Life With J.J.

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I want to preface this by saying I think J.J. Abrams has done more for elevating geek pop culture in the last decade than anyone in Hollywood, save for Joss Whedon. Thaaaaaat saaaaaaid… he has a bit of a tendency to shroud his projects in so much mystery that over enthusiastic geeks (his core audience) begin to obsess over every nuance and minute detail of whatever information he presents them with (in the forms of teasers, trailers, quotes, etc.). To make things MUCH worse, he KNOWS we do this so he pokes the bear at every turn. That shot of Spock “dying” in the Intro Darkness Japanese trailer was JUST TO FUCK WITH US. And who knows? He might be doing a “double secret fuck you” and having Spock actually die in the movie.

The shroud of mystery surrounding Cumberbatch’s villain character is even more ridiculous. They LOVE that we think he’s Kahn despite their insistance that he isn’t. Then they love that we think he’s Gary Mitchell. Then they release his character name and no one’s ever heard of it. But that could be a red herring too! They know we’re going to be frustratedly guessing until the film debuts, which CAN be part of the fun, but to this degree (as with nearly ALL Bad Robot productions past) the level of mystery and guessing and red herrings and clues and misdirections raise our expectations to such an unprecedented level that NOTHING they present us with as a final product can live up to those expectations. That said, Star Trek (2009) is a not only a perfect Star Trek movie, it is a perfect movie. And with that knowledge stowed away in my brain spaces, I am allowing myself (this time) to have essentially no expectations about Star Trek: Into Darkness other than an anticipation of big big fun.

COMMENTERS: Do you think the secrecy surrounding certain geek movies is getting out of hand? Are we more prone to fanboy disappointment when the layers upon layers of mystery don’t unravel in a way that meets our expectations? When did geek movie/tv pay off or frustrate you the most?

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72 Comments

  1. It has definitely gotten out of hand. The only ones who're actually interested are those of us who will know within instants of the reveal the major plot points that you were afraid to release. Frankly with movies like Star Trek I can't understand the need to keep it secret, it's actively making it harder to convince new people to go see it. When my sister asks me what the new Star Trek is about instead of being able to know the name of the baddy and make assumptions I have to say things like "uh, the guys from the first movie do stuff, and the guy from sherlock is involved, and uh… the ship crashes I guess? I have no idea."

  2. I think it was all too much for me when the clues and lead-ins to "Cloverfield" were far more clever than the movie itself.

    • I recently rewatched Cloverfield for the firs time since it came out and I enjoyed it much more after it had aged a bit. The "found footage" aspect of it still drives me nuts at least 50% of the time, but it's an incredibly clever and original take on the "monster destroys" city genre. I love the idea of taking such a huge event and showing it from the smallest, most personal angle possible. I wish they had gone through with the concurrent sequel that would have been another set of survivors perspective on the same events.

    • I also was very frustrated with Cloverfield. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn't played the ARG.

      • The thing that kills me is nearly all of the questions from the first 2 seasons of LOST are answered in the Verizon mobile ARG videos. Yet, almost no one saw them. That and they had terrible production values and didnt fit well with the show. Still, the numbers, DHARMA, what the island was for, why people were interested in it… EVERYTHING was just spelled out in those videos. But since NONE of the characters in the show ever got that info I dont really consider it canon.

  3. I don't think it's Spock "dying" in that shot, I think it's Kirk. Kirk is the one on the wrong side of the glass, and he puts his hand up first. It's just that we see it from Kirk's side to make us think of Wrath of Khan.

  4. I'm not a huge stickler about spoilers, but I gave up watching trailers because they so often spoil important plot points these days (or it it probably just seems that way to me, but whatever). I'm not into secrecy or mystery beforehand either. I'll watch the movie when it comes out. Yeah, I'll probably talk about it afterward and stuff, but until it comes out, I really don't care to discuss a movie because it's just so pointless – baseless speculation annoys me. I think Abrams himself, with the help of Lindelof, contributed to the rise of mystery and secrecy surrounding nerdy movies or shows with LOST. (I say that as someone who has never seen LOST; maybe it's just me, again, but that's how it seems to me.)

