Very few directors have had the kind of career that J.J. Abrams has had. Rocketed onto the main stage from the hit television series Felicity, Alias, and Lost, his career exploded and he was thrust into massive franchise films almost instantly. It’s baffling that he has had the trajectory that he’s been gifted, and it’s made for some fascinating stuff. This is genuinely one of the hardest rankings I’ve ever done because of how much I enjoyed each of these.
Star Trek Into Darkness : Look, this is everyone’s least-favorite Abrams film. I enjoy it, but it’s not good. The whole thing is a slapdash mess that’s built around a character reveal, a moment that was unnecessary because we all knew it was coming. Nonetheless, I like a lot of what’s being done here. The film falls into the aesthetics that are regularly mocked in J.J. Abrams’s films like the lens flares, but it still looks pretty damn good. The cast remains excellent, and I actually love the addition of Peter Weller as a villainous member of Starfleet. Cumberbatch is, of course, a bit problematic and the accusations of whitewashing the character of Khan are valid but he’s doing the best he can with the written material. I don’t hate any Abrams films, but this is definitely bottom of the dog-pile.
Star Trek : Yeah, I also have this one towards the bottom. What can I say, he’s a good director and these were difficult to rank! The way he played with reality and the timelines was a blast, and I enjoy him quite a bit with this offering. There’s a weird sensibility at play in how he cast everyone, but he nailed it with each and every one. Also, look…it’s time we dropped the lens flare jokes. The stylistic choice is a bit weird, but it isn’t like it derails movie or anything. I don’t mind it. Outside of that, though, we get some cool creatures and enough fanservice to make this a stellar relaunch of the Star Trek franchise. It’s a shame that the sequels didn’t land as well because there’s so much potential in this cast. I believe this is also the last time that Eric Bana did anything we cared about, which is a sad thing because he does an excellent simmering villain here. I adored this when it dropped and I still think it ranks high as one of the better films in the franchise.
Mission Impossible III : Seriously, who gets a film this major for their first theatrical effort? I won’t say this is my favorite in the series, but it’s definitely got the best villain. Most of the rest don’t care so much about the plot or characters, instead serving as vehicles for awesome setpieces and incredible stunts. How badly do we miss Phillip Seymour Hoffman? The menace he pours into this role is horrifying, and he plays it so straight. He’s not defeated in some wild action sequence or anything, it’s a fistfight done to save Michelle Monaghan. Then she saves Tom Cruise, how cool is that!? This is also some of the biggest stunt work that existed at the time, and that swinging scene is incredible when you realize the work Tom Cruise did for it. Abrams put so much passion and life into this one and it brought back what might have been a dead film series. It’s an impressive thing to do on your first outing.
Super 8 : Yeah, we all love Steven Spielberg. A lot of people were unhappy with this when it was first released because it felt too much like an homage, but I was suckered in quickly. Spielberg produced it, and you can tell he had a big hand in how it was put together. Nonetheless, this is Abrams standing up to say “this is a style of story that I love,” and it really does feel like a loving tip of the hat to a form of storytelling that wouldn’t land as well in 2011. This is also one of the early films of Elle Fanning, and we’ve all benefited from that! There’s a sweetness to this that I just enjoy, even when it’s trying to be frightening. I’m surprised this isn’t higher up on a lot of people’s Abrams lists because I think it’s a charming little movie that sticks with me to this day.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens : You all knew this was my favorite Abrams movie. Seriously, would it have been anything else? I was against the return of Star Wars after 20 years of reading Expanded Universe novels, and I rolled my eyes at this. But then the trailer dropped and I started getting interested with how much this seemed to be made by a fan. By the time it was released I was ready to love it and I’m not going to lie, I wept through most of it from the opening crawl. Even the death of Han Solo, my favorite character in film, was executed so beautifully that I just couldn’t contain myself. Abrams took a franchise that means the world to me and added something that wasn’t very original but still managed to feel like part of that universe. It’s stunning that it was pulled off, and rightly deserves its place as one of the highest-grossing movies of all time. I adore it and I still can’t believe how well it was pulled off, I’m absolutely thrilled that he’s coming back to cap this new trilogy with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
That’s my Abrams list! Despite it being short, I really sweated over this one because of where I placed a couple of films. What about you? You like Abrams, lens flares and all?