I think TFA WILL be awful. I’m not hoping for it to be awful, but I think it will be.
Although J.J. Abrams has achieved mainstream success, I have never truly gotten “on board” with his style of filmmaking. And it’s not that his movies are completely “awful” any sense. It’s just that every time I’ve left out of the theater after seeing one of his movies I have a gnawing, hungry, not-quite-satisfied feeling—similar to the feeling one has after eating at McDonald’s. Not terrible, but not quite satisfying. In other words, totally un-OOT-like.
This is a vague feeling and it is hard to explain, but there are micro-moments in Abrams’s various films where I get sucked straight out of the movie, out of the fantasy--and into a realm where “this doesn’t quite make sense.” Or, “that seems odd why that character would do [or say] that.”
There are several of these “micro-moments” from J.J.’s films that I could get into (but won’t). There is, though, one in the latest behind-the-scenes TFA footage (presumably from San Diego, but I’m not certain about that) which, at least for me, demonstrates what I am talking about. For a few seconds, a guy appearing to be Oscar Isaacs is being hustled down a very Death Star-looking starship passageway by a Stormtrooper.
I will get accused of being overly anal about this, but something about the composition of that shot and the body language of the characters was just wrong. It immediately made me think of similar shots in the OOT where our captive heroes are being made to walk places they don’t necessarily want to go (think of Han Solo at the Carbonite chamber, or the surrendered starship troopers at the beginning of A New Hope). Not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but in the TFA footage it just looked “off.” For one thing, in J.J.’s footage the Stormtrooper has his gun on Oscar Isaacs with one hand, while attempting to briskly shuffle him down the passageway with the other; presumably to take him to some kind of “detention block.” The thing is, why does the Stormtrooper have his gun on Isaacs when they are presumably on the Stormtrooper’s own ship to begin with? Why the hell is the Stormtrooper in such a hurry when, again, they are on the Stormtrooper’s own ship? Why aren’t there two Stormtroopers handling Isaacs? Why am I being so completely anal about two seconds of footage, the completed version of which I haven’t yet seen?
The reason is because it just looks “wrong.” It doesn’t look like Star Wars (or at least the only Star Wars that exists to me—namely the OOT). In the OOT, a shot like this would have had two Stormtroopers walking behind our hero, weapons at port arms, with a pace and body language that suggested power and control…thereby infusing the scene with a sense of gravity and foreboding. This scene, by contrast, just doesn’t come off well. It just looks like a Stormtrooper hustling some dude down a hallway, and doesn’t really communicate anything beyond that. Worse, it kind of makes the Stormtrooper look like--in the words of late-great TV series the Wire—“a graspy little bitch” who can’t handle his business somehow.
Am I making my prediction of TFA’s lack of quality based on this one scene? Hardly. I am merely attempting to give an example of how J.J. Abrams’s style, for me, doesn’t completely work.