  5. I think JJ Abrams has been responsible for some great TV/Film and also some of the biggest disappointments thereof. I got sick of Lost after avidly watching the first season – I'm very glad I didn't go back. However, I still enjoy the trashy goodness of Alias.

    One of my favourite projects of his was Super 8 – I felt that Spielberg managed to reign in a bit of the JJ crazy, whilst JJ gave Spielberg a bit more "edge".

    • Watched a couple episodes of Lost.
      Way over hyped. Way too many people trying to convince themselves it's clever, in an Emperor's New Clothes kind of way. Far too much phoney "drama" from people – you're in a survival position, anyone with that much issues and princess factor is going to fall off a cliff or get kidnapped by gorillas while using the loo in the middle of the night. Such BS might work in a city environment, with cops, cameras and everyone looking over each others shoulders 24/7 – but when population numbers get down, and there is no State approved violence to let the drama harpies do their passive aggressive stuff, things like that just don't work.
      Same with over-teased movies. You've either made a story I want to watch, briefly – or you haven't. Eventually the geekery habit getting into the minutae and living it obsessively, as if such things were actually important is going to get old. People are going to realise they could have had real lives, done interesting or productive lives, not wasting their time on whether they've got the blue power ranger suit perfectly spec'ed. It's cool when a handful of people do it well, when 1000 do it, it's just sad.

      • I think this is the weirdest rant I've read in a hijinksensue comment section.

        I'm not sure if you're suggesting people can't be fans of franchises, shows and entertainment properties if they want to have "real, interesting or productive lives" or whether it's only the other 999 who perfectly spec'ed the same blue power ranger suit as you that you have a problem with.

        On a positive note, your comments about "Lost" were understandable, on topic and interesting enough.

        Was there an over-teased Power Ranger movie at some point that just never made it to Australia?

        • I got a friend that can't just go to a movie.
          She's got to have at least one cosplay outfit, and to see a movie you all have to dress up first. Which means tracking down all the "clues", getting onto a bunch of fansites/youtubes/secretboards/buying all the stories of/or compendenums of. And that's before the movie.
          And you didn't "appreciate" the movie unless you could point out at least one relationship or gossip point about the characters/actors that wasn't even in the movie.

          I chose the Power Ranger, because it's a kids show. It's fun, colourful and stereotyped. And pretty much completely consumable and disposable – but if you don't know each characters heights, which country of origin each Ranger was from (and where the actors came from)….then you just didn't "see the show". According to my friend, "you'd missed all the best/cool bits". And we learnt never to ask, because it was better to let her think she was clever than crush her with disappointment with a "oh its that all" or other lack of amazement. …. crushing disappointment, for example, over a throw away kids show…….. (even though it was a kind cool fun _kids_ show)

  6. I've recently had an argument about this for old movies (The Third Man was the one in question) so it isn't a perfect parallel, but I figure you can either tell someone "watch this" in which case it goes on their mental pile of everything else friends have told them to watch/read, or you can sell them on it. For old movies that usually involves breaching the realm of spoilers to sell them on one scene, paint a good enough picture that they want to see it in context, and the rest of the movie while they're at it. Trailers take this approach as well. JJ Abrams tries to sell the mystery. He wants to excite people, but doesn't want to spoil anything, so he's the friend who says "OMG that movie is sooooooo good you've gotta watch it. I won't tell you anything about it but watch it watch it watch it!"

    In the end things leak, and since people were sold on the mystery rather than the movie they either go "meh, mystery solved" and move on or they want to see it in context and you've achieved the same thing normal trailers/PR does.

