I remember discussing this with on fxhome back in the day, and I have discussed it countless times with friends. What is more important on a film project: skill and craftsmanship, or vision and heart?
I feel that like video-games film is so technical that 90% of the work done by cast and crew is skillbased and 10% is based on any underlying vision. Others might disagree and I'd be interested in hearing from filmschool-guys on here.
Anyway I wanted to discuss J.J. Abrams in particular. To me he is one of the most amazing directors working today. Not because Star Trek, Mission: Impossible 3 or Super 8 are the most amazing movies (they are not) but because Abrams and his crew are so good at the skill-part of making movies. For instance as a director I have a hard time finding any name on Abrams' level (perhaps Edgar Wright?) when it comes to understanding cinematography, VFX, acting, editing, scoring and just getting all of it done exceedingly well on all his projects. To me Super 8 has the best child acting I have ever seen, beating even Empire of the Sun with an ensemble of children who act so naturally through the whole film, every line read pitch perfect that you completely forget you are watching a bunch of children. In Star Trek he not only (together with his crew) shows an amazing understanding of VFX and production design, but pacing, editing, emotional stakes and basically everything they will try to teach you about how to make a good film.
Now I'm sure a lot of people will say you aren't amazing until you successfully break conventions, and maybe that is true to an extent, but the fact of the matter is that even on gigantic productions with all the best names in Hollywood on the credits they still manage to screw up the simplest things (extreme examples include The Last Airbender).
Christopher Nolan is lauded for his technical proficiency, but he is not on Abrams level in my opinion. For examples see: http://vimeo.com/28792404
Nevertheless Abrams gets a lot of hate for a multitude of things including lens flares. I have even seen people call him a hack. I wanted to ask the hitfilm-community filmmakers: is that fair to you? Is it possible to be a “hack” when you are highly competent?
(As a side-note I was also extremely relived when Abrams got Star Wars because the prequels we wanted is basically Star Trek 2009. I have seen people say Abrams is boring, and that they want to see something interesting with Star Wars like del Toro or Blomkamp. I say no. Not on the first one. After the prequels what we need is the safe Abrams Star Wars where we finally get Star Wars made by someone who loves the original Star Wars and is only looking to do it justice and not do anything “new” or “interesting”. Save that for future projects.)