The Hollywood Reporter poses the question "Is J.J. Abrams the new Steven Spielberg?" and answers: not quite.
Spielberg and Abrams are consummate showmen who know how to deliver mainstream entertainment with the right mix of adventure, interesting characters and eye-popping spectacle. They also share the ability to inspire those around them with their creative energy, childlike enthusiasm for their craft and endless streams of ideas for multiple media.
But whatever their similarities in filmmaking style and creative taste, Abrams is not -- as yet -- in the same class as Spielberg.
"As yet"! As it happens, I'm not "as yet" in the same class as Steven Spielberg either, nor are the readers of this blog post (except you, Steven, obviously). And while J.J. Abrams may be rather more likely to some day rise to that level of cinematic influence and accomplishment than we are, at this point comparing the two men is simply inane.
As the article itself notes, by the time Spielberg was 42 (Abrams's current age), he'd directed over a dozen features, including Jaws, Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., and The Color Purple, and had a hand in writing or producing many others, including Poltergeist and Back to the Future (and, I've just discovered, a favorite little B-comedy of mine, Three O'Clock High, on which he was evidently an uncredited executive producer).
Abrams, by contrast, has directed two features: Star Trek, which was good, shallow fun, and Mission: Impossible III, which was merely shallow. Yes, he's done more TV work, but neither "Felicity" nor "Alias" exactly revolutionized the medium, and even "Lost," of which I remain a fan, has slipped considerably (and probably inevitably) from its early-seasons peak.
The Hollywood Reporter opened its piece by demanding, "Admit it, you've heard it too: 'J.J. is the next Spielberg.' " Actually, I hadn't. And I hope not to hear it again until Abrams has done much, much more to merit the comparison.