Let’s say that the next project that lures J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) to the director’s chair is like a puzzle. Vulture has a few of the pieces, and while I have no idea what picture is on the front of the box, it’s a pretty safe bet that once completed, I will be immensely satisfied. Here’s what we have so far:
-Piece 1: The Abrams script is “a tip of the hat to [Spielberg's] movies of the 70′s and early 80′s” like Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T., and Abrams wants Spielberg involved in some capacity to make sure the homage is legit.
-Piece 2: The narrative revolves around “everyday people whose personal relationships are tested when they are thrown up against extraordinarily fantastic–and possibly other-worldly–events.”
-Piece 3: The budget is low, near Cloverfield‘s modest $25 million
-Piece 3a: One source referred to it as a kind of “anti-Avatar”
After the jump, let’s try and fill in some of the blanks: I think the Spielberg thing is a corner piece, and that Avatar comparison looks kind of like a cloud . . .
The Spielberg-as-inspiration info is both the most fascinating tidbit and the hardest to clarify. You have to respect that he’s reaching out to Spielberg for his input. Apparently Abrams would love to have the legendary director as an executive producer, but he’d settle for an “adviser” credit as long as Spielberg approved his intentions. That shows some serious reverence.
The report describes the project as “an interpretation of Spielberg’s earlier films” with a personal bent. So, just to be clear, let’s assume that means it’s not a remake; what does “interpretation” mean in such a context? If I recall, Abrams remarked that the genesis of Cloverfield was a visit to a shop in Japan with shelves full of Godzilla merchandise. Via the Times Online:
“It began in Japan, in the summer of 2006. On a press tour to promote his directorial debut, Mission Impossible: III, J. J. Abrams, the producer of Cloverfield, slipped into a Tokyo toy store with his son, and was overwhelmed by the amount of Godzilla merchandise on display. ‘He realised that Godzilla was a national icon for the Japanese,” explains Reeves. “He felt that we needed our own national monster.’”
Perhaps Project Spielberg is to attempting recapture the spirit of E.T. (the film) and E.T. (the extraterrestrial) for a modern society–to create a “national alien”, if you will. Though I’m not really sure how literal I’m speaking there, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Amblin-style family-friendly science fiction come out of Bad Robot. The man has three children now, which is often when those Hollywood folk get the urge to make movies meant for their kids.
Why aim for a low budget? Well, I have no idea. But as long as I’m indulging in rampant E.T.-based speculation . . . For all its flying-bicycle grandeur, E.T. wasn’t particularly epic for most of its runtime. It was mostly about a boy and his alien. Perhaps the self-imposed restriction on funds is an attempt to rein in the story, to avoid an Avatar-ian scope, to keep the narrative focused. Plus, you can indeed make a personal movie for $25 million, but you can really only make a studio movie for $100+ million.
To sum up, it sounds like I’m hoping for a PG science fiction film centers around handful of characters, one of whom is an alien. If that’s not what the picture on the front of the box looks like (and really, is there any chance it is?), it’s probably because Abrams is infinitely better at designing puzzles than I am.