[Discussion] Filmmaking: Craft vs. Vision and being a "hack"-director

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.)
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Comments

  • I wouldn't say Abrams is a hack, but I also wouldn't say anything he's done is great.  I think Super 8 pushed closer to greatness than anything else he's done, but for the most part his projects have some shiny, pretty visuals, but are unmoving and populated by a lot of characters I either don't care about, or actively dislike.  There are moments when he pulls everything together, but they are too few and far between.
  • Interesting take on it for sure. Super 8 is to my knowledge the only film he has both written and directed. Would you agree that the most lacking thing in a given Abrams movie would be the screenplay? I'd argue in the cases of Mission Impossible 3 and Star Trek 2009 that the screenplay did the job very well even if the characters aren't very memorable as they are not the only focus of such a fast-paced film.  
  • I think it is more to do with the characters, which is part screenplay, part the actors, and part the direction.  It seems like he consistently tries to create flawed characters, but takes it so far, and makes them so flawed, that they become corrupt or unlikeable.  I also think he has a tendency to over-plot, and tries so hard to be surprising or do the unexpected that it verges on ridiculous and doesn't feel like a natural progression of events.  Especially in his TV work.  
  • http://www.slashfilm.com/lol-hack-directors-venn-diagram/ When I am on a computer, not my phone, I will contribute actual thoughts to this thread. In the meantime, this Venn Diagram of "Hack Directing" made me laugh. Also, for now, I will say I would argue J. J. Abrams is a total hack, but won't elucidate until I post from a platform that recognizes paragraph breaks.
  • edited September 2013
    It's funny The Doctor posted the video he did as I just saw the Dark Knight a couple months ago and was trying to figure out what side of the van the guy (sorry- forgot his name) was sitting on after he first got in. It looked to me like he had switched places with the officer. I tried rationalizing the semi hitting the van and the van going off the bridge the wrong way as a fluke but didn't catch that the semi had to cross the line of direction the other vehicles were going. I knew something wasn't quite right but couldn't put my finger on it. Thanks for posting the vid, Doctor.
    I've loved everything Abrams has done since Cloverfield with one exception. Super 8. Yup, sorry. I thought Super 8 was too sensational for an Abrams film and suspect Speilberg had something to do with that. The whole train sequence from truck hitting train to train wreck to finding the pick-up truck driver still alive (albeit briefly) was way out of control. It defied the realism presented in Cloverfield. It was more along the lines of something out of Gremlins or Poltergeist 3; almost cartoonish. I often wonder if Speilberg had a hand in that scene. If the truck wouldn't have exploded and caught fire on impact it would have been better but the train......that blasted train flying every which way for way too long..................
    I'm an easy target when it comes to movies, I probably like more than I should on the mere basis that I got emotional during the movie or it moved me in some way, but the thing I'm drawn to more between skill and craftsmanship, or vision and heart is the latter. While I think timing, pacing, framing, continuity, scoring etc. are very important, the former can leave a movie feeling hollow, without heart, soul or vision, giving the viewer a feeling of being detached i.e. relegated to observer....like the observers in Fringe for instance. Unemotional, detached. ;) 
    However, if you can get both points, skill and craftsmanship AND vision and heart, no matter how simple the story, I think you can get a great production as a result. In my opinion, Abrams has accomplished this more often than not. Every new TV show that comes out I compare to Lost now; and so far, none have measured up. Fringe was great, Person of Interest is spell binding, but I doubt anything will come down the pike soon that could be compared to the intracacies of Lost.
    I've loved both Star Trek movies so far because they do remind me of the original series but repackaged to modern FX. I look forward to an Abrams Star Wars as I agree with The Doctor, I think he would do a great job as long as Luke doesn't call for phasers to be set to stun. :)) That's not to say I don't think someone like Peter Jackson wouldn't do a fine job- it's just, Abrams speaks to me on another level that I can relate to.
  • JJ did a great job on the last Mission imposs.  But the Star trek movies are just to bright.  Fringe was good, but got hung up on some non-sense so it got canned.  JJ is good with certain things and certain things he is not.  I'm afraid he is going to make the new Star wars movies all bright and shiny.  The new star wars movies are not going to look good like how me filmed star trek, just my opinion on this.  I'm looking forward to the new Mission Imposs. and the sequel to Colverfield.
  • Cloverfield wasn't Abrams.  It was directed by Matt Reeves from a script by Drew Goddard.  Abrams just produced it.  And he didn't do the last Mission Impossible.  That was directed by Brad Bird, from a script by Josh Applebaum and Andre Nemec.  And was leaps and bounds better than M:I 3, which was directed by Abrams.
    I'm also not looking forward to new Star Wars directed by Abrams, as his work tends to exhibit the same pretty visuals in place of substance that plagued the Star Wars prequels. In fact, the direction in the prequels largely feels to me like they could have been Abrams' work.  So I remain hopeful, but not entirely optimistic about the new SW films.  I'm afraid they will be even more of a letdown than the new Trek films, but maybe if he works with new characters more in SW, rather than pasting the names of established characters onto entirely different characters he creates, as in Trek, he might pull it off.