    • Incidentally, that whole "gotta see this but won't say anything" thing has made me detest the idea of Cabin in the Woods. My friends are all "Oh, you haven't seen it? You should see it. Hey, Bryce hasn't seen Cabin in the Woods." "Oh really? You should see it. You're gonna love it, especially the part where–" "Shh!" "Oh, right. Mum's the word, eh? Hee hee. But seriously, ohhh man that was a scene." Makes me avoid the movie out of damn spite.

      • "Makes me avoid the movie out of damn spite."

        What good does that do you? It was a really fun movie. Not amazing, but definitely worth the time and enjoyable from start to finish. The "big reveal" isnt really that big. If you dont have it figured out during the opening credits then you dont indulge in much geeky genre fiction. Still, you're not really teaching anyone a lesson. Just depriving yourself.

        • Not spite at the movie, spite at my friends. I have terrible friends, the kind who don't just shun spoiling anything when they recommend a movie to someone, but will bully other people into not spoiling anything if they happen to overhear it. Movie snobs who would force a guy out of hanging out if the alternative was his first experience with Casablanca starting in the middle.

          The kind of folks who if you say "oh is that the one where the teens head up to a cabin with some friendly hick neighbors, and all the slasher tropes come about as a comedic result of misunderstandings" will be so caught up in saying *anything* about the movie that they won't even say "no." The list of movies I "need to" see but haven't is a mile high, and if the only thing selling me on one that's allegedly good but in a genre I don't handle well is the mystery of not knowing anything about it, it ain't getting bumped up the list.

            • Because I do not enjoy most horror movies, and they won't tell me if it's one of the kinds I can handle. Torture porn, gore porn, jump scares, it all makes me feel ill. I like suspense and psychological bits like Alien, The Cell or Silence of the Lambs, but those tend to fall under a "thriller" definition rather than "horror", which trends more toward "the monster's noisily eating this woman, but it's happening just off-camera" when it shows any restraint at all.

    • No he's not the "Friend". He's the two bit hussler standing on the street of every major tourist trap in the world, saying "come see, come see, cheap cheap, big palace, meet the Pope for tea, look shiny brochure, our "tour" is best"

  7. '09 Star Trek was a perfect Star Trek movie? That script was terrible! It did succeed in setting all the characters in motion and bringing them together in a really fun way (and the casting was perfect) so it was a fun watch and I enjoyed it greatly, but the plot was about as generic as it could possibly be. My fear is that Into Darkness is going to be another mindless action space opera movie which isn't Star Trek. Whatever happened to boldly going where no man has gone before? Leave the space laser shoot 'em ups to Star Wars.

      • I'll admit that I need to go back and watch the last Star Trek movie again in a more agreeable setting. The theater was crowded when I saw it and this guy and his seemingly mentally handicapped son were sitting behind me and talking throughout the whole thing, even after my dirty looks and outright requests for silence were ignored.

        With that said, the plot was horrible, like last Superman movie horrible.

        • The whole premise didn't make any shred of sense. So there's old Spock building some special ship to go save the Romulan homeworld and he's just a little too late. How these people couldn't save themselves, seeing as how they have their own spaceships is never explained. Really, they're all just going to hang out by a dying sun to be saved by someone else instead of getting out of the system? How losing one world when they've probably got countless others colonized is a huge deal that requires time-travelling vengeance on the guy who tried but failed to save them is also never explained. How in a military organization, some kid straight out of the academy is made Captain because of a couple of deaths is not very believable. Compared to the other giant plot holes, it's a minor concern though.

          • How did Kirk know that the electrical anomaly was THE SAME ONE as the one that killed his father? Where would he have even gotten the idea? His mom wouldn't have known because she was giving birth and being evacuated during the event. That always seemed liked one of the dumbest plot points. and kind of a lot hinges on Kirk knowing that bit of info. How could no one else figure it out? Starfleet doesn't keep records about that kind of stuff, especially when a captain dies and a ship is lost? This is just one example of many of things that annoy me about new Trek.

