Saturday, December 20, 2008
Spotlight: J.J. Abrams
J.J. Abrams has been on a remarkable rise to stardom since his start in 1991. The dude has become one of Hollywood's top writer/producer/composer/directors*, and he has already left his mark in both television and film. Starting out composing music for low budget horror flick Nightbeast, Abrams soon wrote his first film treatment with his college roommate and sold it to Touchstone Pictures for a svelte $2 million dollars. Since then, he has become one of the most influential members of the entertainment industry. Let's take a look at some of the content that Abrams has brought to us in some capacity or another.
Armageddon (1998) - Co-Writer
Yes, people hate on this because it's a Michael Bay movie. But whenever the topic of "crying in movies" comes up, I'll be the first to admit that I cried when I saw Armageddon. Yeah, that's right. I'm telling you straight up, that scene at the end where Bruce Willis is talking to Liv Tyler, his daughter, through the monitors got me, and it got me good. I can't confirm that J.J. wrote this scene since he was a co-writer of this movie, but hey - he was involved, and it was solid.
Joy Ride (1999) - Writer/Producer
This movie gave my friends and I multiple hours of entertainment in our early high school years through the magic of creating a "Rusty Nail" counterpart in the instant messaging realm. If you were a friend of ours back then, chances are you were suddenly challenged to a battle of wits with characters like "OxidatedScrew" and "SuperSaturatedWalkingStick." The film follows Paul Walker and Steve Zahn as they mess with the wrong trucker (known as Rusty Nail) and promise him a night with a fake girl they made up, named Candy Cane. Too bad Rusty doesn't take a joke very well. Nice concept, and well written by Abrams.
"Alias" (2001-2006) - Creator/Writer/Executive Producer
One of the best shows on TV at the time, Alias was a spy drama that was a step above the rest because of its characters and their relationships, notably Sydney Bristow and her handler Michael Vaughn with supporting roles by Victor Garber and Lena Olin. The show's quality was highlighted through tense storylines, action-packed scenes in every episode, and the mystery of the unknown - a recurring theme in Abrams' work.
"Lost" (2004-Present) - Creator/Writer/Executive Producer
I've never seen anything like Lost before, and I don't expect to ever see anything like it again. It has transcended "TV show" status and become something else entirely. It's the best written thing I think I've ever experienced, and the connections and seeds planted in early episodes only to be revealed seasons later are mind-blowing. The best parts about it are the characters, and with so many of them on the island you would think this would cause some confusion or dissatisfaction with the amount of "playing time" devoted to each one. But this is not the case at all, thanks to the utter dedication to character development by the writers; all of this is helped by the fantastic cast that deserves every accolade they've received for their work. Suspense and the unknown play heavily into the show, leaving Abrams' signature for all to see.
Mission: Impossible III (2006) - Co-Writer/Director
Scoring a cool $150 million for a budget makes MI:3 the most expensive movie ever made by a first time director. While it wasn't quite as good as MI:2 (I'm biased in favor of John Woo), this sequel still has tremendous rewatchability and features some great set pieces and memorable scenes. It sure doesn't feel like it's coming from a first-time director, and that's due to Abrams having a lot of practice with his television shows (which all feel very cinematic). Trivia - he also directed an episode of "The Office" in 2007.
"Fringe" (2008-Present) - Creator/Writer/Executive Producer
While not reaching the brilliance of Lost, Fringe is a decent show with a few great characters and one big mystery (what is The Pattern?). This show suffers mostly from a boring lead actress, but conspiracy theories and unexplained phenomena abound to keep things interesting. Performances by Joshua Jackson and John Noble are the high points, and the show succeeds because it makes the audience feel as if we are only one slight step behind, making us just interested enough to keep us coming back the next week. It's not the best thing on TV, but it's quality entertainment on a Tuesday night.
Cloverfield (2008) - Producer
Matt Reeves (an old friend of Abrams) directed this Americanized version of a monster movie, but the Abrams touch is evident in the characterizations and overall feel of the project. My thoughts on the movie can be read in full here, but suffice it to say that J.J. had a lot to do with this being as great a film as it turned out to be.
Star Trek (2009) - Director/Producer
While we don't yet know how good this project is going to be, it's clear that Abrams has ignited the internet and breathed life back into a franchise that was on its cinematic death bed. Could he be the next Christopher Nolan and reshape Star Trek into something that's socially acceptable again? Or will this turn into a disappointment for fans and newcomers alike? We shall see, but I'm siding with Abrams on this one. The guy has rarely let me down before, and I'm willing to see what he has in store for the most famous crew of the Enterprise.
There are some other things that J.J. has been a part of, but these are the only ones that I really care about. He seems like a guy who doesn't get enough respect, so I thought I'd show him a little love here on the site and hopefully give you some insight to some projects that you might not have known he was involved with. Until next time...
*The only other people I can think of that do all of these things are Robert Rodriguez and Clint Eastwood.
Posted by Ben Pearson at 8:48 PM