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Water, Air, Fire, Suck
June 30, 2010 4:23 PM   Subscribe

First, there was colossal miscalculation. Something so bad it could make parable a four-letter word. Didn't faze him. His next was "bizarrely compelling... Slower than watching a train wreck," but yet invoking, "that same level of disbelief." It was also like swallowing spiky clusters of manure. Maybe he had lost his mind? But yet he rose again... Or should we say he blew? No really, it was the wind this time . A feeble gust of an environmental horror story. "You feel like you're not watching the end of the world but the end of a career." Alas, like the undead, you cannot stop him. His latest, sitting at a paltry 0%* on the Tomatometer, is whitewashed, and offers an experience that's a headache-inducing, joyless, soulless, husk that Roger Ebert called "agonizing... in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented." It enchantingly makes, "Jake Lloyd’s performance in The Phantom Menace look studied." And, "the Golden Compass... look like a four-star classic." With $150 million spent on production, and $130 million on marketing alone, has this "auteur" finally created his masterpiece? Or will it be the Last Straw® (in 3d!)?

Previously

*Change that- Scott Bowles had to go ruin the party.
posted by PBR (267 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
So Roger Ebert...he really hates M. Night Shyamalan, huh?
posted by lunasol at 4:28 PM on June 30, 2010


Thank you for posting this.

Shyalaman's been defending his casting choices by saying that the anime style makes the characters' features ambiguous. So he can fill roles traditionally held by minorities with Caucasian actors in order to cynically sell tickets to racists who won't go see an Asian actor in a lead role and be "creative."
posted by zarq at 4:29 PM on June 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Shyamalan. Apparently I suck at spelling. :P
posted by zarq at 4:30 PM on June 30, 2010


I'm still going.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:31 PM on June 30, 2010


He lost me when the village elders dressed up as scary monsters to keep the kiddies from leaving.
posted by killdevil at 4:33 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Shyamalan. Apparently I suck at spelling. :P

I doubt anyone cares how you spell his name. Most people I know can't even bother to pronounce it right.
posted by Caduceus at 4:34 PM on June 30, 2010


M. Night Shyamalan: The King Midas of shit.
posted by signalnine at 4:35 PM on June 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


There was no way that this was going to be any good, but at least I got some enjoyment out of Ebert's evisceration of this monstrosity. So not a complete waste.
posted by lekvar at 4:38 PM on June 30, 2010


When a professional critic who has lost his jaw due to cancer complications chooses to call your movie "agonizing", you might think about what you've done with your career.
posted by boo_radley at 4:38 PM on June 30, 2010 [140 favorites]


M. Night Shyamalan: The King Midas of shit.

To be fair, The Sixth Sense was actually pretty good. All downhill from there though.
posted by WalterMitty at 4:39 PM on June 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


Say what you will about the massive amount of crap he's put out, but Unbreakable is still the single most mature and compelling movie-that-deals-with-comics that I have ever seen.
posted by griphus at 4:39 PM on June 30, 2010 [33 favorites]


M. Night Shyamalan: The King Midas of shit.
posted by signalnine at 12:35 AM on July 1 [+] [!]


For a moment I thought that was an anagram. Slightly disappointed it isn't now - would have been the best anagram ever. Maybe
posted by jonnyploy at 4:39 PM on June 30, 2010 [14 favorites]


See also. (Contains spoilers, but they're for such an abysmally bad movie that you'll thank me-- and the reviewer-- for spoiling it).
posted by dersins at 4:39 PM on June 30, 2010


More like M. Night ShyamaLAME, amirite?
posted by Chipmazing at 4:40 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Keep punching that fish!
posted by Dr-Baa at 4:40 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


To be fair, The Sixth Sense was actually pretty good. All downhill from there though.

Yeah, that's really more a reflection of his current status. Downhill is putting it mildly. It's like the guy took a swan dive off the side of a cliff.
posted by signalnine at 4:40 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


And, "the Golden Compass... look like a four-star classic."

This isn't a very high bar, relative to the source material of each. I've read Golden Compass and I didn't think it was that great. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it was kind of lame. So the fact that the movie was disjointed and rudderless is hardly surprising.