            I agree with the above commenter who said that the cast was fantastic. I totally agree that the characters were perfectly cast; I just think the script/plot wasn't good. I mean, what about it was a Star Trek story other than that it was called Star Trek? Replace the names of all the characters and places with newly made up ones, and it wouldn't affect the understandability or watchability of the movie.

            • The line in the film was "a lightening storm in space" i believe which is exactly how his father's predicament had been described to him. It was such an odd phrasing that it stuck. Combine that with Romulans being involved and he's got enough to make a good assumption.

              • Did no one follow up on the whole giant Romulan death ship thing? Consider this scenario: sensor data from the destruction of Kirk's father's ship was stored on the escape pods. Further data was gatherer during the subsequent investigation. When Vulcan comes under attack the Vulcans send similar data. This data brings up Kirk's file, and Pike (having a personal interest in Kirk) brings him along–they all know the situation is dangerous, and events play out much as they do in the film.

                Why did Nero kidnap Pike? He said he wanted the border protection codes, but he was going to destroy the Enterprise with Pike on board until he realised it was Spock's old ship (somehow). What was Nero doing for 20 odd years? Why did he and his crew do nothing of note for so long, including not warning Romulus about the disaster and providing technology from the future? Why was Kirk abandoned on an ice planet (with a good view of Vulcan) instead of being put in the brig? Is there magic in Star Trek now? Because that's the only explanation that Kirk landed within a short distance of Spock's cave which was also within a short distance of Scotty's base who also happens to be the guy who can use the transportation technique they need to use to get back on the Enterprise. It's a good thing Nero didn't detect Scotty's base or he would have probably nuked it so Spock could not escape.

          • It's got some minimal explanation in the movie, but it also has more explanation in Trek lore and in a separate graphic novel written by Lindelhoff, et al.

            The Romulans didn't believe Spock, or that a supernova could travel FTL in subspace (bend your disbelief, I do, yes.)

            The Vulcans refused to help the Romulans with the magic red spooge (Do remember that just because they're logical, doesn't mean they aren't resentful and prejudiced…they just do it logically)

            The shockwave from the supernova destroyed both Romulus and Remus, the core homeworlds of the RSE…if Washington D.C. got wiped out, how well do you think the U.S. would handle it?

            Nero & his mining crew were "insane" after Romulus got wiped out (his wife was preggers on the homeworld) and believes that Spock lied to him; them both going through the dimension space/time plot point gave him a chance to kill Vulcan and take his revenge on multi-Spocks, and move the movie out of the Trek Prime verse to the J.J. verse.

            • You can rationalise all the stupidity in the script all you want, it doesn't change the fact that it doesn't make sense.

              Nero went insane because his wife died. Oh and so did his crew, for no real reason. So an entire ship full of people decided to go off on a rampage because their loved ones died, rather than, say, saving their loved ones.

              P.S. resentment is an emotion and prejudice is illogical. Not very Vulcan.

              • "P.S. resentment is an emotion and prejudice is illogical. Not very Vulcan."

                Well, you just sort of explained the concept of Vulcans all together. They're full of shit. They've always been portrayed as acting out based on emotion when they aren't supposed to have any.

      • J.J. Has been twisting your mind so long I think he has broken it. There's some kind of weird Stockholm syndrome going on with you.

        The perfect Trek movie? A perfect movie??? A great script????

        • "The perfect Trek movie? A perfect movie??? A great script????"

          I stand by it. I;ve seen it maybe a dozen times and I love it every time. ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT.