  • If nothing else this thread helps demonstrate that film, as an artistic medium, is also a subjective medium. We can all look at the work of a director, and some of us will find him or her brilliant, and others will think of him or her as a hack.
    Not a JJ Abrahms fan, mind you. He gets too much credit for "Lost" (In a radio interview, Abrahms noted that he hadn't been directly involved with "Lost" since the end of the first season, and, while he and Lindorf had a backstory and arc worked out, the production team ended up taking the show in a different direction. It wasn't Abrahms' arc, it was Lindolf's.), "Cloverfield" was technically fun, and a cute concept, but the plot comes around to "screaming people from party all die cuz: MONSTERS! (Not directed by Abrahms, anyway) I enjoyed "Super 8" and don't really have a huge problem with the train crash sequence, but I wasn't able to make the narrative leap to sympathizing with the aliens at the end just because the little boy smiled at the junior nephew of the "Cloverfield" alien. Heck, the best bit of "Super 8" was the "kid's film" as shown at the end. Star Wreck... Well, the first five minutes with Nero's arrival and the sacrifice of George Kirk is one of the most epic things in Trek--and the rest of the movie is a jumbled mess of actions with little rhyme, reason or logic propelled along by a steam of improbability that would make Zaphod Beeblebrox say "I don't buy it, man!" Star Trek: Into Lens Flare at least followed a string of cause-and-effect, but the individual setups for it's plot threads required characters to behave in very very stupid manners. Overall, I liked it a lot better when it was called "Wrath of Khan."
    Abrahms stuff doesn't emotionally move me or touch me--I am not rooting for his characters. And, I'll agree with those above who says a movie needs to touch or move you, and a lot of current movies don't. The film makers seems too enamored of the Visual Effects possibilities and forget to give the audience a reason to care.
    Star Trek/Into Darkness didn't move me. Iron Man 3 didn't move me. Neither did Inception, Chris Nolan ultimately fouled up everything about Batman. Wasn't moved by most of the Marvel movies, and on, and on, and on. I cried like a baby at "UP!," and I remember that moment in "District 9" when I was astonished to find myself sympathetic for the character who I spent the first 20 minutes of the movie hoping would get killed in a horrible way. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," actually gave me a reason to sympathize with James Franco's character (Here's something interesting to note in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."--no character ever says "I love you" to any other character. Not Man to Father, Father to Son, Girlfirend to Boyfriend, Man to Ape. If Dr. Rodman had said "I love you" to Caeser a few times along with "Trust me.," maybe that world wouldn't have it's upcoming problems.).
    But "Craft vs. Vision" is a tough call to make. Is Michael Bay may make horrible, soulless, quick cut, incoherent crap, but his body of work is consistent enough to show that the man thinks that way--he has "a vision," even if I think his vision is myopic. Brett Ratner didn't set out to make a terrible terrible movie with "X3: The Last Stand," but he inherited a troubled production on a deadline and was ordered by the studio to put in a bunch of stuff. Have a problem with Cyclops short shrift in X3? Not Ratner's fault--he only had that actor for a couple of days, since James Marsden was leaving to do "Superman Returns." Hell, Joel Schumaker famously said about his Batman movies "they're comic book movies. That means they need to be bright and colorful and funny." Well, Schumaker ALSO got everything wrong about Batman, but you can't say he didn't have a vision.
    As stated above, a lot of it is subjective. Hell, Steven Spielberg may me a technical genius, know everything about every shot in every film ever, and be able to compose beautifully shot and timed sequences, but he's just as capable as a Michael Bay or Uwe Boll of crafting something that's utterly pandering, pointless and stupid. I'll use "War of the Worlds" as an example--during the initial tripod attack, Tom Cruise is running across a bridge. Heat Rays are picking off people right and left and up and down as Tom runs. Then a heat ray managed to sweep in a complete ellipse around Tom, vaporising the person to his left, his right, his front and his back, leaving him untouched.... This is the shot where I'm REALLY having trouble holding my suspension disbelief, because, REALLY?!. A bit later on in that film a crowd is moving, fleeing the city and, as they approach the train tracks, the crossguard comes down, the crowd stops and they watch, with moody, flickering close-ups of Tom, as the entire train streaks by at 70 MPH, completely wreathed in flames. That's a shot Speilberg specifically said he intended as one of his "moment of (childhood) wonder shots." Makes me wonder why a stupid, pointless shot like that is in the movie, and why the train, obviously stuck at full throttle, didn't overbalance and derail three miles ago in the twists and turns of San Francsico. (I think the train was trying to get to "Super 8."
    Stormy brought up Peter Jackson... sigh, you can watch Peter falling in love with his CGI during Lord of the Rings. The special features on Return of the King note that Peter added almost 1000 effects shots to the shot list and that almost all of them were the Battle of Minas Tirith. A battle which, for me, is unendurably long and boring and full of ridiculous shots that scream visual effect because of the impossible camera. I'd rather see the Battle of Minas Tirith be half the length and maybe see some of the Scouring of the Shire (Especially as Tolkien himself said that all of Lord of the Rings was a build up to show the Scouring of the Shire--since the entire story is about how the "big events from far away," affect the "little people at home.").
    But Jackson and Spielberg are both top-flight directors, not generally what anyone would call a "hack." even though both men are capable of screwing a movie up.
  • Lots of good replies in here!