Whereas the Avatar show is really really great. So if this movie is even just OK it'll be worse, on a relative scale, than Golden Compass.
posted by DU at 4:40 PM on June 30, 2010


I'm still going.

Why?
posted by philip-random at 4:40 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


So Roger Ebert...he really hates M. Night Shyamalan, huh?

Not really. He gave more or less positive reviews to some of his earlier work... He hates The Village and after. I can't blame him.

He definitely hates 3D. Can't blame him there either.

I maintain that Shyamalan is a perfectly fine director and a REALLY, REALLY terrible writer. He wants to be Spielberg or Hitchcock so badly... He should go look at how many of their movies they wrote. Hint: Basically none.

I kind of hoped they'd get someone else to do the script for this since it's a popular franchise, and the possibility of future movies is on the line, etc. Not so much. I expected terribleness from the moment I saw he had the sole writing credit.

My hypothesis re: his directing vs his writing continues to go untested!
posted by sparkletone at 4:41 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, I keep wanting to pronounce "Tomatometer" as "Tomah-tomey-ter"
posted by griphus at 4:41 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


> So Roger Ebert...he really hates M. Night Shyamalan, huh?

He does now, but he gave The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs (!) and The Happening (!!!) good reviews.

I feel like Shyamalan might have a shot at making good movies (again? I did like Unbreakable) if he starts filming other peoples' screenplays. The dude cannot write worth shit, but he does (or did, anyway) have a knack for atmosphere and cinematography. Even pieces of crap like Signs tend to have a shot or a scene or two that stuck with me despite the movies surrounding them.*

* Not The Lady In The Water, though...I rented that because I read The Man Who Heard Voices and thought it would be a Battlefield Earth-style hilarious disaster. It was a disaster, anyway.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:41 PM on June 30, 2010


So he can fill roles traditionally held by minorities with Caucasian actors...

That's so when you finally seen an Indian character on screen... wink wink nudge nudge.
posted by PenDevil at 4:41 PM on June 30, 2010


...And then in the end it turned out that M Night Shyamalan was a hack THE WHOLE TIME.
posted by hifiparasol at 4:41 PM on June 30, 2010 [84 favorites]


if we're talking AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, then the biggest mistake was the RACEBENDING. am sorry, how can you cast white leads in roles that were absolutely not meant to look like Europeaners. SOKKA and KATARA are supposed to be from some kind of South American Tierra del Fuego or Inuit tribe and AANG is definitely Tibetan.

and that's just the beginning. you have a dark world when in fact ATLAB is rich in color but also in humor and that's been lost with M. Night's "this is serious bness" tone. And then there's the fact he sets in a FUTURE not in a mythical past?!?!?

oh ... hell ... nah.

i came out of surgery just yesterday and have been meaning to write about this series and why am not watching the movie. we love the nickelodeon series and we watch and rewatch it all the damn time. it's just an amazing piece of work, so rich in details that you keep finding new things in each viewing.

am extremely disappointed that the creators basically sold out, had no control whatsoever over the direction of the movie and let it land on the hands of a self-hating racebender like Shyamalan.

*smh*
posted by liza at 4:43 PM on June 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


griphus: Say what you will about the massive amount of crap he's put out, but Unbreakable is still the single most mature and compelling movie-that-deals-with-comics that I have ever seen.

Agreed. It's a great movie.
posted by joedan at 4:43 PM on June 30, 2010


Oh but M. Night says we have to cut him slack for things he didn't actually do, but wanted to do with the movie, therefore we're all big meanies for not magically reading his mind about what he intended the movie to be but never got around to doing.

Also: I intended to write his next 10 scripts for him, but never got around to it, and am still waiting for him to send me a check.
posted by yeloson at 4:43 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Say what you will about the massive amount of crap he's put out, but Unbreakable is still the single most mature and compelling movie-that-deals-with-comics that I have ever seen.

