The Official M. Night Shyamalan Rant
For those of you still wondering if you ought to see writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s newest “film,” The Last Airbender, in spite of its 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this post is for you. Don’t. Just don’t. There are some movies that are so bad that they’re funny. The Last Airbender is not such a film. It’s just awful, perhaps one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.
The acting is atrocious (though Dev Patel does seem to try in at least one scene) and it’s only overshadowed by the fact that the script is easily one of the worst things ever committed to screen. I say this, not only as a screenwriter myself, but also as someone who has seen all five Scary Movie’s, Date Movie, Meet the Spartans, Superhero Movie, and Stan Helsing (the newest of the load of shit Leslie Nielsen has chosen for the latter half of his career). Hell, even the special effects manage to get boring within the first ten minutes.
It was The Last Airbender that brought me to this rant about the once-awesome writer/director M. Night Shyamalan.
Mr. Shyamalan started off great. Maybe that’s why I’m so pissed off at him. His first major release, The Sixth Sense, was a truly excellent film. It was a smart, well written, fantastically acted thriller that quickly engrained itself in popular culture (“I see dead people” anyone?). For those not in the know, the film tells the story of a young boy who sees ghosts, and his psychiatrist who is haunted by his inability to help a former patient. Even if you haven’t seen it, you probably already know the “big twist ending.” Still, it’s definitely a film I’d recommend to just about anyone.
His second film, Unbreakable, was the tale of a security guard who miraculously survives a major accident, and the crippled comic-book collector who thinks the security guard might have super powers. It’s a dark and realistic take on the super hero genre that remains both superbly written and excellently acted. Not only is Unbreakable easily one of my favorite films of all time, but I honestly believe that it paved the way for superhero films being taken seriously far more so than Blade or X-Men ever could. Definitely worth a watch… or seven.
Then there was Signs. Let me just say that while Signs wasn’t quite as good as M. Night’s previous two efforts, it definitely was a good movie. Signs is about an alien invasion from the perspective of a family in rural Pennsylvania. Though it’s really more a movie about faith. For the most part, it keeps with M. Night’s trend of great writing and acting (the scene discussing miracles is amazing and heartfelt, while the ending doesn’t exactly stand up to logical thought). It was here that Shyamalan proved definitively that he could handle child actors flawlessly and whip up suspenseful and downright creepy scenes like nobody’s business. I’d recommend it but for most people it’s a love it or hate it kind of deal.
By this point, I was totally hooked. I was crazy excited about The Village and I saw it the day it came out. The Village was the turning point for M. Night’s career. It was half brilliant, half atrocious. The first half was the brilliant half, crafting characters and situations that had me thinking that it would become one of my favorite films of all time. It created a dark fairytale atmosphere that I didn’t see replicated (and honestly surpassed) until Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (so, so, so, so, so good). Seriously, go out right now and watch the first half of The Village. Then forget about the second half and watch Pan’s Labyrinth instead.
Here’s where I break out the ***SPOILERS*** (though honestly why you’d want to watch the rest of M. Night’s movies considering how utterly horrible they are is beyond me). Still with me? Good. The Village is about a 19th century (ish) village surrounded by a forest. In the forest there are monsters that wear red cloaks. The village elders have an arrangement with the monsters: the villagers don’t go into the forest and the monsters, in turn, don’t kill them. But the monsters start coming into the village at night and killing livestock. Big problem? Yeah. Meanwhile, there’s this hot blind girl with a mentally handicapped friend. The blind girl is in love with this guy in the village who is in turn in love with her. So they decide to get married! Only the mentally handicapped friend doesn’t like this and ends up stabbing the dude. The villagers don’t have the medical supplies necessary to help the young man so the blind girl volunteers to brave the forest and get the medicine. Now up until this point, the film is impeccable. Really, the acting, writing, direction, cinematography… all of it awesome.
Then there’s the “twist.” The village elders reveal to ol’ Blindy that there are no monsters at all. It’s just the elders dressed up in ugly pig costumes so they can scare the villagers into staying inside the village and not traveling into the “towns” which the elders say are evil places filled with sin. So they send the blind girl, with a couple pansy ass “guards” (guys who probably get terrified every time they see a squirrel), into the forest so she can get medicine from the towns. Then some other shit happens and it’s revealed that it’s modern times but the village is hidden in the middle of a national park or some stupid crap. The obvious problem with the second half of the film is that the audience doesn’t have to care anymore. There are no monsters in the forest so the blind girl is in no actual danger. The bigger more obvious issue is that any one of the elders could’ve gone instead of her. They didn’t need to reveal their secret and hope she’d keep it. They didn’t need to send a freaking blind girl into a freaking forest. It’s just convoluted… crap.
Then there was Lady in the Water. While Paul Giamatti is always awesome and seeing Bryce Dallas Howard wet is simply fantastic (though does anyone else wonder where her eyebrows are?), the movie also has a ridiculously stupid plot filled with half-assed characters, poorly written dialogue, and creatures called “narfs” and “scrunts” who all fear evil tree-monkey creatures. I don’t care about suspension of disbelief, those things sound funny as fuck and that completely destroys any chance of the film having the dark fairy tale atmosphere it clearly strives for. Still there are a couple of well done scenes… but not nearly enough to warrant a viewing.
That brings us to The Happening which is horrible… if watched seriously. If you choose to view it as a comedy… well it’s still pretty horrible but frequently hilarious. The acting is so bad that you have to laugh (Mark Wahlberg is stunningly abysmal while Zooey Deschanel delivers her lines with all the charisma of a brick wall covered in shit). The writing, both with regards to plot and dialogue, is so disgustingly bad you just have to laugh to keep from crying. Don’t watch it. Not even on a dare. It’s about trees that make people kill themselves for fuck’s sake! And that’s not even a surprise since every character in the whole shitty movie seems to theorize that that’s exactly what’s happening! I shit you not, one scene is about the protagonists getting to a green house where the owner basically says “I think the trees are doing it! I have absolutely no basis for that observation whatsoever! Don’t call me crazy or I’ll kill you, people who I just met!” The Happening blows more chunks than a two dollar crack whore who caters exclusively to fat guys.
Lastly, there’s The Last Airbender. It fucking sucks. Nothing about it is good. Watching it was a terrible mistake and I regret it endlessly.
So that’s how I feel. M. Night Shyamalan started out as one of the most promising writer/directors of all time, making three and a half films that ranged from the superb to the pretty darn good. Then he made three and a half other films that ranged from the sub-par to shit-inducingly-bad. I think it’s time for him to stop.