into Darkness, but in hindsight, I think it’s a descriptor that works for all of his films, including those I actually like quite a bit.

Before there were JJ Abrams movies, however, there were JJ Abrams TV shows. Felicity and Alias have their followings (I’ve never seen the former, while the latter was something that was only tangentially on my radar circa 2003, 2004.) LOST, on the other hand, is my jam. One could argue that it’s much more a Lindelof/Cuse TV show than a JJ Abrams TV show, but there is no LOST without JJ Abrams, and whatever I might think about his movies, I’ll always be grateful for giving me six seasons of dangerously addictive island drama.

JJ Abrams movies, at least so far and only referring to the ones he’s directed, are all summer popcorn flicks with big budgets you can see and hear. That said, he’s the rare blockbuster filmmaker who knows how to develop characters. That development isn’t always successful (sometimes it’s halfhearted, other times straight up lame), but he tries, and simply attempting makes JJ Abrams movies more admirable than those of some (many?) of his colleagues.

JJ Abrams Movies

Mission: Impossible III

Ethan Hunt tries to keep the identity of his girlfriend a secret as he trots around the globe going toe to toe with a wicked arms dealer.

(3+ viewings)

It’s the best film of the series and the highest-octane Hitchcock film you’ve ever seen. What makes this one stand above the others is the startlingly villainous performance from Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who brings a whole other level of menace to the Mission: Impossible movies.

Star Trek

The story of James T. Kirk and his enemy, Spock, trying to get along well enough to prevent catastrophe aboard the USS Enterprise. (Click here for my full Star Trek review.)

(3 viewings)

This is a perfect example of Abrams blending tendencies of his that I don’t like (the over-choreographed action, the exhaustingly plotted climax) with tendencies I love (a real affinity for character, an almost Marvel-esque wit). Star Trek isn’t a film that makes a lot of sense, nor is it one that holds up particularly well on a rewatch. But the character interactions are breezy and enjoyable enough for me to forgive some of the film’s clunkiness.

Super 8

A group of teenage friends observe a horrific train crash while making a homemade monster movie. (Click here for my full Super 8 review.)

(1 viewing)

When this film divided critics back in the summer of 2011, I wrote that its first act gets an A, its second act a C, and its third act an F-. Like Star Trek, Super 8‘s character moments are tremendous. The teenage romance at the film’s heart (between newcomer Joel Courtney and the always excellent Elle Fanning) is quite brilliant. Once the train crashes, however, the film goes, no pun intended, off the rails. The crash itself is a technical showcase, but it’s way overdone. In its aftermath, no character seems to be able to speak without asking a heavy-handed question. And my eyes threatened to roll into the back of my head during the film’s asinine conclusion. By that point, any goodwill built up in the first 30 minutes was completely gone. Good on Abrams for making the Spielberg homage he wanted. But I loathe Super 8.

Star Trek Into Darkness

After an attack on Starfleet headquarters, Captain Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise are sent into enemy territory to capture the attacker, a rogue Starfleet officer himself. (Click here for my full Star Trek Into Darkness review.)

(1 viewing)

Gone is the witty banter and focus on character that made Abrams’ first Star Trek film so enjoyable. This is a deathly serious, almost soulless exercise in necessary Hollywood sequel-making. It lumbers along for two hours, and while it hits a few interesting notes (notably the dynamics among Spock, Kirk, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s John Harrison), there’s not nearly enough here to recommend.

Star Wars: Episode VII

Following the events of Return of the Jedi…umm…something happens.

(0 viewings)

Of course, I haven’t seen Star Wars: Episode VII, nor do I know what the plot will be about. No one does. But I’d be remiss if I highlighted JJ Abrams movies without discussing what will likely be the biggest movie of his career (and maybe the biggest movie of 2015: the biggest movie year of all time). I’m not especially pleased that Abrams was chosen to direct the latest Star Wars movie, and not just because I think his movies are too slick. I just don’t love the idea of one man being in charge of the two most popular space-set franchises in movie history. What’s to differentiate Abrams’ Star Wars film(s) from his Star Trek films? Hopefully something, but I don’t think my fears are misplaced. We’ll see…

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