Agreed. Best superhero / supervillain origin story I've seen on screen.
posted by dersins at 4:45 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


On a serious note, I disagree with Ebert's contention that this should never have been a live-action movie. If adapted faithfully (racially, geographically and stylistically) a live action with special effects that would have made 2012 blush would have been amazing. The original series is phenomenal and deserved a great cinema treatment, not this piece of M. Night Shyamashit (am I on a roll with this name thing or what?)
posted by Chipmazing at 4:45 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


M. Night Shyamalan:

Shy Malignant Ham
Anal Hammy Things?

I'm not getting anything really good out of anagramming his name.
posted by FritoKAL at 4:45 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Bell's Wife: "Will you need to see this in the theater? Or is this a wait-for-cable movie?"

Bell: "I don't know. The effects certainly seem theater-worthy. I really, really liked Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. The Village and Signs were good -- not even a tenth as bad as some people made them out to be. But I stayed the fuck away from his last two movies."

Bell's Wife: "Then you're not wasting 10 bucks taking a flier on this."

Bell: "But..."

Bell's Wife: /glare

Bell: "OK, Okaayyy..."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:45 PM on June 30, 2010


I've read Golden Compass and I didn't think it was that great.

The first book of that set is like the early Harry Potter books. Not awful, but very definitely targeted at kids. The series grows with it's protagonist, like the Rowling stuff, but becomes something much more interesting by the end.

All IMO, of course. Can totally understand not wanting to read more if the first didn't do anything for you.
posted by sparkletone at 4:47 PM on June 30, 2010


Apparently he ripped off the idea for The Sixth Sense (see #5) from an episode of Are You Afraid Of The Dark?
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:48 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The first book of that set is like the early Harry Potter books. Not awful, but very definitely targeted at kids.

Golden Compass was high-minded assclownery.

To compare the first Golden Compass book to the first Harry Potter book ... DUDE ... Stupefy!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:49 PM on June 30, 2010


Nth Hammy Saga, Nil.
posted by griphus at 4:50 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


The lead protagonists are played by white actors while the lead antagonists are played by actors of color.

Can someone familiar with the original show confirm: does this mean that they are changing the good Asian characters into white characters, but leaving the evil guys as Asians?

That can't be right, can it?
posted by surenoproblem at 4:51 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: High-minded assclownery.

(It's a good thing I've learned not to get attached to my job; Compass was three months of staring at Eva Green's underthings.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:52 PM on June 30, 2010


I'm still going.

Why, because you liked the show? That is even more reason to stay far, far away from this. For fans of the series, it is like the rotting, shambling corpse of someone they once loved. Most of the pieces are there, but it has been made into a hostile and offensive thing, best burned and forgotten.
posted by pts at 4:53 PM on June 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


> I'm still going.

Why, because you liked the show? That is even more reason to stay far, far away from this.


This is good advice. "Because I liked the show" was my wife's reason for going to see both of the Sex and the City movies, and you really don't know how that worked out for her.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:54 PM on June 30, 2010


For a moment I thought that was an anagram. Slightly disappointed it isn't now - would have been the best anagram ever. Maybe

Would you settle for "nn hammy shit gala"?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:56 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Really don't want to know how that worked out for her.

Really.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:56 PM on June 30, 2010


Does this mean that they are changing the good Asian characters into white characters, but leaving the evil guys as Asians?

Yes, that is exactly what happened.
posted by pts at 4:57 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can someone familiar with the original show confirm: does this mean that they are changing the good Asian characters into white characters, but leaving the evil guys as Asians?

Here's a primer with pictures from Racialicious.
posted by not that girl at 4:59 PM on June 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


@surenoproblem

yes. the casting is atrocious. it's obvious that Katara and Sokka are brown-skinned and Aang is Tibetan.

Sukko, Azula and the Fire National royals look to be light-skinned Japanese/Korean.

Each tribe is an amalgam of different Asian nations and cultures. the only guy that appears to be Indian is the guru that tries to teach Aang all about the chakras. that's it.

M. Night would have been better off getting the kid from Slumdog Millionaire to play Sokka than to play Zukko.

And just so you know how fucked up MNS was with his casting, he wanted JESSE MCCARTNEY in that role.

the words escape me.
posted by liza at 4:59 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Would you settle for "nn hammy shit gala"?

