What’s up with this picture of Star Trek XI director JJ Abrams and a box? It is a mystery. That was one of the subjects of Abrams talk at this weekend’s TED (Technology Entertainment Design) Conference. Abrams discussed how technology was ‘democratizing entertainment.’ and also about how important mystery is to him, via Boing Boing:
He also showed us a box from Lou Tannen’s Magic Store in New York that he bought many years ago. It has a big question mark printed on it. It’s a mystery box that contains "$50 worth of magic for $15." He has never opened the box and he says he never will."What I love this box is that I find myself drawn to infinite possibility — mystery is the catalyst for imagination. In my work, mystery boxes are everywhere."
Another blog has more on Abrams talk, and how this approach to mystery applies to film:
Mystery, he tells us, can be more important than knowledge. The intentional withholding of information is what makes some of the most exciting aspects of cinema – we rarely see the shark in Jaws, the alien in Alien. Had the shark robot worked in Jaws, the film wouldn’t have been as compelling. We watch a long, non-action clip from Jaws as a reminder that these films aren’t about action, but about divorce, belonging, finding your way in a new town.
The movie theatre itself is a mystery box. “Sometimes the moments the lights go down is the best part.”
Anyone who watches Lost can see how much Abrams like a good mystery. In the past Abrams has talked about how some of his favorite Trek episodes are those that have mystery and an element of scariness to them. It is a good bet that in Trek XI we will see this penchant for mystery, and also not having everything spelled out for the audience. Also this view goes some way to explain the Abrams cone of silence around the film, especially discussing the plot.