Over the course of his acclaimed career, director, writer and producer JJ Abrams has conceived of dozens upon dozens of highly creative and intriguing projects across mediums - from movies to television to video games. However, for one reason or another, a surprisingly high number of these cool-sounding ventures never fully materialized despite being announced and discussed publicly. Let's take a closer look at some of the most notable TV shows, films, and gaming titles that Abrams dreamed up but we sadly never got to see - at least not yet!
Lost Video Game and Show Spinoffs
Given its massive popularity in the late 2000s, it's no surprise that Abrams had big ambitions to expand the world of his hit ABC show Lost through some spinoff projects. But these hoped-for extensions of the addictive Lost universe ultimately did not end up panning out as intended.
The Much-Hyped Lost Destiny Show Concept
In the afterglow of Lost's highly watched finale in 2010, Abrams developed and wrote a script for an ambitious new spinoff series entitled Lost: Destiny. This follow-up show was intended to pick up at least some of the story threads left dangling at the end of the original and reunite fans with the core survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, like Hurley, Kate Austen, Claire Littleton, and others as they continued exploring the island's many remaining mysteries and interacting with entities like the Man in Black. Abrams shopped the concept around to networks, aiming to capture the lighting once again. However, in the end, ABC declined to order the high-profile spinoff to series, leaving its "destiny" unrealized.
The Much-Discussed Lost Video Game
In 2006, while Lost was still going strong in its second season, Abrams confirmed in multiple interviews that there were indeed plans in the works for a companion Lost video game. This type of immersive, narrative-driven tie-in game could have allowed fans to explore the creepy environments of the island firsthand and cultivate alliances with characters like John Locke, Mr. Eko, and Ben Linus. Gamers may have even gained access to some areas and story corners of the Lost world not shown in the on-screen series. However, despite Abrams' assurances at the time that the project was under development, the highly anticipated Lost game ultimately got shelved before ever being released to the public.
Abrams' Unmade Forays Into Movies
In addition to the ballyhooed but ultimately aborted attempts to create follow-up shows and games based on Lost, Abrams and his prolific Bad Robot production company have also announced many other awesome-sounding movie projects over the years that, for one reason or another, never ended up coming to fruition.
The Untitled and Ill-Fated Valve/Portal Movie
In early 2013, on the heels of his success revitalizing the Star Trek film franchise, Abrams let it be known that he was collaborating with the acclaimed game developer Valve to produce a big screen movie set in the immersive, puzzle-based world of Valve's beloved Portal games. This had the potential to be a landmark, outside-the-box film project, especially with Abrams' creative vision and Valve's interactive storytelling and world-building expertise combining forces. But sadly, a few years later in 2016, Abrams revealed in an interview that the much-anticipated Portal movie adaptation had ultimately fizzled out in development due to an inability to get the project's script and vision to fully click. So gamers were denied the chance to see Chell, GLaDOS and the demented testing labs come to life on the big screen.
The Mystery That Went Unsolved with Super 8
When Abrams' sci-fi throwback Super 8 premiered in 2011, the director envisioned it as the launch of a larger, interconnected on-screen universe filled with additional installments packed with cryptic supernatural occurrences, not unlike his earlier Cloverfield cinematic world. In interviews, Abrams compared his grand plans for an unfolding Super 8-led mystery series to shows like The Twilight Zone and hinted there were already multiple outline and script ideas in development for sequels. However, after Super 8 received somewhat mixed reviews and middling box office, the planned successors never materialized, leaving us without resolution to the paranormal events and provocative narrative hints contained within the movie.
A Range of Other Stillborn Movies
The Lost spinoffs, Portal adaptation and intended Super 8 universe were far from the only Abrams film concepts that never made it out of the planning stages and into actual production. A few other examples include:
- A movie based on the hugely popular Valve video game series Half-Life. Abrams announced intentions to adapt it in 2013 but thus far it remains vaporware.
- A sci-fi thriller entitled God Particle that was set to be directed by Abrams but got stuck in development hell and cancelled in the mid-2010s.
- A reboot of the obscure 1980s Marvel comics series and TV movie Cloak & Dagger that Abrams was attached to for a period but got abandoned before filming.
So Abrams' streak of movies announced but ultimately unmade stretches across genres from science fiction, to comic book, to video game adaptations.
Cancelled TV Shows
Abrams' Bad Robot production outfit has developed dozens of television projects over the years, with many getting greenlit to pilot and even series order. But quite a few seemed promising on the surface before getting passed over by networks or cancelled prematurely.
The Intriguing-But-Doomed Anomaly
This conspiracy thriller project centered around an average American man who gets caught up in investigating a series of unexplained, abnormal world events that point to the existence of something sinister. Abrams developed and sold the pilot premise to Paramount in 2011, with plans to direct the pilot himself. However, despite the pedigree and exciting concept, Anomaly never made it past the scripting stage as Paramount ultimately passed on taking it to production as a series.