Yes.
posted by jonnyploy at 4:59 PM on June 30, 2010


I like all of his movies - except The Happening, which really does stink - very much. Unbreakable is nothing short of masterful, honestly. I'm looking forward to the new one.
posted by Dr. Wu at 5:00 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've hated M. Night Shyamalan ever since I found myself getting viscerally angry at a friend's unfavorable-but-fair description of Signs, and as such I've been happily marinating in the hate this new one has been getting on the web today. This is the "M. Night Shyamalan is a fucking hack" post that metafilter deserves, and that I'd hoped to see. Thanks!
posted by anazgnos at 5:03 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's really more a reflection of his current status. Downhill is putting it mildly. It's like the guy took a swan dive off the side of a cliff.

Indeed, and every single one of his movies has been worse than the one that came before it by a steadily increasing margin. If we plot those numbers over time, we can work out the precise gravitational acceleration in whatever universe he's living in, the one in which his creative choices seem like good choices.
posted by Naberius at 5:04 PM on June 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


does this mean that they are changing the good Asian characters into white characters, but leaving the evil guys as Asians?

Of the core characters, you have 3 heroes (2 Inuit, 1 Tibetan), and 1 anti-hero (East Asian). They initially wanted to cast all white kids as the leads. After one actor passed, they replaced him with Dev Patel - playing the anti-hero who appears as a villain for the first season.

By the way, with all the leads as white kids, M. Night poured a mish mash of people of color as extras, which basically makes all the "good guy nations" look like they suffer from Dances with Wolves/Glory/Last Samurai/Need a White Savior Syndrome. The imperialistic Fire Nation, are all uniformly brown - Indian/Mediterranean.

Aka- bad guys = brown, good guys led by white people.

Strangely enough, M. Night felt it necessary to tell us that when he was deciding on casting, Noah Ringer, who plays the title character, "something felt asian about him, he had feeling of being mixed race"...

Which, you know, if race totally didn't matter, why would you pick someone who "felt" asian? (nevermind that if you wanted someone who "felt" asian, or "felt" mixed race, why you wouldn't just get someone of that ethicity...)
posted by yeloson at 5:07 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dr. Wu: "I like all of his movies - except The Happening, which really does stink - very much. Unbreakable is nothing short of masterful, honestly. I'm looking forward to the new one."

You did watch them all to the end, right? As opposed to just stopping about 3/4 of the way in and making up your own ending (as we all -- M. Night included -- should have)?
posted by griphus at 5:07 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dr. Wu, could you please tell me, in small words, how The Lady in the Water was any good?

Not an attack, I'm just curious to know.
posted by lekvar at 5:07 PM on June 30, 2010


After one actor passed, = passed on the role, not passed away.
posted by yeloson at 5:07 PM on June 30, 2010


not that girl: Here's a primer with pictures from Racialicious.

From that link: apparently Amanda Palmer twitted that product placement is only Ok if you either accept no money for it or, failing that, give the money to the KKK.

Pretty douche-bag thing to say.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:09 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


So he can fill roles traditionally held by minorities with Caucasian actors in order to cynically sell tickets to racists who won't go see an Asian actor in a lead role and be "creative."
posted by zarq at 7:29 PM on June 30


thanks for this. i hit my daily quota of favorities, so i can't add one to your tally but this is exactly the kind of cynicism that makes M. Night a hack. he's a self-hating dark-skinned Indian who believes that he's now an artiste because he can cast white people at will in his movies.

well fuck him. and i say this not just for my kids (one white and one brown, thank you very much) but for his very much brown-skinned daughter who was looking forward to seeing a girl just like her play Katara.

great going there dad.
posted by liza at 5:09 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


This review of M. Night's biography circa Lady in the Water is an important cornerstone of any well-rounded hatred of M. Night.
I love Shyamalan's films, but I cannot lie - this book is a big blight on his image. It portrays him as a very unpleasant personality - the type who won't stand for less than constant adulation, takes everything, inculding professional talk, personally, and makes a ton of nasty personal remarks in retaliation.

