What if Stephen King and J.K. Rowling brainstormed an idea together? Just how big would the potential audience be?
Well, moviemaking heavyweights J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg began collaborating on a hush-hush project a year ago called "Super 8" that they concocted from discussions of their own early filmmaking experiences. Despite Bad Robot's Cheney-level secrecy, bits and pieces about the project (some right, some wrong) started bubbling up last week.
Well, I saw the teaser trailer last night, and here's what I can finally tell you:
Abrams has written the original script and will direct the film this fall for a summer 2011 release through Paramount, where Bad Robot resides. Spielberg is producing the project, which will be in the $45 million-$50 million range.
It has nothing to do with "Cloverfield" and will be shot traditionally (i.e. not hand-held). It's potentially a huge movie for Paramount, despite its midrange budget, which is why it's got a slot during Paramount's already crowded 2011 summer slate.
The studio will have to fit it in with "Thor," "Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom," "Transformers 3," "First Avenger: Captain America" and the Abrams-produced "Mission: Impossible IV." And "Star Trek 2" isn't expected until June 29, 2012, with an as-yet-unfinished screenplay by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof, so Abrams could still direct that after "Super 8" if he chose (which, technically, he hasn't yet).
But on to the trailer.
It's 90 seconds long and plays out with utter simplicity. I'll leave it to others to ruin the surprises for the multitudes flocking to see it run in front of "Iron Man 2's" midnight screenings tonight (the trailer is not actually attached to the "IM2" reels, though they are locked away together in combo-locked canisters as they're delivered this morning to theaters at 8 a.m.).
But it's straightforward, effective and very, very enticing. Abrams shot it independently of the actual film shoot about a month ago, and the Bad Robot team cut together the teaser while putting together his new NBC series "Undercovers" and the trailer for their November release "Morning Glory" over the past month.
In terms of tweaking audience appetite for absolutely having to see the movie, Abrams and Spielberg are masters. This quick, visceral and creepy tease of "Super 8" certainly does the trick.
What it doesn't let anyone in on is the plot of the movie or the rest of the context that we had heard actually generated the idea. Namely, the possibility that a group of kids in 1979 are playing around making movies with their Super 8 cameras (as Abrams and Spielberg did as kids) and accidentally capture something ... sinister, on film.
Now, despite all our requests, Abrams and camp have refused to confirm anything about the plot. Abrams has said he doesn't want to comment on this -- he'd rather maintain the mystery and let the images speak for themselves.
Fair enough, and certainly expected. So take all these plot descriptions you're reading around the web with a giant heap of salt.
But the project is being produced by Amblin along with Bad Robot. So if you can imagine the supernatural styles of current BR and early '80s Spielberg combined, you should have a pretty good idea of where all this is going.
Bad Robot's first feature project, "Cloverfield," was rolled out in a similarly out-of-nowhere fashion, its teaser also filmed and cut together independent of the movie shoot. That teaser was thrown on the front of "Transformers" when it hit theaters in the summer of 2007. That monster movie ultimately grossed $168 million worldwide for Paramount when it opened in January 2008.
But again, "Super 8" has nothing to do with "Cloverfield." And "Super 8" is a solo J.J. Abrams movie, something we've never seen before and something sure to play much bigger.
For added pleasure, if you want to get an explanation from Abrams himself about why he handles his creative life with such passionate protectiveness, check out the TED speech he gave two years ago about the Mystery Box.
As for "Super 8," we're all gonna have to wait another year until that mysterious train pulls into the station.