    I think you really answered my question Triem23, and gave me a lot to think about. The hypothesis I tried to present in the OP was that if you are en expert on all aspects of filmmaking, and are able to use this well when making films your films will not be deeply flawed. It is the dream I have as someone who likes writing and directing as a hobby, that because film is more technical and less subjective than (a lot of) music I could conceivably become a “flawless” artist that didn't make mistakes.

    It has always baffled me how different and flawed many star directors can be. I suppose because I grew up in a time where computers were eliminating the visible flaws in the visuals of a film and college degrees were eliminating the self-taught directors, cinematographers and VFX guys. The VFX of King Kong 1933 made by two guys in a basement, and the VFX of King Kong 2005 made by 800 Weta Digital employees spread over 8 buildings, many of them flown in on temporary work visas for their expertise.

    These days films are much more made by “professionals”. You don't expect the latest blockbuster or triple-A game to have any deep flaws any more than you do the latest VW Golf or skyscraper designed by engineers not artists. I just saw Riddick the other day, and even B-movies look great these days on a technical level.

    But I suppose film is subjective in the end. I also agree with you on Jackson though I still really love Return of the King. Never has his flaws been more apparent than in The Lovely Bones though. And about Spielberg it seems to me sometimes a director, or writer is at their best when they are insecure and still have something to prove. As soon as they are so big that they feel comfortable getting self-indulgent the quality goes down.

    Another director I love that divides audiences is Joseph Kosinski, again for his amazing technical proficiency. Though a Kosinski-movie is about as cold as a Nolan-movie on a character level they are so full of amazing production design, beautiful cinematography (jam packed with Kosinski's obsession for visual symmetry), amazing VFX, and fantastic electronic music that it's like he makes the films exclusively for me.

