You probably kept watching, but if not then watch this next segment. He talks about stories as mystery boxes to draw you in. And explains it in terms of Star Wars. In 2007. This is also an idea which stuck with him for decades and now he’s actually doing it. It’s huge!
We’ve all seen the teaser by now – and I’m embedding it below just in case you want to see it again. I grew up waiting for each Star Wars episode to come out and still think that Empire Strikes Back is probably the greatest middle movie in a trilogy ever. Then came the prequel trilogy which was also extremely anticipated. But it fell short. Way short. Particularly Phantom Menace. One of the big reasons Star Wars took off initially were the ground-breaking effects but the other more important reason is because – IT. WAS. FUN! Phantom Menace’s menace was being made for Happy Meals, not out of enthusiasm or geek-out factor. ILM is still well-known for turning out effects but that wasn’t the issue with the movie.
So why am I geeked out over Episode XII?
JJ Abrams. In JJ I trust.
The guy who was key to Alias, Mission Impossible III and Ghost Protocol, Lost, Fringe (one of my favorite series of all time), Star Trek, Super 8, and more. Much of his work has involved creating engaging characters and worlds, galaxies, and alternate dimensions for them to live in.
In order to show him a bit of respect, I’m going to time travel with him back seven years to a TED Talk he did. I know 18 minutes is a long time to commit to a quick blog so I’ll break it up. Here’s the full deal in High Def from TED. The opening is pretty funny. Then I’m going to embed and note some key moments from YouTube which lets me do that.
This segment shows JJ talking about his fascination with creation as a kid. There’s a Super 8 camera he got from his grandfather involved which, of course, points to the movie Super 8 he did with Stephen Spielberg in 2011. It stuck with him for decades. Watch through the mystery box section and Lost trailer at around 8 minutes. This shows his obsession to fill empty space – such as a movie screen – with something fascinating and engaging.
Here’s the character-driven part of it. What do stories seem to be about and what are they really about? Is Super 8 about an alien or about a young boy and his relationships? Is Star Trek a movie about space adventure or is it a movie about Kirk and Spock? Is Episode XII going to be about space battles, explosions, and Happy Meals or is it going to be a great stories about characters we’ll love (with space battles and explosions)? You’re good through about 12:44 here.
So that’s right. Where Phantom Menace fell down, I’m counting on JJ Abrams to stand up.
He’s been dreaming about it for years. Enjoy the popcorn and know that with enough passion, desire, and imagination that there are dreams which can come true.
Watch the rest of the TED Talk. If you’ve made it this far, I’ve tricked you into watching most of it anyway.