Sportswriter Michael Bamberger is the ostensible author, yet the book is Shyamalan's manifesto; it includes countless internal monologues unknowable to a third party. Disingenuous, but the less disquieting of the two options; surely no human being, not even in marriages or cults, has been this fawning, this lavishly and unquestioningly worshipful of another.
...
The book exists to observe Shyamalan do something, then applaud his effortless skill. We learn what a good debator and actor Shyamalan is, what a good basketball player, how good he looks in a suit, how quickly he loses weight, how he has a better ear than the hired band, how perfect the grill lines are on his chicken breasts. (Is he modest? Yes, moreso than anyone the author's met.)
posted by anazgnos at 5:10 PM on June 30, 2010 [12 favorites]


By the way, if anyone reading this hasn't seen the original animated show, it's delightful. Best animated series in many, many years. You're missing something really special, but that's an easy problem to solve. :)
posted by Malor at 5:10 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hack! Fucking Hack!
posted by cavalier at 5:11 PM on June 30, 2010


This review of M. Night's biography circa Lady in the Water is an important cornerstone of any well-rounded hatred of M. Night.

Wow. That review confirms all the suspicions I had upon reading four pages of that book and then quickly casting it aside.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:16 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eventually the secret of Those [Who We Do Not Speak Of, except when we wish to end a sentence with a preposition], is revealed.

To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes.

It's a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It's so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don't know the secret anymore.

And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we're back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets.


I like Ebert's 'Village' review.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:21 PM on June 30, 2010 [14 favorites]


I am really trying to restrain my outright glee that this movie is for all reports, terrible. I was against it from the beginning -- from Shaymalan's involvement, to the mess of the casting.

I knew the movie was probably bad when I noticed none of the previews had any dialogue (other than a few words), which clearly indicated to me that the acting and/or dialogue was probably pretty dismal. I've also noticed they're not marketing it as "The Last Airbender: Book of Fire" or whatever ... just "The Last Airbender." That tells me that they don't expect it to do well and they don't really expect to make sequels.

(By the way, Dave Roman, Nickelodeon magazine's long-time editor, co-wrote two Airbender graphic novels -- a "prequel" and an adaptation of the movie's script. I think people should just go buy those and skip the movie.)
posted by darksong at 5:22 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


For a moment I thought that was an anagram

Well, here's some anagrams of the name that actually work:

http://wordsmith.org/anagram/anagram.cgi?anagram=M+Night+Shyamalan&t=1000&a=n

...I sort of partial to "Anal Shammy Thing" and "Anything Ham Slam."
posted by wires at 5:24 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Speaking of words, I'd like to correct "phase" to "faze." Guess I got a little too excited about M. Night.
posted by PBR at 5:30 PM on June 30, 2010


If anyone would like to make an elevator pitch as to why Unbreakable is a good movie, please do, because I have no idea what you're going to say.

also: Shama-lama-ding-dong
posted by Joe Beese at 5:31 PM on June 30, 2010


To compare the first Golden Compass book to the first Harry Potter book ... DUDE ... Stupefy!

Not to get into too huge a thread derail (we're supposed to flinging poo at Shyamalan!) ...

But actually I should probably be comparing Golden Compass to the third Potter book. If I recall the character ages correctly, they'd be roughly equivalent there. That's also where the Potter books start to get anything less than tedious for readers more than a year or two older than the protagonists, a problem I don't think any of the Dark Materials have. The third is also where the series starts to show some teeth though maybe not to the point where I'd put it on par with a plot involving kidnapping children, shipping them up to the middle of nowhere and running experiments on their souls (not to mention stuff in the latter two Pullman books).

Pullman's prose is generally better (this is Rowling's weakest area), Pullman's world-building is much more interesting. His plot tends not to hinge on a Dumbledore-esque figure being criminally negligent over and over and over and over and over and over.

They're just better books, taken as a whole. Rowling is really great at page-turning plotting stuff and at the ... meta-plotting that builds the whole thing into one continuous work, and she's pretty good at the other things. I think Pullman's generally better. Again, all IMO. I am perfectly willing to believe that I am more predisposed to enjoy "high-minded ass-clownery" than some people.

