By now everyone who’s a fan of film and who frequents the Internet has to have noticed that director JJ Abrams’ films have their own unique aesthetic that heavily involves the overuse of extraneous lens flares. It’s almost impossible to watch one of his movies and not become aware of the blinding lights, and it’s almost equally impossible to talk movies on the Internet without seeing all of the memes that have been created to make fun of him for them. Don’t believe it? Just look at the image that’s been floating around the Internet above, or watch this supercut that College Humor did of every lens flare that appears in Abrams’ first Star Trek movie. The phenomenon is undeniable.
One thing we’ve never really known is why Abrams overuses the effect so much, or how he feels about all of the flack that his films have gotten because of it. Or, we haven’t known until now, because Crave Online recently caught up with the director and, like a bunch of heroes, flat out asked him what the lens flare thing is all about. Think that’s a little brazen? Even more shocking than someone asking a celebrity a straightforward question in this day and age was Abrams’ response ‐ not only did he own up to overusing lens flares, he flat out apologized to fans for it.
Abrams addressed the pseudo-controversy by saying, “I know I get a lot of grief for that. But I’ll tell you, there are times when I’m working on a shot, I think, ‘Oh this would be really cool… with a lens flare.’ But I know it’s too much, and I apologize. I’m so aware of it now. I was showing my wife an early cut of Star Trek Into Darkness and there was this one scene where she was literally like, ‘I just can’t see what’s going on. I don’t understand what that is.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I went too nuts on this.’”
“This is how stupid it was,” he then added. “I actually had to use ILM [Industrial Light & Magic] to remove lens flare in a couple of shots, which is, I know, moronic. But I think admitting you’re an addict is the first step towards recovery.”
When has a film maker ever in the history of movies described the choices he made on a particular project as being “moronic?” Ever? It’s amazing how refreshing it feels to hear someone in the public eye openly admit to making a mistake, and it’s amazing how willing we are to forgive someone a transgression as soon as they do so. If only the people involved in real public scandals could learn to take this approach, maybe our 24-hour news cycle wouldn’t be so completely choked with tabloid filth. Wishing for that is probably wishing for the impossible, but in the immortal words of Rocky Balboa, “I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!”
At the very least, we can now take comfort in the knowledge that we’re going to be able to watch the new Star Wars movies without having to worry about being taken out of the stories by extraneous lens flares. With as many worries as there are for geeks concerning more Star Wars movies already, every little load off helps.