~Updated~ May 20, 2013
Before probing JJ Abrams’s indexical use of Lens Flare in 2009′s Star Trek and 2011′s Super8 in my January 2012 piece (below), I want to provide a few updated observations about the technique’s use in Abrams’s most recent film.
Over its opening weekend of May 17, 2013, I watched Abrams’s newest lens flare experiment Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013). A number of people have remarked on twitter that in this newest film, Abrams has significantly cut down on his use of lens flare. I don’t think this is right. Instead, I want to suggest that Abrams employs the lens flare throughout Into Darkness but its use is smarter, varied, and at times even cheekily mocks or nods to his own overabundant use of the technique.
First, the lens flare here potentially pokes fun at itself while it is dually re-imagined as a vital dramatic element. One scene in particular uses the lens flare to directly correspond to and absorb an intensely dramatic moment. The new shipmate, Carol (Alice Eve), pleas desperately to her father Marcus (Peter Weller) to save the U.S.S. Enterprise from destruction (I won’t say more than this). As Carol’s urges escalate, so does the blue lens flare increase in intensity and size before almost completely overtaking the screen; we no longer see Carol’s body or face only the bright blue flare and its surrounding white halo. The lens flare becomes both comical and absurd (to those in the know or sick of the device), yet it also powerfully takes on the overabundance of dramatic emotion.It absorbs and expands the melodrama of the scene. No longer is the lens flare pure style or production design, the lens flare becomes a dynamic narrative and emotional presence of its own.