And also, this is not a slight on the Potter books, which are perfectly fine for what they are. The Pullman books are slightly better than fine for what they are. I'd rather anyone read them instead of handing drek like Twilight to people. But I see no reason for fanatical devotion to either.

(Just to reiterate: I am talking about the books. The Golden Compass movie is dry, dull, and can't be recommended. Like with the books, the first two Potter movies kinda suck, but they've been mostly great after that.)
posted by sparkletone at 5:31 PM on June 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Anal Hammy Things?

I'm not getting anything really good out of anagramming his name.


I disagree, you picked a winner there. From now on I will refer to his movies as anal hammy things.

"Whatchadoin?"

"Watching anal hammy things. It's TERRIBLE."
posted by Kirk Grim at 5:32 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I stopped having the slimmest desire to see this movie the second I found out that the "MY CABBAGES!" guy wasn't going to be in it. You lose the cabbages, you lose my ticket money, people!
posted by Mizu at 5:32 PM on June 30, 2010 [13 favorites]


i hit my daily quota of favorities, so i can't add one to your tally but this is exactly the kind of cynicism that makes M. Night a hack. he's a self-hating dark-skinned Indian who believes that he's now an artiste because he can cast white people at will in his movies.

Well, you can never know a man's heart, but insofar as one's own experiences are any guide, M. Night is not self-hating in any way. Without going into details, I've been in very close contact - professionally - with M. Knight between 95-97. You can say many things about him, but self-hate would not spring to mind. A gigantic egomaniac - yes. But self-hating - oh no. He's in love with himself.
posted by VikingSword at 5:36 PM on June 30, 2010


For me, the best thing about the Ebert review is that he seems to be fairly well-versed in the source material. I don't know why, but the thought of Roger Ebert watching and enjoying Avatar--a weekend-long marathon, perhaps?--really tickles me.
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:37 PM on June 30, 2010


Avatar is great television, and even greater convalescing television. I watched the majority of the show over a week when I was recovering from the flu. It was even better than the time I had a massive sinus infection and marathoned Ranma i/2 back in middle school. I am now having fantasies of Ebert blissfully forgetting his various medical woes by being whisked away into the Avatar universe.
posted by Mizu at 5:40 PM on June 30, 2010


I totally forgot I was gonna leave a comment here. I was trying to find something to back up my opinion about how far asians have come in hollywood, and then Mr Shymasomething has to ruin it again. I don't have anything substantiate my statement, because it only took 30 seconds to get from MNS to CSI: Miami. Who knew?
posted by bam at 5:42 PM on June 30, 2010


I was about to ask the woman at the coffee shop to go see this with me. Now I hate the movie already. I was hating on the new Karate Kid, but now I want I want to see it. Airbender's out.
posted by Flex1970 at 5:44 PM on June 30, 2010


I want I want.. Jeez
posted by Flex1970 at 5:45 PM on June 30, 2010


No. I'm sorry. Unbreakable is a flat-out masterpiece and The Village is close -- two of the most ambitious and beautiful genre films of the modern era. Signs and The Sixth Sense are terrific. Lady in the Water and The Happening are pretty weak, but are consistently interesting and unique.

Obviously I haven't seen Airbender. It wouldn't surprise me if it sucked. But Shyamalan is trying to make one-of-a-kind, personal films within the soul-crushing studio system, and keeps getting punished for it. It makes the complaints from the same people about the cookie-cutter nature of most studio movies really hard to swallow.

Also, each of the James Newton Howard musical scores is itself brilliant.

This thread is upsetting.
posted by eugenen at 5:46 PM on June 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Speaking of words, I'd like to correct "phase" to "faze." Guess I got a little too excited about M. Night.

It turns out...IT WAS SPELLED FAZE THE WHOLE TIME!
posted by cortex at 5:47 PM on June 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Two years ago, when I first heard that this movie was being made, I was THRILLED because my daughter and I had so enjoyed the animated series. But then, at the end of the preview, came the credit "A Film By M. Night Shyamalan" and my heart crashed through the floor because I knew at that very moment that it would suck beyond suck. Still, since then I have held the tiniest flame of hope that he would not ruin a story and characters I had grown to love, but now this thread tells me what I knew in my heart from that very first instant.