    And Rise of the Planet of the Apes was indeed something of a marvel. Without being sentimental or hammy it chose to focus most of the film on the relationship between Franco and Caesar and instead of pretending that the amazing effects and Serkis's always stellar performance would be enough to carry the film they made the stakes in the story Franco and Caesar's relationship and not “the world” which is what I think we all expected when we went to see the film. Also cool is that Abrams wants the Rise of the Planet of the Apes director to take over Star Trek.
  • To elaborate more, I also think in the case of Lucas, Jackson, Abrahms, etc, besides love of the toys, it's part of aging. Part of being a parent as well. In your 20's,it's kind of awesome to fly to Tunisia and film in the desert. In your 50's it's nice to send someone else to Tunisia to shoot while you sit in the studio, wander to the edit suite and still go home to wife and kid. If I want to give true credit to a film maker, I want to give props to Robert Rodriguez. Sold himself to medical science to make El Mariachi, founded his own studio and post house to be able to do effects in house, and can whip out family things like Spy Kids, Exploitation Films like Machete, and will quit the DGA over Sin City (arguing that Frank Miller's comic was script and storyboards, thus Miller waa co-director.) Man loves his toys, makes what he wants to make, does it with technical style, and is unabashedly fun.
  • I don't think JJ Abrams can be heralded as a technically perfect director, because he wouldn't recognise a good script if it hit him in the face. He's undoubtedly an expert at just about everything else, but if your script, your foundation, is no good then it's all for nothing. Doesn't help that he keeps collaborating with some of the worst writers in Hollywood. Give Abrams a top tier script and I reckon he'd produce something amazing.
    The craft/vision debate is a bit of a distraction, to be honest, and it makes a few assumptions about what a director actually is. 90% of directors are working, jobbing, for-hire professionals. They come in, shoot an episode of a TV show according to the script and obeying the show's style rules, and that's that. Film can sometimes be slightly different, and you start to see more of the director's style coming in - but directing is still primarily a craft/management role, in my mind, until you get into that 10% tier of auteurs.
  • edited September 2013
    Yes! I've always admired Rodriguez's style. It gives him a lot of opportunity to be uncompromising.

    I've also observed that ageing seems to affect people a lot as artists (as is to be expected). Not only because they feel less inclined to fly around (though to his credit, Lucas did fly to Tunisia for Attack of the Clones and there was actually a bunch of location shooting in the prequels), but also because their films seem to become tamer and lose some of that punch younger directors are so good at. It's interesting to see Jackson talk about how he had to shy away from the more gruesome aspects of The Lovely Bones when gruesome was all he was known for before LotR (and to a lesser extent Heavenly Creatures). Maybe this is because he is a father and a family man now and has “grown up” so to speak. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (which apart from lacking a sense of adventure, I found to be a decent Indiana Jones film, though Spielberg's Tin-tin was miles better) was much less violent and gritty than previous Indiana Jones films and there's an interview with Karen Allen about coming back to series where she talks about how different Spielberg was. Specifically I remember her saying: “He's a grandfather now, and a family man” and talking about how different he was as a man and a director.

    It is a concern of mine that this will impact Abrams' Star Wars significantly, though fortunately he has proven that with Roger Guyett (ILM vfx supervisor) the two of them can make convincing a sci-fi movie without leaving California. He made such a fuss about having to move to England to direct Star Wars. On the subject of Star Wars I think it will turn out great. Not only because Abrams is the right man for the job and cares deeply about Star Wars, but because Kathleen Kennedy and Disney is taking this extremely seriously.  

     


    I don't think JJ Abrams can be heralded as a technically perfect director, because he wouldn't recognise a good script if it hit him in the face. He's undoubtedly an expert at just about everything else, but if your script, your foundation, is no good then it's all for nothing. Doesn't help that he keeps collaborating with some of the worst writers in Hollywood. Give Abrams a top tier script and I reckon he'd produce something amazing.


    This is a good point. I do agree that understanding screenwriting is a very important aspect of being a technically perfect director. This is all the more comforting to think about in regards to Star Wars when it looks to be written by better writers than Abrams has ever worked with. 



     


    The craft/vision debate is a bit of a distraction, to be honest, and it makes a few assumptions about what a director actually is. 90% of directors are working, jobbing, for-hire professionals. They come in, shoot an episode of a TV show according to the script and obeying the show's style rules, and that's that. Film can sometimes be slightly different, and you start to see more of the director's style coming in - but directing is still primarily a craft/management role, in my mind, until you get into that 10% tier of auteurs.


    I think this is my point precisely. Direction is most of the time a craft/management role. This is the point I often use to defend directors like Zack Snyder. The scrips he works with have varied a lot in quality (and the arguably worst one was written by himself), but the direction always seems solid. The fact that many people don't have s strong idea of the directors responsibility on a film often means that the director gets blamed or praised even if they weren’t the weak/strong link. On a film like Man of Steel I think Snyder was pretty good, and Goyer/Nolan were the weak link.  


