5. Super 8 (2011)
By the time Super 8 was released in 2011, Abrams had already been hugely successful with his reboot of Star Trek (2009) and had become rather pally with perhaps the best sci-fi family film director of all time, Steven Spielberg. So, when he paid tribute to the old-school 8mm filmmaking of an era long since passed, people were excited.
Super 8 ultimately became yet further proof of the man’s qualities as a director, as he excelled in his tribute to the family films of mentor figure Spielberg, gifting his movie a fun and heartfelt quality unlike many of the filmmakers of his day.
The movie seemed to pull its story in two opposing directions however, perhaps evidence of a man with too many ideas for his overall skill at that point in his career, and as such Super 8 suffered from mixed reviews that have succumbed it to the foot of this list. It’s by no means a bad movie, but it’s just not in the same league as much of the rest of his directorial work.
4. Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Arguably even more divisive than the Star Wars sequel trilogy’s hotly debated middle entry The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker was very much the Disney-Lucasfilm brand in full damage-protection mode, with Abrams tasked to replace outgoing screenwriter-director Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) at the proverbial last minute. This made for a number of creative issues…
In The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson had made a number of decisions in his screenplay that wiped out elements of the trilogy’s narrative that Abrams had set in place in Episode VII, so when it came to The Rise of Skywalker Abrams looked to course correct, Disney holding his hand in an attempt to win back the angry swathes of fans who hadn’t taken too well to Episode VIII. The result was a film that felt like it was purposefully being as safe and as corporately Star Wars as possible, and while this offered a number of distinctly satisfying moments, and some franchise-topping elements, the finished product felt disjointed.
The Rise of Skywalker was more parts fan service and attempting to appease potential unrest among the fan base than it was creative highs and moments of inspiration or true catharsis; a spectacular movie in parts, but only in parts.
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3. Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)
Into Darkness isn’t without its issues, but what it did perhaps better than anything else was build on everything that was restarted in the 2009 Star Trek movie and make everything that bit bigger and louder.
What Into Darkness exceled at was is integrating the character driven sci-fi formula which featured in its predecessor, the 2013 release managing to add a credible multi-layered antagonist as a cherry on the top of its already bigger and better explosions and computer generated imagery.
It was quite the way to pay tribute to the original content while updating it for fresh audiences, and became an excellent number three movie to have in Abrams’ repertoire.