Film-making is a language difficult to master. Most directors are comfortable in the vocabulary he or she maintains, and rarely stretch themselves. To extend the metaphor: I can manage in Spanish at El Burrito Mercado down the road from my house, but take me to Spain and I’m lost.
This is how I feel about J.J. Abrams. Abrams has developed a certain range of skills as a film director, and mastered them all. But he’s rarely interested in stretching his talents beyond those few skills. I described Abrams skill-set previously as “beautiful on blu-ray, but not much beyond the sound and furious explosions.”
As a director, he’s limited. He makes
great better than average action/sci-fi pictures with a distinctly Abrams visual aesthetic and characterization (explosions, hero-worship, etc). Nothing captures the limits of Abrams the director better than his most famous crutch: the lens flare.
Abrams’ lens flares are widely known, and more even widely ridiculed. And yet, Abrams has proven himself to be unwilling to abandon the camera-revealing fourth-wall breaking visual effect. They were a distraction and complaint for audiences long before Star Trek: Into Darkness, though with STID the flaring reached its apex.
Until now? Now, it seems, J.J. Abrams is willing to admit he has a problem (we’ve mixed our metaphors here, deal with it). And admitting the problem is the first step on a path to a clean, healthy film production. The second is making amends.
So for all those lens flares J.J. Abrams sincerely apologizes.
Abrams told Crave Online:
I know I get a lot of grief for that. But I’ll tell you, there are times when I’m working on a shot, I think, ‘Oh this would be really cool… with a lens flare.’ But I know it’s too much, and I apologize. I’m so aware of it now. I was showing my wife an early cut of Star Trek Into Darkness and there was this one scene where she was literally like, ‘I just can’t see what’s going on. I don’t understand what that is.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I went too nuts on this.’”
The director even goes on to admit that he asked Industrial Light and Magic to remove lens flares in post-production, so abundantly was the effect used during filming: “I actually had to use ILM to remove lens flare in a couple of shots, which is, I know, moronic. But I think admitting you’re an addict is the first step towards recovery.”
We’re here for you, J.J.
Abrams will be directing Star Wars in 2015, and among the major concerns at The Stake in the wake of that news was his limited visual range and directorial skill-set. Perhaps there’s reason to hope that Abrams is growing as a film-maker, capable of making distinct visual worlds filled with unique characters and disparate stories.
But even if he isn’t, hopefully we won’t have to suffer so many damn lens flares.