  • Interesting what you say about artists getting older. The gradual absorption of a previously radical artist into the mainstream seems to always be inevitable. That overriding hegemony happens to all things eventually: the establishment notice something radical, perceive a threat, try to destroy it, realise that isn't going to work, and instead absorb it into the mainstream, whereby it loses its potency and power.
    Cronenberg is an interesting director. I feel like he's managed to find wider, more mainstream audiences without losing the hard, disturbing edge that has always defined his work.
    But comparing the then-daring work of early Lucas, with the experimental, harsh THX1138, the unusual narrative structure of American Graffiti and the (obvious in retrospect but ballsy at the time) retro action of Star Wars to his later work is a bit depressing.
    Spielberg's early work also has a slightly wild, no-rules feel. Jaws and Close Encounter in particular have a really efficient, stripped-back feel. A roughness and physicality.
  • Cloverfield wasn't Abrams.  It was directed by Matt Reeves from a script by Drew Goddard.  Abrams just produced it.  
     I'm afraid they will be even more of a letdown than the new Trek films, but maybe if he works with new characters more in SW, rather than pasting the names of established characters onto entirely different characters he creates, as in Trek, he might pull it off.


    Then please allow me to amend my comment to "I've liked everything Abrams has had a hand in since Cloverfield".
    I don't know if that's an entirely fair assessment. I thought it was brilliant he rebooted the series with a clean slate to explore new directions. He's boldly gone where no one has gone before but unlike Mirror, Mirror, he doesn't switch anything back. I know there's probably some comfort in the familiar but what would be the point of just creating the original series (or any branch of the franchise) exactly as it was? We all know those stories and characters. There's really no challenge from the standpoint of rehashing the same ol' same ol'. That's why I think Berman drove the franchise into the ground. Same stories and characters recycled through each series. Instead of Spock there's Data. Instead of Data there's Seven of Nine. Instead of Seven of Nine there's T'Pol. The doctors, engineers and captains were pretty much carbon copies of each other with the exception of the holographic doctor on Voyager. Abrams has merely taken us out of that comfort zone and I say it's about time.   

     

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator
    edited September 2013
    Interesting observation, Simon. I wasn't thinking so much about a "radical" director being absorbed into the mainstream so much as mellowing with age and changes in perspective from being a parent. For example, the "special edition" of ET, where weapons were replaced with radios. In an interview, Spielberg noted when he made ET, he wasn't a parent, and, as a parent he'd never have had weapons pointed as kids. (To his credit, he also noted later that he shouldn't have made the arbitrary change.) In Jurassic Park 2,Spielberg radically changed the book (which only existed because Spielberg commissioned it to make the movie) because he wanted to do the shot of the T-rex drinking from the pool--because his kid drew a picture of that; in other wordss, Spielberg spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for a 'shout-out' to his son. And, of course, would it surprise anyone that Lucas let a four-year-old child name a certain villain in the Star Wars prequels? Count Doody-head? Er, Dookoo? See, these men no longer filter stories entirely through their own filters anymore, but more from a "how would my kid" react to that?
    Oh, one more Robert Rodriguez fact: Rodriguez has confirmed that Danny Trejo is playing the same part in "Spy Kids," and "Machete." Yup, Machete is the Spy Kids "Uncle."
    (Abrahms rebooted Trek with a clean state, yet had to do a lame remake of "Wrath of Khan?"
  • edited September 2013
    (Abrahms rebooted Trek with a clean state, yet had to do a lame remake of "Wrath of Khan?"

     


    It wasn't the Wrath of Khan- it was Space Seed from the original series with a tinge of Wrath of Khan. Khan can still have his wrath if they bring him back, which they certainly left wide open. Dr. Marcus, the Admiral's daughter, is the one Kirk had a son with (David) in the original time line. Who knows- maybe Dr. Marcus will go on to build the Genesis device, but this movie was in no way shape or form an "official" remake of the Wrath of Khan.
    All in all- at the end of however many movies they're going to make with the new cast- they can always switch the time line back, for the die hard traditionalists, at any point. The beauty of sci-fi is there are no rules, it's never too late and X only marks the spot in The Last Crusade. ;)
  • Lil off topic, but I stand by "Into Darkness" being a "Wrath of Khan" redux more than "Space Seed." "Space Seed" is finding Khan and having to neutralize him as a threat, thus setting up the situation where Khan comes back for his vengeance. With "Into Darkness," the "Space Seed" analog happened off-screen.Admiral Robocop's men found Botany Bay and set up the events that make Khan feel he needs to take his revenge. We get to see pissed-off Khan going after the man he feels wronged him, and that's "Wrath of Khan" right there.
  • edited September 2013
    Not off topic at all. Please bear with me.
    The trouble is, Abrams' vision of Trek in a new time line is mixing all kinds of things up. One can't really use the old time line as a reference point unless specific events occur to solidify a comparison. While you are correct on one hand, the Botany Bay story happened off screen, which alters the original story radically; on the other hand, Kirk just met Dr. Marcus and the Genesis project isn't mentioned at all which would put current events in Into Darkness pre Wrath of Kahn. Kirk has no offspring in the current time line either, which he did in WoK..
    But isn't this the crux of what The Doctor was asking about Abrams? You are clearly passionate about your stance on the new Trek. You don't like the direction Abrams has taken it. I like the direction the new Trek is going (and I honestly didn't think I would). I like a lot of the stuff that Abrams has had a hand in. I think regarding Trek he has a vision, radical as it may be to some, and he's stirring the pot. There's been a lot of debate back and forth drawing a lot of attention to the topic. Maybe Abrams isn't quite the hack everyone thinks if he can stimulate debate as he has.
    Perhaps that's the whole point. He's not old and set in his ways, as a certain theory I recently read purports happens to some directors. So when does one mans genious become another mans hack? Is it determined by age? Skill? Vision?
  • To be fair, I do like Abrams' general style and vision for Trek. I just think he hired godawful writers for both films. Abrams works wonders with the crappy stories and scenes he's given, and definitely raises the quality overall, but he's continually dragged down by the quality of the writing.
  • ......but he's continually dragged down by the quality of the writing.


