There was a time in 2008 when writer/director/cinematic wunderkind JJ Abrams’ name was mystical, mumbo-jumbo mud. This was towards the end of his crashed-plane series Lost and just after the release of monster mystery Cloverfield, produced by Abrams – which, after a period of blinding trailers, had at best a lukewarm reception. Now the guy’s way back in the good books, getting his Cloverfield sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane mad buzz. How did it happen? His involvement in these five films, is how.
1. Director, Star Trek – 2009
For 2009’s Star Trek, Abrams worked with screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (who had collaborated with him on his supernatural series Fringe) to create this superlative reboot starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Following 1999-2005’s slightly naff Star Wars prequel films, 2009’s Star Trek was definitively the cooler of the franchises at this point, largely thanks to Abrams’ involvement.
2. Writer/director/producer, Super 8 – 2011
One of the most recent directing roles Abrams has taken on was of his own script. Super 8 was about a group of five kids making a zombie horror film on the titular camera in 1979. When a train derails by their shoot, a sweetly retro series of sci-fi homages happen, in a kids’ film, where – as Abrams himself said – they are “on the precipice of something — the end of a time. I wanted to catch kids at the very edge of full-blown, raging puberty, in their last moments of innocence.”
3. Producer, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – 2011
After writing and directing 2006’s middling Mission: Impossible III, Abrams’ producing hand was brought back to help create the series’ best entry to date. That was partially thanks to longtime writer/producer duo André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum handling the scriptwriting duties, but Abrams’ steady hand was clear – he came back again for 2015’s superior Rogue Nation too.
4. Writer/director, Star Trek Into Darkness – 2013
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If 2009’s Star Trek was a mission statement, Into Darkness made good on Abrams’ new standards, introducing a captivating Benedict Cumberbatch as baddie Khan. Abrams is back as producer for 2016’s followup, Star Trek Beyond.
5. Writer/director, Star Wars: The Force Awakens – 2015
Nothing’s helped quite so much as this to establish Abrams as a formidable movies man. Writing and directing the seventh episode in the Star Wars saga, he’s brought back everything that was good about the series – scrappy, world-worn characters and satisfyingly unplumbed mystery. He’s now executive-producing both Star Wars and Star Trek films – the only danger now is homogeneity, but with Abrams that’s hard to envisage.