J.J.Abrams, I’m calling you ‘up’

J.J., I’ll come right to the point: I finally got to see your latest Star Wars movie, and I walked away with a mishmash of images and storyline in my head; I’m still unclear as to exactly what the storyline was. It has taken me this long (yes, this long) to process it; as there was something about it that just bothered me, and I haven’t been able to put my finger on it until now.

Look, J.J., you have a talent for creating great imagery, but your pacing needs help. You’re losing the storyline, man.

You know me, I’ve had a career in television, good Corporate television, and I will presume that I have some idea as to how to tell a visual story.

Storytelling is all about pace; the pace of “the reveal” of the plot. You have to give the audience time to absorb the plot, dialog, and images which have been presented. There is a pace which a good story requires, and it waxes and wanes; to attempt to rush the storyline violates that pace, and loses the story.

To tell a good visual story, the classic teaching from Hollywood and all film and video books, is that you HAVE to have:

  1. An establishing shot
  2. then the plotline
  3. then a transition shot to get to the next plot point.

Period. That’s not me, that is decades of books and teaching from those with experience, based on the way humans absorb information.

J.J., I’m not asking you to be George Lucas, but just go back to the original Star Wars, and notice how every single scene has all these characteristics which allow for you to absorb what you’ve seen before the storyline moves on. Lucas did this in many ways; with a pause for a character’s reaction, or even a classic transition like a vertical wipe.

Now look at what you’ve done. J.J., my man, you’ve violated all of that. Almost every shot. When I think back to the movie, what are the scenes I remember?

Those were the ones done correctly for visual storytelling.

In great storytelling, the story must unfold before the viewer. I’m telling you, man: it can’t be crammed into the viewers consciousness; it must unfold in a way which is understandable.

J.J., save the ‘fast and furious’ baloney for when they call you to do the next Fast and Furious movie. And for Pete’s sake, quit screwing with the Star Trek franchise. Tell the story!

Sorry to be so tough on you man, but I realize I have to speak up now. I have been reading the recent book about the history of Star Trek. In the Introduction, the kid asks the father, Star Trek is supposed to be about something, isn’t it?

J.J., I’m calling you ‘up’. I’m calling you upward, to be better.

Tell the story, J.J.. Then you’ll get your Oscar.


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