    Touche!

  • Saw this on youtube just now and it touched on many things said in this thread.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M3lcHv4dI8
  • Funny- MrSundayMovies can't seem to make up his mind save to say he loved the movie.
    I'll stand by my original assessment. More Space Seed timing than WoK. At one point Sulu says to prepare the ship they used last month for the Mudd mission. That would indicate that many, many years have not gone by which lead to finding Kahn a second time. But, then there's the admiral's ship which looks closer to Next Gen tech than original series. @-) ;
    I think the only real critique I have is bringing original Spock back again. It was probably done for the new audiences who aren't familiar with original Trek. I did guess two things before they happened while watching it the first time- Scotty on the admiral's ship and the "Tribbling" of Kirk to bring him back.
    As to the small nit picky things MrSundayMovies points out- its just as he said....nit picky. 8-| 
    I sure would like to know what volcano they used to film on location. :)) I thought that was some impressive FX.
  • @ Stormy--while we seem to have become analysis of Trek: Into Lens Flare, more than a general discussion of Craft vs. Vision, I'm finding this interesting, since we're also getting a demonstration about how two different filmmakers (us) can view the same story and come away with differing interpretations.
    So: Why I argue "Into Darkness" is more "Wrath of Khan" than "Space Seed."
    It's not about the "timeline." I must concede that, in terms of the lifespans of these characters, "Into Darkness" is chronologically closer to "the present" (movie timeline) than "Space Seed." (But see my digression on "the Timeline," below.) However, I'm not thinking of the chronology of the universe, but the themes of the story.
    "Space Seed," features Kirk finding "Botany Bay," reviving Khan and crew and preventing a takeover of the Enterprise. If I had to break this down into a one-line theme, I'd call it "Man vs. Superman." Can the "normal" man of the 23'rd century stand against a genetically engineered 20th century superman? And this is the section of story that happens off-screen in "Into Darkness." (BTW--I will admit that the story rationale of "Nero destroyed Vulcan, therefore, Admiral Robocop steps up local patrols, therefore, Section 31 discovers Khan about a decade earlier than the original timeline [Again, see "The Timeline," below.] works very nicely. it's logical and it follows a cause-and-effect relationship from the events of the previous movie.).
    "Wrath of Khan" has a completely different theme--following what Khan sees as betrayal by Kirk, he sets out on a personal quest of vendetta--obsessively pursuing his vengance, even when it would be smarter to retreat, regroup and return (Even Khan's second, Joachim--portrayed by the fantastic Judson Scott, who hasn't had as many roles as he should--says to Khan at one point "We're all with you, sir. But, consider this. We are free. We have a ship, and the means to go where we will. We have escaped permanent exile on Ceti Alpha V. You have defeated the plans of Admiral Kirk. You do not need to defeat him again" to which Khan replies, "He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him! I'll chase him 'round the moons of Nibia and 'round the Antares Maelstrom and 'round perdition's flames before I give him up!").
    So, "Space Seed," is "Man vs Superman" and "Wrath of Khan" is "Obsession With Vengance," (Heck, "Wrath of Khan" is really a re-tell of Moby Dick.)
    So, what's "Into Darkness?"
    Well, "Into Darkness" certainly isn't "Man vs. Superman" as such, because that has already been accomplished off-screen by section 31. Khan has be found, thawed, pressed into service and blackmailed by Admiral Robocop, then escaped to plan his revenge. When "Into Darkness" starts, Khan is already setting his plans for revenge against the man who "wronged" him into action--we jump right into the theme of vengance. This theme is then mirrored by killing of Pike (A sloppy bit of writing needed to give Kirk something resembling a motivation).
    Since "Wrath of Khan," and "Into Darkness" are both tales of revenge, and "Space Seed" is not, I stand my my assertion that "Into Darkness" is much more "Wrath of Khan" than "Space Seed."
