Star Wars: The Force Awakens: jj abrams visual style
This morning I came across a well-edited video essay titled Star Wars – The Force of Abrams by Dan Fox (aka Hello Film Guy). The video is essentially an examination of filmmaker JJ Abrams‘ visual storytelling skills, theorizing how his methods might affect Star Wars: The Force Awakens. How will the JJ Abrams visual style affect the next installment of the Star Wars series? Find out after the jump.

Note: The video essay focuses only on visual style and doesn’t delve into the reoccurring plot devices or story beats of Abrams work. So you can feel free to watch this if you’re trying to avoid spoilers or speculation about the plot of The Force Awakens. That said, the video does use clips from the two released trailers.

The Star Wars – The Force of Abrams video essay is very critical of of JJ Abrams’ visual aesthetic, including his signature camera moves and editing techniques. And no, this is not a video bitching about the over-use of lens flares. Fox employs clips from all of Abrams’ movies and some of his television directorial efforts, including Mission: Impossible 3, Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Super 8, Lost and more. He also shows sequences from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer and the original Star Wars trilogy.

Fox theorizes that Abrams’ obsession with trying to add energy to a scene (questionable zooms and pans, flashing lights, camera shaking, sparks…etc) sometimes takes away from the readability of a moment or action beat. He also blasts JJ Abrams’ lack of planning on some action sequences, which results in a confusingly edited sequence with no sense of geography or intent.

Fox highlights Abrams’ long shots, which often times have brilliant blocking, but criticizes Abrams for his overuse of close-ups and long push-ins. At one point the video points out that the first 12 minutes of Mission: Impossible 3 feature only a minute and fifty seconds of shots that aren’t some form of close-up (Unlike Fox, I believe Abrams uses the close-ups to great effect in the house party sequence). And finally the video highlights some of Abrams’ weird or odd editing decisions.

The best parts of this video essay are when Fox puts the film school criticisms on pause to make observations about how JJ Abrams’ visual style might play out in the Star Wars universe, wondering if it will match up with the previous installments of the series. I wish the essay focused more on this and not on the unrelated criticisms, but I think the video is worth a watch for any fan of Abrams, Star Wars, or cinematography in general.

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