Some of J.J. Abrams’ movies, like Super 8 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, are more rewatchable than others, like Star Trek Into Darkness.
J.J. Abrams’ latest ambitious TV project, Demimonde, was recently cancelled by HBO. The project had been in development for a while, but it was called off due to concerns over the skyrocketing budget. Abrams’ production company, Bad Robot, reportedly asked for around $200 million to produce the show. It’s a shame that Abrams’ TV series won’t come to fruition, but it might free him up to work on more movies.
Since making his directorial debut with Mission: Impossible III, Abrams has only directed five more features. He’s since helmed two Star Trek movies and two Star Wars movies, with one original story in the middle. Some of these movies, like Super 8 and Trek ‘09, warrant more rewatches than others, like the massively underwhelming The Rise of Skywalker.
6 Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (2019)
Abrams returned to the Star Wars universe for The Rise of Skywalker, the messy conclusion to the Skywalker saga. The Rise of Skywalker sets out to be the Endgame of Star Wars, but its bloated script introduces too many new characters and elements to feel like a finale. Rey turns out to be the granddaughter of Darth Sidious, and Kylo Ren gets a completely unearned redemption arc.
The Rise of Skywalker races through incongruous plot points like Emperor Palpatine coming back from the dead with a cult following and a Star Destroyer fleet out of nowhere, and the markings of an ancient Sith dagger lining up perfectly with the 30-year-old wreckage of the second Death Star. The underwhelming Star Wars finale lacks the thematic substance of its classic predecessors. It culminates in a big, flashy final battle in which Rey and Palpatine bombard each other with Force powers until the hero kills the villain.
5 Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
After rebooting Star Trek in 2009, Abrams returned to the director’s chair for the 2013 sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, then jumped ship before the third movie to join the Star Wars universe. The second “Kelvin Timeline” movie is nowhere near as strong as its predecessor. The dark tone is refreshing at first, but ultimately doesn’t suit the pulpy style of the universe that was lovingly crafted by Gene Roddenberry as “Wagon Train to the stars.”
The narrative hinges on a twist reveal that requires background knowledge of the Trek universe. The revelation that John Harrison is really Khan has no impact if the audience doesn’t already know who Khan is. As a result, Star Trek Into Darkness doesn’t really work on its own terms.
4 Mission: Impossible III (2006)
Not every directorial debut has a nine-figure budget, but an ambitious J.J. Abrams took on a $150 million tentpole as his first movie. The Mission: Impossible franchise didn’t become a must-see blockbuster extravaganza until Tom Cruise scaled the Burj Khalifa in Ghost Protocol, but Mission: Impossible III is still a solid entry in the series.
The M:I threequel is a vast improvement over its exhilarating yet jumbled John Woo-helmed predecessor. The script has fast-paced MacGuffin-driven storytelling to allow for plenty of action sequences, from infiltrating Vatican City to sliding down a sloping rooftop in Shanghai. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sinister arms dealer Owen Davian is by far the most memorable villain from the entire franchise.
3 Super 8 (2011)
Abrams’ only original movie to date, Super 8, is a nostalgic homage to Amblin classics like E.T. and The Goonies, but with a much darker tone. A mix of sci-fi thriller and coming-of-age drama, Super 8 was essentially Stranger Things before Stranger Things. A bunch of kids making a Super 8 zombie movie in 1979 stumble upon a government conspiracy covering up the arrival of alien visitors.
Anchored by a well-matched Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning’s perceptive performances, Super 8 is a promising sign that Abrams should focus on telling more personal, non-I.P. stories.
2 Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Abrams first put his stamp on the Star Wars saga with The Force Awakens, easily the most entertaining entry in the sequel trilogy. The Force Awakens doesn’t have the cynical subversions of The Last Jedi or the bizarre fanfic storytelling of The Rise of Skywalker. In his first Star Wars outing, Abrams focused on evoking the familiar feel of a galaxy far, far away.
The Force Awakens’ derivative script rehashes the original movie’s Death Star storyline, but it’s still a lot of fun. From the dizzying Millennium Falcon chase on Jakku to the climactic lightsaber duel, The Force Awakens has more than enough dazzling set-pieces to make the movie worth revisiting a bunch of times.
1 Star Trek (2009)
2009’s Star Trek is one of the greatest reboots ever made. Abrams and co. reinvigorated the franchise with heart, humor, and spectacle. The movie doesn’t erase the classic TV show; it establishes a multiverse containing both versions of the story in parallel timelines, tied together by Leonard Nimoy’s hugely satisfying cameo as the original Spock.
In his reimagining of the iconic iconography, Abrams injected the Trek universe with a much-needed dose of action. The reboot is still full of the traditional thought-provoking speculative storytelling, but it also has plenty of eye-popping space battles.
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