JJ Abrams directing Star Wars: The pros and cons

What the Lost and Star Trek helmer brings to the table.

Now that Disney have confirmed the sensational news that J.J. Abrams – he of ‘Lost’ and ‘Star Trek’ fame – will indeed direct ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’, the time has come to have a think about what his version of the venerable sci-fi franchise will actually look like.

Reaction in the film press has been overwhelmingly positive so far, and his hiring seems like a logical choice. No-one except Christopher ‘Batman’ Nolan has more ‘geek cred’ than Abrams. The only abuse Abrams generally gets is gentle ribbing for his love of lens flare. 

[Related story: Abrams to make another Star Trek film]
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However, a slightly less drooling perusal of his CV reveals reasons to be cheerful, but also for concern.

There’s a lot to like in J.J. Abrams’ back catalogue, but there are also some recurring trends that could scupper the most hyped sci-fi comeback in movie history. Here’s our take on what Abrams brings to the table…

The pros…

Viral marketing

Some might cheekily suggest that the build-up to an Abrams project is more entertaining than the film itself. Think of the chatter over what ‘Cloverfield’ meant (which he produced), with fake titles such as ‘Slusho’ and ‘Colossus’ leaked online. ‘Super 8’ had its own fake website that replicated a 16-bit computer and another site that invited users to piece together their ‘Super 8’ footage. ‘Lost’ even had its own alternate reality game that contained clues to the plot. In short, Abrams is a master at building excitement for his projects, and being super-secretive about actual details. If Disney let him pull off the same trick for ‘Star Wars’, imagine how excited you’ll be by the time the film comes out.

Hot stuff... Abrams' 'Trek' was young and sexy (Credit: Paramount)

Bringing sexy back

Abrams made ‘Star Trek’, the geekiest sci-fi franchise there is, sexy again. He recruited a hot young cast (Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana), made Spock and Uhura shack up, and paid homage to Shatner’s fondness for intergalactic romance with a scene showing Pine’s Kirk in bed with a bright green lover.  The original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy had its own sex appeal of course in the shape of Carrie Fisher (and a certain metallic garment), but the prequels were sorely lacking in this regard.

Heart and soul

Speaking of prequels, most would agree ‘Star Wars’ 1-3 existed in an emotionless vacuum - as anyone who watched Hayden Christensen try and romance Natalie Portman will testify. Abrams’ track record however for adding some heart to his sci-fi productions is first rate - from the touching stuff about Joe’s dead mother in ‘Super 8’, to Rob and Beth’s doomed affair in ‘Cloverfield’ and the romance and indeed bromance in ‘Trek’. Like his idol Spielberg, Abrams’ super productions have some soul.

…and the cons

Bad endings

J.J.’s films and shows usually get great reviews, but the same can’t be said for how they end. The ‘Super 8’ finale polarized critics - many were left cold, others felt it was derivative.  That was nothing compared to the fan fury generated by the flash-sideways-heavy conclusion to ‘Lost’ though (which he co-produced). Abrams said: “I had people praising ‘Lost’ to death, and now they say: ‘I’m so pissed at you for the end of ‘Lost’!” J.J.’s a master at setting up great concepts, but perhaps less assured at satisfactorily resolving them.

Damp squib... 'Lost' ending infuriated many fans (ABC)

Weak villains

Eric Bana’s Nero in ‘Star Trek’ was one of the film’s few weak spots - as producer Bryan Burk admitted. It’s surely why they’ve hired Benedict Cumberbatch as a beefed-up bad guy for the sequel. Some critics also found the monsters in ‘Super 8’ and ‘Cloverfield’ underwhelming - especially when they were finally revealed. Even Philip Seymour Hoffman, fresh from winning an Oscar, attracted mixed notices for his no-thrills villain in ‘Mission: Impossible III’. For a director who needs to find a successor to Darth Vader, Abrams has his work cut out.

Star Trek

Finally, it’s certainly bizarre that Abrams, if the latest reports are to be believed, will carry on making the ‘Trek’ franchise while working on ‘Star Wars’. The man must never sleep. How will shepherding sci-fi’s two big beasts affect the quality of both? Will ideas from one bleed into the other? Will they feel samey? Making ‘Star Wars’ feel different to ‘Trek’ and consistent with the Lucas originals will be a huge challenge for Abrams. We hope he pulls it off…