daniel cohen looks at m. night’s failures …
Oh, M. Night Shyamalan. When people hear that name now, they cower in fear. I’ll never forget going to the movies a few years ago when his name came up on a trailer, and it was quickly met with laughs and groans. But seriously, talk about a guy who’s career couldn’t have started better, but just took an absolute nose dive faster then the cliff climber in that Price is Right game. Judging from audience reception, M. Night’s career can best be summarized like this:
The Sixth Sense: ‘Holy shit, this guy’s the next Spielberg.’
Unbreakable: ‘Brilliant … why didn’t more people see this?’
Signs: ‘Not his best, but still kind of enjoyable.’
The Village: ‘Clearly his worst, but he’ll bounce back.’
Lady in the Water: ‘This guy has completely lost it.’
The Happening: ‘I’m never watching an M. Night movie again.’
The Last Airbender: ‘I’m never watching movies again.’
It’s gotten so bad for M. Night, his name is no where to be found on the After Earth trailers, his new movie coming out this weekend. And I actually think the trailers look solid, but because everybody knows it’s an M. Night film, people assume it’s going to be absolute garbage. Will Smith can’t even save it.
But as we go into After Earth this weekend, I can’t resist shuffling through all the ridiculous, idiotic, and just plain bad story-telling elements of M. Night’s previous films. So brace yourself … we’re about to countdown The Top 10 Dumbest M. Night Shyamalan Moments…
*Shyamalan Spoilers Galore*
10. It’s Modern Day! (The Village):
The Village is a decent film, just really, really slow. It does at least give us a great performance from Bryce Dallas Howard. So The Village in a nut-shell is that we are led to believe we’re watching a time period before there was even electricity. But at the end of the film, it’s discovered that a bunch of douchebag academics closed off an area of land from modern day society to live in their peaceful non-corrupt community. Here’s the thing … I kind of like this idea, but the reason why this comes off as nothing more than a gimmick is because there was absolutely no hint or foreshadow of it. It’s just a random M. Night twist. When you look at The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable, those twists are brilliant, because there are subtle hints to both of them. In The Village … it just happens. Lame.
9. I’m Going To Shoot My Dad Because I’m Super Confident He’s A Superhero (Unbreakable):
So Unbreakable is actually one of two phenomenal M. Night movies. Seriously, if you’ve never seen this film, check it out. But this scene in particular is just too much. The whole crux of the movie is the possibility of the protagonist, David Dunn (Bruce Willis), discovering he might have special abilities, sort of like a superhero. Dunn and his wife (Robin Wright Penn) are skeptical, but their son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) is so damn sure, he goes as far as to pull his dad’s gun on David, and literally wants to shoot him to prove his point. Okay, look … he’s a kid, and certainly it’s not far-fetched to believe he actually thinks his dad is a super-powered being based on the previous events of the film. But to have a scene where the kid all of a sudden pulls a gun on his own dad!? Completely ludicrous.
8. M. Night Can’t Tell A Joke (Signs):
One of the things I cringe at most when watching an M. Night film are his attempts at humor. This guy should never go anywhere near a comedy club. And yes, I know his movies are far from comedies, but when he does inject humor, they stick out like a soar thumb with blisters. This is most apparent in Signs. Signs is mediocre at best, but the whole tone and atmosphere of this film is just weird. But the strangest scene of all is when Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), a failed baseball player, walks into an army recruitment office, and the Officer (Ted Sutton) realizes he was a minor league player. First of all, the exposition is written horribly. The Officer just comes right out and monologues Merrill’s back story. There’s no subtlety whatsoever. But then he tries to crack a joke — ‘Why weren’t you in the Pros making stacks of cash and getting your toes licked by beautiful women?’ Huh? It’s just the way the actor delivers this line, where I’m like, ‘What the hell am I watching?’
7. The First…Happening (The Happening):
Holy matza, this movie is terrible. Yikes. And we know it’s a piece of shit right from the first scene. We get these two friends sitting on a park bench, and one of them just calmly watches as the other randomly stabs herself. She has this look on her face of ‘Oh, I guess that’s bad.’ Then we are treated to a goofy, cartoonish, over the top mass suicide, where people are jumping off of buildings. Everything about this scene is dumb — the way it’s shot, the acting, the music, all of it. And when M. Night was still a talented director, his subtlety was one of his strengths. This scene is about as subtle as LeBron James’ Miami Heat announcement.