    BTW--I COULD go into a set piece by set piece breakdown of why I DIDN'T enjoy "Into Darkness," but nobody really wants to read it. Suffice it to say that it's not little nitpicking, it's fundamental story points. And nitpicking. Nits that FUBAR fundamental story points. Wow, really, we're going to do a whole bunch of dialog about being unable to beam Spock up before we beam him up? I mean, seriously, doesn't Starfleet HQ have any kind of security at all? How long is this guy going to shoot hell out of a window before someone else responds? In fact, doesn't Earth have orbital defenses? I guess not! And, since you have personal transwarp transporters, just beam a damn photon torpedo or TacNuke into HQ instead of shooting things up from an aircar! Oh, yes, I could go on....
    And now... "The Timeline."
    NuTrek's timeline just can't be mapped to the original timeline: Classic Trek's timeline has Kirk graduating the Academy and serving on other ships working his way up through the ranks before he attains command of "Enterprise" at some point in his mid-30's. Scotty, Spock and McCoy are substantially older than Kirk, Chekov, Sulu and Uhura substantially younger. Production information for the original series indicates tht Chekov is the youngest member of the bridge crew, being fresh from the Academy--although this is never explicitly stated on-screen, this certainly can be argued simply because Sulu and Uhura have attained promotions to officer ranks, where Chekov is still and ensign.
    NuTrek has Kirk attaining command of Enterprise shortly after escaping expulsion from the Academy because an alarm klaxon went off in mid gavel-swing, and Pike told Kirk in a hallway with no-one around that, if anything went wrong, he could just go ahead and take command, because, why the hell not. However, this places Kirk in his mid-20's, and with Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and McCoy as classmates. McCoy still seems to be older. Spock is, of course, older, but this places Kirk in the same age bracket and experience as his crew. I understand that this was done in order to get the entire crew together quickly within the confines of the film, but it does beg the question of how Nero changed time in such a way that Chekov is close to a decade older.
    Anyhow, having Kirk attain command of Enterprise in his mid-20's means that, either somehow the bridge crew are magically older and Kirk's current mission is "a decade earler" than his mission in the original series, or, somehow, Kirk is magically a decade younger than the original timeline....
    ...Or we go back to the real reason for this time shift--getting the crew together quickly.
  • Excellent points. I'm going to watch the movie again tonight (friends coming over) 'cause I haven't seen it since the theater release.
    The age thing is definitely perplexing however, Chekov wasn't even part of the original crew from the premier of TOS. He was brought in later because the Russians complained that Roddenberry didn't include them as part of the crew. But he's there from the beginning now which I didn't even consider until you brought up each characters age.
    From a dramatic standpoint, Kahn had to appear personally (when he killed Pike). If he used a nuke the movie would have ended there. Anticlimactic but it would have still plunged them into darkness. :)
    "...but it does beg the question of how Nero changed time in such a way that Chekov is close to a decade older."
    Timelines in science fiction are arbitrary barriers. Any infinite number of things can happen i.e. Chekov's parents met earlier because of the change(?). McCoy's parents met later? Your guess is as good as mine; but that kind of plays into the whole debate we're having. ;) 
    They sure have stirred things up!
  • In all honesty, I am not going to REALLY worry over the age thing, as it really is just expedient in assembling the crew to make them classmates. Chekov, in NuTrek, is, I believe, still younger than the rest, right? He was supposed to be a teen prodigy? You know, the "Russians complained" version of Chekov's original addition to the cast is one of those things that sounds good, but it's a myth perpetuated by the Great Bird. Chekov was originally created to have a younger character on the bridge to appeal to teenagers--in production memos, Gene Roddenberry points to "The Monkees" and notes he would like to add a "Davey Jones" type to the crew. Also, while Chekov isn't on the show till season 2, in "Wrath of Khan," Khan recognizes Chekov by name. While "Wrath" screenwriter/director Nick Meyer admits he made a mistake, Chekov actor Walter Koenig has always maintained that Chekov was an (unseen) engineering Ensign in Season One, before being shifted to bridge crew in Season Two--possibly it was in reference to this backstory that sees Chekov taking over engineering in Scotty's absence during "Into Darkness." Final thought: Koenig also jokes that Chekov made Khan wait for a restroom--hence, why Khan knows his face and name.
