Filmmaking tips from J.J. Abrams – plus is he actually any good?

With the rise of J.J. Abrams, TV’s aristocracy has morphed into cinema’s with JJ Abrams to direct Star Wars Episode VII in the UK next year.

J.J. Abrams comes from a family of TV industry figures, his father a TV producer and his mother an executive producer. His sister is a screenwriter. Now with a string of successful TV shows behind him, he’s had a string of hits at the box office too.

For me J.J. Abrams skill is in producing popular escapism, which is exactly what Star Wars is.

Although his mainstream populist TV isn’t what turns me on, J.J. Abrams is another George Lucas. I wouldn’t go as far as saying he’s a filmmaker in the Spielberg mould. Capably written and crafted as Alias, Lost and Super 8 are as, there’s nothing yet in Abrams’s cannon to match Duel, Jaws or Schindler’s List.

Abrams is certainly multi-talented. A composer, writer, producer as well as director. Although J.J. Abrams won an Emmy for Lost and wrote the excellent Alias pilot episode, he also wrote Armageddon.

Lost started well but only held my attention for 3 or 4 episodes. Like Lucas he’s good at concepts, but sometimes short on substance and as a result, a bit forgettable.  I think Disney see him as a safe hand, someone who isn’t going to do anything unexpected or radical with the Star Wars franchise. That said, it is very hard to dislike the guy. Millions get their escapism in the yarns spun by Abrams.

Here’s a glimpse of his directing style –

His latest Star Trek film “Into Darkness” is out now and has met with mixed reviews, but what I’m more interested in is the deal Abrams recently made with Valve, to make films based on Half Life and Portal. Half Life in particularly had a superb narrative and atmosphere. The first game started with a train ride down into a research lab facility and it was incredibly tense. They later ruined it by adding too many monsters. I think Half Life could be incredible sci-fi if he gets someone like Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) to direct it.

When J.J. Abrams takes the reigns of the new Star Wars movie, he will be doing so in London, where the franchise is going back to its roots according to Lucasfilm (now Disney owned) – “All of the six previous live-action Star Wars movies have included UK production in such famed studios as Elstree, Shepperton, Leavesden, Ealing and Pinewood Studios. We’ve devoted serious time and attention to revisiting the origins of Star Wars as inspiration for our process on the new movie, and I’m thrilled that returning to the UK for production and utilizing the incredible talent there can be a part of that.”

Torches and anamorphic lenses at the ready sir!