Additional Dead-on-Arrival Shows
Beyond just Anomaly, here are a couple other Abrams TV projects over the years that seemed cool initially before dying on the vine and never making it to air:
- Locust Point - This police drama centered around a decoy program was setup at CBS in 2013 with Abrams executive producing. But it didn't get far, failing to even make it to pilot filming before CBS jettisoned it from their development slate.
- A Wonder Woman origins series that would have centered on a pre-superhero Diana Prince in her early 20s trying to make it as an entrepreneur in the seedy world of Silicon Valley startups. Abrams sold the concept to NBC in 2011, but they passed on bringing it to series.
Why So Many Strikeouts?
Given how many times Abrams has managed to get networks and studios to bite on his TV and movie ideas initially, only to have them fall apart down the line, it's worth exploring why he seems to have so many failures for each success. There are a few structural factors that likely contribute to the high strikeout rate:
- Abrams always has a very full plate, so projects inevitably end up getting deprioritized and stall out in development limbo.
- Networks and studios can be fickle and change their programming strategies, meaning things they were once gung-ho on get abandoned.
- Abrams tends to think ambitiously big picture when conceiving stories, but execution often proves challenging.
Of course, the projects that do somehow run the gauntlet, fend off cancellation or abandonment and make it through to release tend to be major hits. So Abrams is clearly doing something right even with his choosy track record.
Could Any of These See New Life?
Just because something doesn't make it through the initial development cycle doesn't necessarily mean it's gone for good. Tinseltown has plenty of examples of dormant projects rising from the ashes years later in rebooted or evolved forms. So are there any glimmers of hope for Abrams' inert creations?
Reviving Lost: Destiny
Perhaps if interest in a Lost revival ever heats up down the line, Abrams could dust off his ideas for Lost: Destiny and finally bring it to life on a streaming platform, letting fans catch up with their favorite island survivors.
Rekindling the Portal Movie
Abrams insists his collaboration with Valve on a Portal film adaptation isn't dead forever, so maybe with enough fan pressure we could eventually see a reboot of this project that gets it right.
Cracking the Half-Life Code
If Abrams ever does find the right narrative hook and director to adapt the Half-Life games into a film or show, fans would rejoice.
While most abandoned projects stay that way, sometimes the stars align years later, so never say never!
Conclusion: Assessing Abrams' Hits and Misses
When stepping back to look at Abrams' career holistically, it's clear that he swings hard creatively and that results in a lot of strikeouts along with his standout hits. For example, the inability to get ambitious projects like a Portal movie or Lost follow-up show off the ground stings. Similarly, TV concepts like Anomaly sounded cool on paper before flaming out. This unfortunately might leave some fans feeling let down when things they were hyped up for end up dead in the water.
However, we should keep things in perspective. Abrams deserves credit for constantly thinking big picture and outside the box, which naturally lends itself to projects that seem risky on paper and struggle to coalesce. And when Abrams' ideas do somehow survive the treacherous development gauntlet and make it through to release, they tend to be major pop culture moments we cherish. Just look at zeitgeist-capturing hits like Lost, Alias, the revival of Star Trek and more.
So while Abrams' willingness to fail and abandon concepts prematurely can be frustrating, it's also a feature of what makes him a successful impresario able to stick the landing on projects that truly resonate. As long as he keeps dreaming up thrilling new premises, there's always the chance a few more will eventually defy the odds and blossom rather than perish. Here's hoping!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do so many of JJ Abrams' projects end up not happening?
There are a few core reasons why so many of Abrams' movie, TV, and gaming concepts never make it all the way through development and to final release. These include projects stalling out in early phases, networks getting cold feet and passing on pilots, budget constraints, scheduling conflicts with cast or studios, or creative directions falling apart. Even hugely successful creators with a proven track record like Abrams run into tons of hurdles and roadblocks.
What was the story premise of the unproduced Lost: Destiny show?
Lost: Destiny was conceived as a spinoff series that would pick up some of the main narrative threads after the finale of the original Lost show and reunite the audience with core survivors like Hurley, Kate Austen, Claire Littleton, and others as they continued having mind-bending adventures on the mysterious island setting.
Are there still possibilities of Abrams reviving any old projects?
Definitely. The movie and TV industry frequently recycles old ideas or reboots aborted projects years later with new people or creative approaches involved. So it's plausible Abrams could revive concepts like his Portal movie collaboration or the Half-Life adaptation someday if the circumstances aligned better.
What are some of the biggest failures or letdowns from Abrams?
Some of the most disappointing unmade projects that Abrams teased publicly but weren't able to pull off include the Lost follow-up show Lost: Destiny, his plans for a Portal movie with Valve, and the hope that Super 8 would launch a mystery cinematic universe.
Does Abrams have too many unfinished projects and concepts?
Abrams certainly has a lot of announced ideas that never get completed. But this is somewhat inevitable given his creative ambition and tendency to think big picture about expansive universes. As long as he keeps delivering hits at a decent clip, his high concept creative process seems to be working.
What upcoming projects could redeem Abrams and his lost ideas?
Many fans are excited for Abrams' involvement in future Star Wars and DC projects now that he has stepped away from Star Trek. If he could nail something like a Superman reboot it would help make up for projects that never got made.