6. Eh … I’ll Make It Up As I Go Along (Lady In The Water):
On paper, Lady in the Water could have been a cool idea – a dark modern day fairy tale. But in the hands of M. Night … I don’t think so. This is probably his worst scripted movie, and will certainly not be the last time we see Lady in the Water on the countdown. Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard try their best, but it’s not happening. So basically there’s this random lady who comes out of the pool of an apartment building. She’s known as a Narf, and she has to get home to the Blue World. One of the dumbest aspects to this whole thing though is that it just feels like M. Night is making it up as he goes along:
‘Yeah, there’s this guild, also a guardian, throw in a symbolist, and sometimes there’s a healer I guess, I don’t know. Whatever. That’s how she gets home.’
Huh? While not an exact quote, that’s what I feel like M. Night’s mindset was when he wrote this script. None of it comes together in any kind of cohesive manner. It’s just random googly-gluck, which is how I describe most M. Night movies.
5. The Last Airbender … all of it (The Last Airbender):
This is a bad movie to be sure, but I think the reason it’s met with so much vitriol is because the show it’s based on has a very passionate fan base. It’s actually quite fascinating how dull and unimaginative M. Night is able to make this movie, because the show is anything but. The action scenes are also pretty lame. They look more like a JV version of Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance. But if there’s one thing that’s clear about The Last Airbender, it’s that M. Night clearly forgot how to work with actors. Wow, the acting is atrocious here. Especially Noah Ringer, who plays the main kid, Aang. Thank heavens Will Smith is in After Earth.
4. The Old Lady (The Happening):
Are you kidding me with this character? What the hell am I watching? So in The Happening, there’s some sort of air toxin killing people. Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, and John Leguizamo’s daughter (Ashlyn Sanchez) in the film are basically on the run. They take shelter at Mrs. Jones’ (Betty Buckley) house, a crazy old lady. I get she’s supposed to be a little nuts, but the entire character is completely unnecessary, and takes up 15-20 minutes of the film. She’s sitting at dinner, there’s a somewhat comical scene of her asking about the romance of the two main characters, then suddenly she slaps the little girl’s hand when she reaches for some food … huh? She later claims Mark Wahlberg’s character was whispering about killing her. Then a few minutes later she walks outside, and the toxin kills her. That’s it. WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THIS CHARACTER?! She has nothing to do with the toxin. She has no bearing on the end of the movie. What the hell, M. Night?!
3. Sure … Cereal Is The Key To The Whole Plot. Why Not? (Lady In The Water):
This kid in Lady in the Water is a powerful interpreter because he reads things on a cereal box that tells the Narf how to get home. Ummmm … okay.
2. M. Night Hates Critics (Lady In The Water):
This scene infuriates me to no end. M. Night writes a snooty unlikable film critic (Bob Balaban) as a character in the film. He’s arrogant, and clearly a pompous dick. Gee … I wonder why he would include someone like that? And what’s the fate of this character? He gets brutally murdered. Wow. This whole concept bothers me on so many levels, I don’t even know how to explain it, but I’ll try. First of all, don’t blame the critics for your movies sucking, M. Night. You did that all by yourself. Also…in the movie, Paul Giamatti’s character gets input from the Critic on who could be the Guild, the Guardian, and the Interpreter. He doesn’t explain what this is for, but just asks it like he’s analyzing a film. But when Giamatti picks the wrong people for these roles based on the Critic’s analysis, everyone thinks the Critic is this horrible person for being so sure of himself. What?! First of all, this poor guy doesn’t even know what the hell is going on. And secondly, the Critic wasn’t even a dick when he was explaining this. He was just giving conventional wisdom on what types of characters generally fit these roles. It was never meant to be gospel. But M. Night is clearly writing from experience. He’ll have you believe he’s misunderstood by critics because he’s a rebel, and doesn’t follow the conventional wisdoms of filmmaking. No, M. Night … you are blasted by critics because you write a bunch of random crap that makes absolutely no sense. And the Critic’s dialogue before he dies makes it really hard not to loathe M. Night Shyamalan. I think this clip speaks for itself.
1. The Title Of ‘The Happening’ (The Happening):
When you look at this title, it’s hard not to think of M. Night as lazy. The Happening!? You got to be kidding me. In all of M. Night’s previous films, the entire story is based around one central mystery, or event. The Happening is no different. But rather than actually give the film a specific title, ‘The Happening‘ is just a reference to the type of movies M. Night likes to make. ‘Here’s my new movie, something happens. Yeah, I’ll just call it that.’ How is that not the dumbest M. Night moment of them all?