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J.J. Abrams absolutely adores the use of lens flare. The director’s prevalent cinematic trait has been apparent in Mission: Impossible III, Super 8, and, in particular, Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. But now that Abrams has transferred his Star allegiance over from Trek to Wars, the question of how much lens flare will the filmmaker use in The Force Awakens has arisen? And those of you who were worried that Abrams’ predilection would manifest again can rest easy, because the director promised that he’s kicked his habit. Well, almost.
On Saturday evening, nerds everywhere rejoiced as Stephen Colbert, the new host of The Late Show and all-round stupendous man, interviewed J.J. Abrams at a fundraiser for the Montclair Film Festival at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Obviously, Star Wars: The Force Awakens came up. According to MTV, Colbert made sure to ask Abrams about the director’s use of lens flare in the film, and, to the relief of the crowd, the director insisted that he "allowed lens flares to take a back seat." I can only imagine that the crowd then responded by immediately rising to their feet, whooping, yelling, and thanking the cinematic Gods.
Now let me just underline the fact that, rather than being completely absent from the film, there is some use of lens flare in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In fact, ever the eagle eye, Stephen Colbert pointed out that he’d counted three uses in the 2-minute trailer alone.
But rather than simply baring even the use of the words "lens" and "flare" on set, J.J. Abrams used a particularly geeky quote to dismiss Dan Mindel, his director of photography, when the opportunity to use it arose. Every time that the chance came up, Abrams told Mindel, "These are not the flares we’re looking for."
J.J. Abrams’ addiction to lens flare had been getting out of hand. This reached its zenith with Star Trek Into Darkness, which, rather astonishingly, used the effect 826 times. Before then, Star Trek alone used lens flare on 721 occasions, while it’s just as noticeable in Super 8, too.
With The Force Awakens Abrams insisted he dismissed the stylistic choice because he wanted to do the story justice, and that he didn’t want to differentiate too far away from the previous films. He declared:
Everything we’re doing in this movie is standing on the shoulders of the six movies that have come before it. The whole movie required an acknowledgement of what’s come before.
We’ve only got a few short weeks before we know exactly where The Force Awakens fits into the Star Wars universe, as it finally hits cinemas on December 18, 2015. I'm going to boldly predict that it's going to fare quite nicely.