Thursday, June 5, 2008

Boy am I gonna look stupid if The Happening is lousy...

A detailed and well-written detailing of the current witch-hunt against M. Night Shyamalan by Brad Brevet is up at Rope Of Silicon. It goes over some of the points I've made and a whole boatload of others, but it emphasizes two worthy notes:

Much of the criticism comes from the automatic assumption that every M. Night Shyamalan picture must be a thriller and thus is a failure if it doesn't scare you or quicken your pulse. Never mind that Unbreakable was a meditative comic book deconstruction, The Village was a thoughtful political parable, and Lady In The Water was a fairy tale for children. Hell, The Sixth Sense was only scary because we sympathized enough with Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) to feel his terror and empathize with his fear. Signs was really his only out-and-out thriller/horror film/suspense yarn/etc.

Brevet also suggests that maybe the reason that Shyamalan has a bit of an ego is that, until Lady In The Water flopped, he pretty much had a Midas touch. The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs all got decent to excellent reviews and made tidy, if not explosive profits. The Village, fair or not, got lousy reviews but still ended up with $255 million worldwide. Only Lady In The Water, around which the story about Night's ego and controlling nature developed, underperformed both critically and commercially. On this we agree.

By this rationale, Tim Burton should have been tarred and feathered after Mars Attacks, which bombed critically and commercially in 1996, eleven years after he hit the scene with Pee-Wee's Big Adventure in 1985. Up until that point, every Tim Burton film had gotten mixed to good reviews and succeeded mightily at the box office. The lone box-office bomb was the critical darling Ed Wood (still his best film), which won Martin Landeau an Oscar in 1994 for Best Supporting Actor.

And, by golly, I'm sure glad that Spielberg kid was driven out of town after 1941, his first flop (having earned a reputation as an overtime, over budget, egocentric, under disciplined punk). I can't imagine his next film after that stinker would have been anything worthwhile.

Scott Mendelson

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