|I picked this poster for a reason...|
That having been said, I think Abrams' greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. He's an "Idea Man", but I feel he lacks the attention to detail and the ability or willingness to follow those ideas through to their logical or possible conclusions. In the same way that a CEO is supposed to be the grand visionary for a company, steering it along a course towards greatness, Abrams is the visionary of his stories, pushing them towards what he believes to be a great finished product.
But at the end of the day, I think this kind of storytelling relies heavily on the WOW factor. It's Vegas, baby. You dive in, bathe in the glitz and glamor, become awed by the sensory overload and feel like you're having the time of your life. Then you wake up around three in the afternoon the next day with a raging hangover, carpet mouth, and you're about five grand in the hole. When I watch an Abrams story, I admit to being caught up in the stirring visuals, the powerful score, the drama and excitement. But about an hour after I walk out of the theater, I'm already angry with myself for falling prey to what I feel to be sub-par writing, especially when it comes to building a story that makes sense.
(Very minor spoiler ahead that you see in the trailers, so it's not even really a spoiler.)
I feel like Abrams must walk up to a big white-board and scribble down a handful of "moments" he wants to see happen, and then finds a way, come hell or high water, to make those moments connect with each other over the course of the film, whether those connections make sense or not. I think this holds especially true to the opening sequence of the film, on the planet of Nibiru. Why is the Enterprise, a gigantic space ship, studying a primitive planet by sitting submerged in the ocean? If you want to hide a space ship, how about you hide it in space? Clearly, Abrams had in his mind the vision of the Enterprise rising majestically out of the water as primitive natives look up at it in awe, water pouring off the saucer section in a brilliant cascade while Michael Giacchino's score trumpets all around us. Was the moment impressively stirring? Sure. Did it make any sense? None whatsoever. Even to the point where Abrams had the gall to allow Scotty to rant and rave about how stupid it was to hide a space ship in the ocean. And of course, being in the ocean, in order for them to have to do what they do next, they need to emerge from the water and get seen by the natives, while if they'd just remained in orbit, according to the logic of the film, they'd have been all set.
It's these sorts of fragile premises that appear all throughout the film. I wonder if any of Abrams' writers or other coworkers ever question the logic of these scenarios, giving a little pushback or trying to poke holes in the logic? It makes me feel like all writers, but especially those who write fantasy or science fiction stories, should participate in some tabletop role-playing games. As one who's been gaming for going on 20 years now, I can tell you that nothing picks apart your "grand vision" faster than a handful of players who excel at out of the box thinking. If nothing else, you will become much better at defending your own ideas, and building ideas that make sense. If the Chief Engineer of your starship - one of the most senior crew members aboard - can't figure out why you decided to plonk your gigantic space-faring vessel in the ocean, maybe it's a stupid idea for your movie.
Just a thought.