Director J.J. Abrams has always been a man of mystery. From the Rambaldi mysteries of Alias to the air-tight secrecy surrounding Star Trek Into Darkness, Abrams has always been surprisingly successful at keeping his secrets secret, a notable accomplish in the era of the internet. Whether you find it refreshing or annoying, Abrams has stuck to his guns with this approach, even if it was to the detriment of the final product.
In an interview with EW, Abrams explains his approach to storytelling and the success he’s seen from being so enigmatic. Abrams told EW:
Why do I want to see [a behind-the-scenes element of the film] if it’s something I don’t even understand yet? Let me experience it so I know what the movie is and have the opportunity to get sucked into that experience, and feel like, ‘Oh my god, that world is real, that ship is real, that battle is real … It’s only fun to keep things quiet when it finally comes out as scheduled, because then you feel like, ‘Oh I didn’t just spend six months ruining the movie for people. It’s not fun during the experience of withholding. Because then you sound like a coy bastard.’
This is a good approach to storytelling, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. While not showing the monster in Cloverfield was a good thing — the movie is found-footage style, so the unclear glimpses of the monster even in the movie made sense — it wasn’t as effective in Super 8. The movie suffered from not getting the full impact of the monster and it just felt silly when it was eventually shown in the third act.
Having a level of mystery is a good thing when it comes to the film’s story or plot twists. It builds excitement and anticipation for the movie. But just make sure the film’s secrets are worth the trouble of being surreptitious. Otherwise it would come off as annoying to some.
Take Lost, for instance. Many felt that the answers Lost provided weren’t worth the six years fans had put into the series. The series’ writers wrote themselves into a corner and it was virtually impossible to live up to the audience’s expectations. So the final result was a lukewarm series finale with a lame “Lost Heaven” reveal and explanation.
Hopefully, Star Trek Into Darkness will not reveal that the crew of the Starship Enterprise had been in purgatory the whole time…