To mark this week’s installment of DFI’s Gulf Film Development’s Tahaddi: 7-Day Filmmaking Challenge programme, we asked one of the graduates of the last Tahaddi to tell us about her most inspiring film personality. Here’s what A.J. Al-Thani had to say.
The Sci-Fi Saviour
by A.J. Al-Thani
If there is someone who can save a blockbuster movie franchise, it’s J.J. Abrams. What Steven Spielberg was to J.J. Abrams is what J.J. Abrams is to me. It wouldn’t be fair to call him the Steven Speilberg of his generation; he’s more a surgeon for degenerating movie franchises in need of massive reconstruction surgery. After getting a phone call request from Tom Cruise to direct the next film in the ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise, Abrams went on to reboot one of the biggest sci-fi film franchises degenerating at warp speed (‘Star Trek’); now he’s taking on one of the biggest franchises in the history of cinema with ‘Star Wars’.
Before 2006, Abrams had never directed a feature film. His only work had been in television, where he created, wrote and produced some of the best-known shows in the world, including ‘Alias’ and ‘Lost’ – for which he directed the pilot, which many people hail as the best TV pilot of all time. Hollywood was impressed. After gaining a reputation for executing huge stunts on small TV budgets and making them look like big Hollywood blockbusters, he got that call from one of the biggest actors in Hollywood.
‘Mission Impossible 3’ was Abrams’s first feature film. Coming from TV to jump onto a bigger boat and direct an installment of one of the biggest film franchises in the world, Abrams made sure to not forget his storytelling philosophy. Cruise was so impressed with Abrams that he stalled ‘MI3’ for a year to give Abrams time to rewrite the screenplay and make it his own. ‘Mission Impossible’ and its sequel were packed with huge stunts, but Abrams decided to bring the narrative focus back to Ethan Hunt, the main protagonist played by Cruise, to let the audience reconnect with the character before adding all the huge stunts back into the story.
After the massive success of ‘MI3’, Abrams had the opportunity to reboot ‘Star Trek’, one of the most famous sci-fi film and TV franchises of all time. He added a new, younger cast to the film, brought along his trademark lens flares and focused the story on the origins of the characters aboard the USS Enterprise. All of this took ‘Star Trek’ to new heights, making it a must-see blockbuster of the year for everyone, not just fans of sci-fi films.
This year, Abrams released ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’, the second installment of his reboot. His ‘Star Trek’ legacy will stay on for many years to come, since he will continue on the franchise as a producer. Now, after months of talk, Abrams has become George Lucas’s chosen one to continue his space opera franchise ‘Star Wars’. If anyone can carry on the legacy of ‘Star Wars’ it is most certainly J.J. Abrams.
A.J. Al-Thani is a 20 year old filmmaker from Qatar. Her dream is to revolutionize Arab cinema and make movies from the region for the world.