Friday, July 2, 2010
Shyamalan's Last chance - really
I can't believe I've had a blog for 18 months (almost to the day), and I have yet to write a post about M. Night Shyamalan.
His latest movie, The Last Airbender, comes out today. (I thought it was supposed to be tomorrow, but it appears to be today, so I'm moving this post up a day.) I actually think it looks like it will be, or at least could be, good. I have such faith in it, in fact, that I'm planning to see it tomorrow afternoon, assuming I get the traditional early release on the day before a three-day weekend.
But if it's not good, like the overwhelming evidence of the last six years' worth of Shyamalan movies would suggest, can we finally put this guy out to pasture?
Some people would even extend Shyamalan's streak of crapitude back further, but I happen to like Signs. I didn't much care for Unbreakable, though I did respect it. But let's say you take a person who didn't like Signs, and also didn't much care for Unbreakable -- like my wife. That person sees a writer-director who's made a career's worth of god-awful movies, on the strength of just one great one.
Because really, does anybody like The Village, Lady in the Water or The Happening?
I'm suggesting we need to pry the clapboard out of Shyamalan's hands, but if we did, we'd be deprived future instances of the sublime hilarity of these three films, each of which has contained at least one extended section that left me aghast at its ridiculousness.
In fact, so sure was I that Shyamalan was done after Lady in the Water, I was amazed to hear that someone had greenlit The Happening. Then, so sure was I that Shyamalan was done after The Happening, I was amazed to hear that someone had not only entrusted him with yet another movie, but had doubled or tripled his budget as well.
Now, one clear thing The Last Airbender has going for it is that it is based on material that did not originate in Shyamalan's head. By needing to adhere to the basic structure of a popular children's series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, the man is less likely to botch a basically good idea with bursts of his trademark flaws: the overuse of twists being one, his developing God complex being another. (He cast himself as a writer who would be the savior of mankind in Lady in the Water.) What I'm hoping is that the brilliant direction that has made an appearance, however brief, in each of his films, will get a chance to shine here, and the writing won't get as much of a chance to torpedo the movie.
But if Shyamalan is being allowed to branch off in a new direction, and this also turns out to be professionally disastrous for him, how, I ask you, can Hollywood keep giving him work? The fact that he's doing something different, and still fucking it up, would certainly seem to be the Last straw, wouldn't it?
And it's not like Hollywood doesn't understand that he sucks. He's been dropped by studios and worn out his welcome on projects, and he was even the recipient of two Golden Raspberries for Lady in the Water: worst director and worst supporting actor (for the aforementioned writer-savior role). But -- at least for Shyamalan -- a hit shines more than a dud stinks, and The Sixth Sense has still been shining strong for Shyamalan some 11 years later.
IMDB does not currently have another directing project listed for Shyamalan, but I've been fooled by that one before. It does mention the first of three movies that Shyamalan is going to be writing and producing (but not directing) called The Night Chronicles. (For another sign of the man's ego, I invite you to look no further than here.) The first one, subtitled Devil, is about a group of people trapped in an elevator with the devil. Like most of his movies, it sounds interesting. But like most of his movies, it comes with a cloud over its head, symbolizing the high likelihood of its suckiness.
And even though the footage from The Last Airbender looks good, the guy just can't seem to escape controversy. The movie was criticized for using a predominantly white cast in an Asian-themed film. To be fair to Shyamalan, I'll have to reserve comment here until seeing the movie. At a glance, I don't necessarily see what the fuss is about, as the film features Indian actors Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi and Dev Patel (from Slumdog Millionaire), and Maori actor Cliff Curtis. And while those may not be Asian Asians, at least they are not white, per se. Then again, if all the heroes are white and all the villains are non-white, I guess the critics have a point. Besides, you can't really call it "branching out" for an Indian-born director to cast Indian actors in his films.
At least we can say one thing for sure about The Last Airbender -- if it's incompetent, it won't be incompetent in the same ways his other recent films have been incompetent. I think we all need a break from that particular brand of incompetence.
Because as much as I've laughed at Shyamalan's recent work, it's not like I've stopped watching. I too continue to be drawn in by the long-ago promise of The Sixth Sense, and to a lesser extent, Signs. As much as I blame Hollywood for forever giving M. Night Shyamalan one last chance, I've been doing the exact same thing myself.
Then again, I'll see anything, so I don't really count.