  • One of my fave action directors is John Glen, who directed all the 80's Bond films.  Yes, most of the scripts were pants..
    But he always made sure that the action sequences were good..  The rock climbing sequence in 'For Your Eyes Only' is my favourite one.
    I've not yet seen STID, and I've not seen many of Nolan's films..  So I can't offer praise or criticism, but it does come down to the script, and how good the director interprets it.
    I think Sam Mendes was perfect for Bond, as 'Skyfall' was, apart from a few little bits, the nest Bond for a long long time.
  • OK, Back on topic.
    I am going to hold up a giant, flashing neon sign saying "EDGAR WRIGHT!" as an example of a visionary director with vision. Of course credit has to go to writing partner and star Simon Pegg, (for the "Blood and Ice Cream" trilogy) as well. However, even his projects outside that trilogy, from "Spaced" to "Scott Pilgrim" are solidly acted, stilishly shot, and clearly told.
    Wright's theme is the iconoclast questioning his place in society and he does it damn well, every time.
  • I'm going to shock you all by saying I haven't seen Abram's work.  The comment about aging directors I partly agree with. I think more importantly it also has to do with money. Directors seem to lose some of their edge with mega budget films.  Maybe they seem to lose some of that drive to make a better film because they don't have that money worry. Most of the film flops lately seem to be in the 100$Million to $150Million range. Got to wonder if its due to the studio formula process or there are just a lot of bad scripts out there at the moment.
  • edited September 2013
    Just a quick correction: Sulu said "Mudd incident" not mission.
    Triem23- After watching Into Darkness a third time I'm still not convinced it's a WoK remake. First, Kirk and Spock have only been together a short time. Maybe a month or two judging from Pike's injuries as he is still walking with a cane from the first movie. Khan in this version is not the intellectual he was in the original timeline, although he proved to be a one man wrecking ball because his crew is still frozen and they can't help him. His vendetta was not  man vs. superman i.e. Kirk vs. Khan but rather superman vs. the machine i.e. Kahn vs. Starfleet via Admiral Marcus' "playing Khan" and holding his people captive. In the original time line Khan sought revenge on Kirk- not the organization. In the new timeline it was Spock that sought the personal vendetta for Kirk's death and wasn't about to let up on Kahn 'til Uhura stopped Khan, stopping Spock. Granted, there are a lot of elements from the original timeline but I would think that's to be expected as the same types of things can happen in both timelines. And if Doctor Who is to be believed, there are fixed points that HAVE to occur and non-fixed points which are left to circumstances; which really isn't an exclusive idea to Dr. Who but more of a general, common belief in lots of sci-fi.
    Khan wasn't banished to a planet for a lengthy period of time as in the original timeline either. In the new timeline he helps Admiral Marcus to build better weapons. He was also complicite in the planning of setting Kirk up to start a war with the Klingons. So I guess I have to say this movie is neither Space Seed nor WoK. It's a little of both at some points and yet it's not.
    All in all, I think there are plenty of indicators that set this "Khan" story closer to the period of Space Seed and it warps elements of both stories into one grand Hurrah! It's my contention that the story was handled this way to clear the way for all new adventures in upcoming movies. Keeping my fingers crossed. 
    I know the age thing isn't that important but Chekov said he was 17 and I think Bones may still be older than Kirk- could be at least a decade- as Bones had mentioned something in the first movie about being one of the "senior medical staff".  
    The Chekov story I got from a TV Trek special in which Roddenberry himself says Chekov was brought onto the show influenced by the Russians. Wouldn't surprise me if he was joking- he did mention in an article one time that maybe the Borg came from the union of man and Vger from Star Trek the motion picture (1979).
    All hail to the Great Bird of the Galaxy!
    I read earlier today that Abrams isn't going to direct a third Trek flick but he will still be involved. So who should be next to direct?
    http://youtu.be/gnZJjNjMg98
  • Duncan Jones. Get some brains back into Trek sci-fi.

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