      • I enjoyed the Trek reboot, I just had trouble getting past a couple of issues which meant that I don’t feel it’s a great movie or a great Star Trek movie. The first was JJ’s obsession with Time Travel – I spent most of Super 8 waiting to find out that the kids were actually time travellers, or the dads were them from the future that it spoiled it a little for me. JJ has such an affinity for time travel that it almost feels like he has to put it in everything he does. Maybe the twist in the comic above is the kids are actually JJ and his producer and he’s travelled back in time to make his own breakfast. For me, using time travel to try and tie the new franchise into the old was a mistake. It would have been better just start anew and let it stand on its own merits.
        The other problem was everything looking like it had been designed by early Apple designers – with lots of bright lights shining in everyone’s eyes and white plastic all over the place. I was squinting through some of the bridge scenes – I’m sure that can’t be good star ship design – which is a shame because it meant that it didn’t look like Star Trek to me. If they’re supposed to be in the past, why couldn’t the ships look like they did during Kirk’s day. Nero’s time travel didn’t also kill all the engineers who designed star ships did it? If not, why does the ship look so radically different to any other star ship we’ve seen. It didn’t look like the Enterprise, and that made me a little sad.

        • I asked my suspension of disbelief about that, and it told me that just the one encounter with the mining ship from – what? 150 years in the future? – and all the scanner data and personal experience of the surviving crew members, was enough to heavily influence the technological and aesthetic advancement of Starfleet over the next 20 years.

          Also, I don't think Alias had any time travel. And LOST only had Ben jump around a few years (unless I'm forgetting something important), and it wasn't especially important to the plot. MI:3 and Cloverfied didn't have any either.
          Basically, I think your idea of Abrams' fixation on time travel is imaginary.

  8. If J.J. Abrams is making secret breakfast, I don't think the real problem is finding it before dark. I'm more afraid of "the surprise inside." Too many monsters…

    My greatest disappointment of late was Prometheus. Rewatched it over New Year's. Still freakin' terrible. None of the scientists are brilliant. The whole "meet our creators" thing is only superficial and not explained/explored.
    Even if it's not supposed to be aliens-related, it's a terrible movie with 3 good effects and 1 good actor (Fassbender) – whose character does inexplicable things.

      • What? No. Mountains of Madness fell through because Universal (I think?) didn't make nearly enough buzz or money out of Wolfman – which was supposed to be a return to the whole Gothic-horror scene and so on and so forth. It was less of a gamble, and in theory a tiny one (who *hasn't* heard of the Wolfman, dude?) and it put them off the big, expensive, super-weird Gothic-horror project helmed by that dude who has made movies that are super weird but sometimes do not make money.

    • Android Poking Things: the Movie felt okay for me. Major hype backlash though. I think what helped me is that I watch Alien/s regularly and though I love them I recognize all the stuff that these days is either cliche from the number of folks referencing Alien/s, or was dorky even back then.

  9. (spoiler alert–for those living in a cave the last 12 years 😉 )The Sixth Sense. With everybody talking about the "super shocking surprise ending" that was so obvious to me from the opening scene, I spent the whole movie looking for ~any~ evidence that Bruce Willis was actually alive (I figured the surprise had to be that he was ~alive~ and ~not~ a ghost)

        • This is how I feel about "The Usual Suspects." It's been a while since I saw it, admittedly, but I recall it being a mediocre movie with a fantastic twist ending. Which is a far different thing from a good movie.

          • If I'd had a coffee cup at the end of that movie, I would have dropped it just like the detective. I was ecstatic at the final scene. And youre right (A little too right) that the end elevates the rest of the movie into a different league.

    • With The Sixth Sense it is a bit obvious that Bruce Willis is a ghost. He is a renowned child psychologist and yet you don't see him interacting or talking with any colleague about this kid.

      • Did you know that going in? Because the whole idea was that it *was* obvious, if you knew the twist or had an inkling. That's why if you go in blind, it was supposed to be such a big deal – a kind of 'ohhhhhh that makes everything make sense oh wow'. Going in knowing it neuters the first-time explosion (but doesn't really lessen the film, methinks).

    • The best way I've found to watch movies with twist endings–have the twist spoiled for you, but get it wrong. Before watching The Sixth Sense for the first time, I read somewhere that what's-his-name was dead the whole time, but I didn't know the characters' names yet and assumed the dead one was the kid. So I watched the whole thing waiting for the reveal that the kid was some kind of visible ghost, and the actual reveal was still a surprise.