Curse you, MetaFilter!
posted by briank at 5:48 PM on June 30, 2010


In "Signs", the aliens end up dying because water is poisonous to them.

Aliens allergic to water. Coming to invade Earth.

I'd call that a sign, alright. Anyone who pays to see Shmeckielyin's films deserves what they get - shiny, mindless muck.
posted by dbiedny at 5:50 PM on June 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


Someone in my Twitter feed (I forget who, and I come not to link to Caesar) posted a link to the Ebert review having identified it as Ebert's 'avatar' review. Which made me larf and larf on so many levels.
posted by mwhybark at 5:54 PM on June 30, 2010


Just wanted to drop in to be hit by flying poo.

I am a big fan of almost all of Night's movies. At the least he is trying to tell stories, and I appreciate that. There is always a lot of hate for Lady in the Water, but for me it works on the same level as a fairy tale and I enjoyed it (c'mon a kid that "reads" cereal boxes).

Tell me a story, that's all I ask.
posted by Edward L at 6:00 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


By the way, if anyone reading this hasn't seen the original animated show, it's delightful. Best animated series in many, many years. You're missing something really special, but that's an easy problem to solve. :)

Yup. Netflix has it on "watch instantly." You will be sucked in.

Aliens allergic to water. Coming to invade Earth.

I'd call that a sign, alright. Anyone who pays to see Shmeckielyin's films deserves what they get - shiny, mindless muck.


That movie still makes me sputter with rage. I sat all the way through to the end waiting...waiting...WTF SHYAMALAN.

For the record I loved Sixth Sense. Was...meh'd by The Village, it was like a too-long Twilight Zone episode.

After Signs I was done, done, done with Shyamalan.

The only good thing I have to say about this movie is that the Katara Happy Meal toy is pretty nice, my son needed a female action figure.
posted by emjaybee at 6:02 PM on June 30, 2010


As opposed to just stopping about 3/4 of the way in and making up your own ending (as we all -- M. Night included -- should have)

Not to continue harping on his weakest area being his writing but... He did stop 3/4 through and make up an ending. And then he filmed it.

He shouldn't be making up the endings. He should just be filming it.
posted by sparkletone at 6:04 PM on June 30, 2010


For a moment I thought that was an anagram. Slightly disappointed it isn't now - would have been the best anagram ever. Maybe

Spiro Agnew => Grow A Penis
posted by thesmophoron at 6:06 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


shiny, mindless muck

C'mon there's always going to be something that kills the aliens, what difference is it that it's a computer virus, the spirit of the trees, or a glass of water, you start out knowing the aliens lose - it's the buildup that's the story - why is the little girl always asking for more water, who cares the brother is a failed baseball player, and then they add up to a story.
posted by Edward L at 6:08 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Remember his wretched American Express "My Life, My Card" commercial? It was part of the series featuring famous directors. Wes Anderson and Martin Scorsese had fun with it, and directed sharp parodies of their public images. Shyamalan used the opportunity to create an insufferably self-aggrandizing two-minute autohagiography in tribute to his favorite topic: M. Night Shyamalan's boundless imagination and unique sensibility, a talent--nay, a curse!--that he can never turn off...not even at dinner.
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:08 PM on June 30, 2010 [15 favorites]


A gigantic egomaniac - that sums it up pretty well, I think, VikingSword. It seems like he has way too much control over his projects. Story development, screenwriting, directing and...casting? (Actually I'm still not sure if he's directly responsible for the Airbender casting.)

He's only pretty good at each of those things. He would probably be much more successful if he just let it go a little bit. Which makes me wonder if he was collaborating with anyone while making Sixth Sense and Unbreakable.

Here's where I expose myself as an idiot...I thought the screenplay for Jonah Hex was great, but according to critics, it's just as bad as any of Shyamalan's worst.

