Why J.J. Abrams Is Done Directing Sequels

J.J. Abrams

With the exception of Super 8, J.J. Abrams has spent the bulk of his career as a director basically continuing big screen universes. His feature debut saw him bring back Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt for Mission: Impossible III; he started a whole new franchise timeline with Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness; and most recently he resurrected Star Wars with The Force Awakens. Clearly that's a lot of sequels -- which is why the filmmaker is working to leave that world behind and take the helm of more original movies.

The subject came up when I had the pleasure of sitting down with J.J. Abrams one-on-one last week during the Los Angeles press day for the upcoming Star Trek Beyond. I brought up the subject, asking about his personal philosophy and legacy regarding franchise features and their larger place in the industry, and one of the interesting things he mentioned was the fact that he doesn't have any interest in directing sequels anymore (even though it's a promise that he's made to himself before). Abrams explained,

Here's the thing: I don't feel particularly snobby about the origins of a story, of the idea. If it's a book, if it's a song, if it's an existing movie, or ideally an original idea, an original script. I do feel just conceptually, do I want to do another sequel? No. I feel like I'm, as a director, I was done doing that when I did the first Star Trek movies. I'd done Mission and Star Trek, and then I did the next Star Trek - really because the idea of not working with these people was sort of too hard to deal with. Then I was really, really done... and then [Lucasfilm President] Kathleen Kennedy called.

Clearly Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a hiccup in J.J. Abrams' plans to stop directing sequels (he famously turned down the gig when it was first offered). Now that that adventure is over, however, he has his sights set on bringing more original characters, settings, scenarios and ideas to the big screen -- rather than continuing stories that were started years before.

Of course, it would be silly to think that J.J. Abrams is leaving the world of sequels and franchises behind entirely. Like he did with Star Trek Beyond, he still plans on playing key roles when it comes to the development of new movies based on established properties. Said Abrams,

I feel as a producer, involved in these projects, either having helped conceive of a new direction or cast the movies, I'm thrilled to help them continue in the best way that I can be of help. As a director, I really want to do something that's not a sequel.

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 10 Cloverfield Lane and Star Trek Beyond keeping him super busy in the last few months/years, J.J. Abrams has not yet revealed what he plans to make as his next directorial effort -- but it will surely stir up plenty of speculation in the years ahead. While we wait for this particular announcement, what do you think of Abrams' decision to not direct sequels anymore? Hit the comments section below with your thoughts.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.