    • I watched Sixth Sense for the first time in Flemish on a Belgian airline flying home from Europe. I don't speak any variant of Dutch. It was… confusing. I managed to watch the whole thing knowing there was a twist and still didn't get the twist. Still, when I finally saw it in English about six months later, I figured it out at the beginning and didn't even finish watching because it just wasn't that interesting.
      Moral: the Belgians ruin everything.

    • It totally worked on me. I was in my early 20's and I remember actually standing up out of my chair, eyes wide and mouth agape and saying something outloud like "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME."

      • Me too.
        In fact, due to a mission-related media fast (starvation?) through 2000 I didn't see it until a year plus after it came out; and still no one had spoiled it for me. Totally jaw dropping.
        On VHS.

  10. JJ seems to be falling into the same trap that Shamalamadingdong did and let the gimmick become the focus, not the story. M. Night's movies became all about "guess what the twist is!" and now JJ's films are all about "guess what the secret is!".

    • I dont think JJ is actually the one that falls into the traps. i think he sets himself up as an idea man then immediately turns projects over to a subordinate creative team. Then they go off the rails. Also he tends to throw basically EVERYTHING at the wall just to see what sticks. Last year he had no less than 9 active shows or movies in some stage of production.

      • Correct.
        I think what draws me to Abrams is his character focus. He makes really deep, rich characters facing hard, complex problems. That's timeless. MI:3 was way better than any flashy spy movie should have been, because of JJ's gut-wrenching character conflicts.
        Oddly enough, 4 I don't even remember. I think there was a helicopter.

  11. I've began to avoid the multiple trailers and news releases dealing with the big "geeky" movies. I agree they've been hyping it up too much and I'm afraid that I'll get this big let down if it does not live up to my expectations. I actually like going to the movies not knowing anything about it. That's a surprise. So with the new star trek movie, i've seen the first teaser and will probably avoid all other media coverage on it until i see it in the theatre.

  12. Why am I afraid that next week's series finale of Fringe is going to have them actually being dead for the last season?

  13. I loved 2009's Star Trek (turned me into a Trekkie – I'm slowly making my way through every Star Trek episode ever), and I'm very excited about this movie! But I am not one who likes any sort of spoilers beforehand and I think all the hype is just silly, so I'm primarily avoiding any mentions I see of it online. I'm just, like you, expecting a really fun movie.

  14. I can only enjoy the 1st Star Trek movie by pretending it is a trashy soap opera retelling of Kirk's life on some second rate 24th Century TV network, written by under-paid writers who did all their research by skimming a wikipedia article. I do the same with Voyager (that's an in-universe comedy about Morons In Space). I haven't been able to come up with a justification yet for Enterprise.

    It just doesn't make sense otherwise. Nothing about it. The plot is stupid, the Romulans don't act like Romulans, and the Federation is far too gung-ho. It looks pretty though.

    Personally I'd much rather they just did a Deep Space Nine/TNG crossover movie – I want to know what the characters I love are up to, not a bunch of actors pretending to be Captain Kirk and co.

  15. Unfortunately all of your questions are answered in the prequel comic, but there should have been at least 2 minutes of exposition to explain how the Tal Shi'ar (the Romulan shadow government) took Niro under their wing when the Romulan goverment dismissed him and outfitted his ship with weapons. He's had 25 years to brood and train and get ready for the only moment he's been thinking about for a quarter decade. That's enough time to learn or do or get good at basically anything.

    The Romulans don't hold Spock responsible for their planet's destruction. Spock had always worked to unify Romulus and Starfleet. They knew he was working in their best interest. It's Niro alone who, overcome by grief, just choses Spock as the target for his anger.

    They ESPECIALLY should have mentioned that the facial tattoos were Romulan signs of grieving.

    Oh, and Niro's ship was able to take out Kirk's dad's ship just because standard weapons tech had advanced in the next 75 years enough that the Starfleet ships were no match for a reasonably well armed mining vessel.

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