super 8

Spielberg and Abrams: How Their Minds Work Alike

Judging from the fanboy freak-out that resulted from the news that Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams would be collaborating on the (apparent) alien film Super 8, which opens summer 2011, it was as if an ancient prophecy had finally been fulfilled. The two men — both genre legends, powerful producers, and pop legends — are kindred spirits; whether you’re talking about the stylistic, thematic, and narrative tropes that Abrams has embraced from growing up with Spielberg’s films, or other influences that have deeply affected them both, their movies feel crafted from the same mind. So as production for Super 8 gears up in West Virginia, with Spielberg producing and Abrams writing and directing — and Kyle Chandler and Elle Fanning just cast! — we decided to survey the two men’s work and show their shared calling cards, from a love of The Twilight Zone and vehicular homicide to their ever-present daddy issues and abiding love of the literal cliffhanger.

Finally, one of the most durable traditions of film and TV is the cliffhanger, and Spielberg takes his responsibility to this history very seriously … and literally. He is one of American film’s leading defender of the literal cliffhanging dangle (beginning with his 1970 TV work on Marcus Welby, M.D., pictured), with characters clinging by their fingertips in all four Raiders films, both Jurassic Park pictures, Minority Report, War of the Worlds, and more. Click through for a brief history of Spielbergian hangs, and then see how Abrams has accepted the torch.
Indy holds on in The Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Short Round dangles in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
And Indy just keeps holding on in The Temple of Doom.
Kids cling in Jurassic Park.
While an adult dangles alone over dinos in The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
And everyone dangles over the dinos at the bottom of this Lost World air shaft.
How durable is the device? There are even literal cliffhangers in the future of Minority Report.
And at the end of the world in War of the Worlds
Spielberg’s the master, but Abrams can’t resist the gambit, either. In at least one show (Alias, pictured) and two features, Star Trek and MI: 3, J. J. Abrams has given him a hang for his money.
Tom Cruise likes to hang out with both Spielberg and Abrams (here, in MI: 3).
J.J.’s new Star Trek literally began with a young Kirk’s cliffhanger.
And Kirk lived to cliffhang another day.
Spielberg and Abrams: How Their Minds Work Alike