JJ Abrams loves secrets.

By now, anyone who knows his work knows that he loves to play games with his audience, both onscreen and in the way he markets his movies.  There's a brilliance to the way his game starts from the moment he releases a trailer, or even from the way he and his collaborators design their trailers.  They shroud their productions in total secrecy and they try various ways to obfuscate what they're doing, and they're as good at it as anyone in town.

So what if I told you JJ Abrams had a mystery box called "Super 8" all gift-wrapped and ready for everyone to open this week, and there hasn't been a single word written about it online so far?

Impressive, don't you think?

And absolutely true.  When audiences sit down for screenings of "Iron Man 2" this weekend, they're going to see trailers for other summer movies that they've already heard of, and then they'll also get their first look at a movie that Abrams is producing via a teaser trailer he directed, much like the teaser trailer that announced "Cloverfield" to an unsuspecting audience in front of "Transformers."  That was almost a complete surprise when it happened, although someone did manage to pierce the veil of secrecy before the trailer showed up.

So what is this trailer?  What, precisely, is in JJ's new mystery box?

Wait... what's the mystery box, you ask?  Well, I'll let JJ explain it himself:

 

 

The idea of playing with the audience and engaging them on more than a passive level is an important one, especially these days as media saturation is more pronounced than every before.  By the time most films hit theaters, the audience almost feels like they've seen everything, like the act of watching the film is almost a formality.

Abrams, on the other hand, seems desperate to move in the other direction, using secrecy as a way of enhancing the pleasure, so when you finally step into the theater, you're rabid to see how the bits and pieces you've already seen all tie together.  Pulling back the curtain on the secret works much the same way.  Right now, I've got lots of bits and pieces, and putting them all together to get a picture of what we're going to see this weekend has been incredibly difficult.  By design.

For example, I can tell you that the film is called "Super 8."  I can also tell you that it is rumored to be a "Cloverfield" sequel.  That part cannot be verified, though, so take it as rumor.  How it might tie in to the first film is unclear at this point, but I would imagine the trailer will make that connection explicit so that audiences basically walk out after two hours of amazing Iron Man action talking about a two minute trailer as the most exciting thing they saw.  What I can't tell you is what you're actually going to see in the trailer, and frankly, I don't want to know yet.

It appears that Abrams will not be directing this film, and the more I've poked into it, the more convinced I am that this is not the movie that Abrams is rumored to be teaming with Steven Spielberg to make.  At first, I thought they were connected, but if this is a "Cloverfield" follow-up, I have trouble believing Spielberg would suddenly jump onboard now.  Instead, that's most likely a different secret Abrams project.  And if this isn't "Cloverfield 2," then I'm even more excited.

Prints of "Iron Man 2" are already showing up at theaters nationwide, and all of those prints come with a final reel locked in a film canister that has a coded electronic lock on it.  Check this out: 

Instructions letter for Iron Man 2 print

You cannot use your code to open that canister until Thursday afternoon, meaning projectionists are going to have to work quickly to get their prints put together in time for the midnight screenings, especially if they plan to do a tech run first.  The reason for that secrecy is not only the easter egg scene at the very end of the film after all the credits, but also because the "Super 8" trailer is in that can, ready to be built onto the prints.

Shooting a teaser trailer for a film that hasn't been made yet is uncommon enough, but the idea of doing it under a fake title and even tricking the crew into thinking they're working on a remake of a teen sex comedy is downright fiendish.  I love the lengths that Abrams and crew go to on these surprises, and knowing just this little bit that we know now, I'm dying to see what "Super 8" is, if it really does tie in to "Cloverfield," and exactly how Abrams has baited this particular hook.

Game on, JJ.  Let's see what you've done this time.

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