It seems like it’s been forever since JJ Abrams was announced as the director of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, not least because of the huge amount of anticipation surrounding the impending release. His announcement as the leading vision of the new project was accompanied by a rarity for the modern reboot: Audience positivity. What Abrams had done in his relatively short time in the director’s chair was gain the trust of sci-fi fans with his careful handling of a number of related genres and franchises. In this piece I shall rank each of the four pictures directed by Abrams from worst to best – think of it as a wetting of your appetite for what’s to come in December. As always, I’ll be open for feedback over the next week or so, so leave a comment below this piece, comment on our related Facebook post, or tweet the official The Film Magazine Twitter account and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Let’s start a discussion! Just remember, no cheap shots.
Without any further ado, the list becometh…
4. Mission: Impossible III
Taking over a franchise like Mission Impossible in the height of Tom Cruise’s powers would’ve overcome most debut directors, but what Abrams managed to produce was a very solid outing for the franchise that became all the proof studios needed for the director to move on to what has come since. This picture was illustrative of how well Abrams casts and presents the villains of his movies, with Philip Seymour Hoffman offering one of the better performances of any villain in the Mission Impossible franchise. Though Mission: Impossible III may be Abrams’ worst picture, there is no doubting that it’s still a very good film to include on any action/sci-fi director’s list and comes in at number four almost by default for not being the other three.
3. Super 8
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 man of all time, Steven Spielberg. So, when Super 8, a film paying tribute to the old-school 8mm film-making of an era long gone, was announced as a family sci-fi/horror/mystery movie, people were excited. Whether Abrams let them down is still up for debate. What Super 8 became was yet further proof of the man’s qualities as a director, as he excelled in his display of a tribute to the family films of mentor figure Spielberg. It was heartfelt and it was fun. Unfortunately it was also, much like Mission: Impossible III, met with mixed reviews courtesy of its on again and off again script that seemed to tear the director in two opposing directions regarding the film’s imagery. It’s by no means a bad movie, it’s even a little better than MI3, but it’s just not even in the same league as his top two.
2. Star Trek: Into Darkness
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, louder, and just as enticing. What Into Darkness does so well is integrate the character driven sci-fi formula which featured in its predecessor and adds a credible multi-layered antagonist as a cherry on the top of its already bigger and better explosions and graphics. What a way to pay tribute to the original content while updating it for fresh audiences. An excellent number two to have in your repertoire – Star Trek: Into Darkness.
1. Star Trek
Undoubtedly the cherry on the top of JJ Abrams’ well put together directorial cake is Star Trek (2009). The director’s re-imagining of the cult classic turned pop culture phenomenon was everything that Trekkies were looking for while remaining an instantly accessible product for new audiences of the universe. Everything seemed effortlessly put together while presenting itself as both complex and intimate, making the movie a 21st century blockbuster classic of the highest order. With an excellent cast of largely lesser known actors, and a great use of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock to boot, Star Trek is well and truly the best picture of Abrams’ career and the deserved number one in this list.