That makes two shows I won't be seeing this week.
posted by snsranch at 6:10 PM on June 30, 2010


Shyalaman's been defending his casting choices by saying that the anime style makes the characters' features ambiguous.

As an anime fan, I take offense to this because it is precisely the sort of crap you hear from people who don't watch anime but decide they either hate it or want to pass judgement on it. "Why do they draw all their characters like that? Do they not think Japanese people are good enough to draw or something?" Yes, that must be why. Ignore the fact that any given series takes place in Japan with characters who have Japanese names and speak Japanese and are all born and raised in Japan - this character's got big eyes and green hair, so she must be Caucasian. It has nothing to do with stylization whatsoever. And what's up with Tom and Jerry walking on two legs? Or playing the bass and rowing boats or being able to drill a hole in a bone and plant a steel bolt in it after feeding a magnet to a dog? Is it that the creators of Tom and Jerry hate animals and don't think they're good enough on their own merits? Christ almighty.

Sorry, deep breaths now ...
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:13 PM on June 30, 2010 [16 favorites]


What a twist!
posted by Danaid at 6:13 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


In "Signs", the aliens end up dying because water is poisonous to them.

Sometimes I think I'm the only one who understands this movie. Pull up a chair and let Uncle Lurgi explain. The movie isn't about aliens. The aliens are merely a device that serves the real plot. This movie is about a man rediscovering his faith in God and the aliens provide the motivation for that. They are practically a MacGuffin, however. Swap them out and put in absolutely any other kind of global disaster and you'd have exactly the same movie. Plenty of disaster movies have as a side plot the family realizing that, gosh darn it, they love and need each other. In this movie the disaster is the side plot. That's neat.

That's not to say that I actually liked it. Generally I find his stuff way too slow and self important to be likeable (although I like a lot of the moments and I think he does good camerawork).

I still can't imagine why anyone picked him to direct Airbender. Even if his last couple of movies had been better received, his style just doesn't fit. He's wrong. James Cameron is not the right guy to direct a Jane Austen adaptation, however much he might beg and plead (although that might be neat... Okay, I take it back. I'd pay to see that). Shyamalan does small and intimate and quiet, not big, flashy and blockbustery.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 6:17 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am a big fan of almost all of Night's movies. At the least he is trying to tell stories, and I appreciate that.

Yes, he really sets himself apart from other filmmakers, who are not trying to tell stories.

It's funny, I have a lot of friends with eclectic taste in films and I don't know anybody who likes M. Night Shyamalan. And it ain't just the hoity toity cineastes of the French Riviera who spurn his work - the guy hasn't had a hit in ages. Has a director ever lost his studios more money, over a career, than M. Night Shyamalan? I used to be of the opinion that he was a horrible director/writer who could do a few things well - create an interesting scene with good cinematography/mood/music. But really, if you just sit down and watch tv for an hour you'll see ten commercials with just as impressive production as an M. Night film. He really is largely talentless, compared to the thousands of filmmakers who are trying to get work in Hollywood, and it's a testament to his hustle, ego, and salesmanship that he's still out there, all these years after his one and only hit, making his films, losing other people's money hand over fist.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:21 PM on June 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Remember his wretched American Express "My Life, My Card" commercial?

AGgghgg! You had to remind me! I think I actually broke a tooth grinding them so hard watching that horrid monstrosity -- 2 minutes felt like 2 hours!

It was part of the series featuring famous directors. Wes Anderson and Martin Scorsese

God! How could you contrast that more than with Wes Anderson's? Brilliant! :)
posted by cavalier at 6:22 PM on June 30, 2010


The aliens are merely a device that serves the real plot. This movie is about a man rediscovering his faith in God and the aliens provide the motivation for that. They are practically a MacGuffin, however. Swap them out and put in absolutely any other kind of global disaster and you'd have exactly the same movie.

Sure, no debate on that point, so why take the route that makes zero sense? If you know where you're going (and you better know that before anything), then you can figure out exactly how to get there (something I learned from Asimov). The point he was trying to make about redemption is fine, but don't show contempt for the audience by assuming they're too dense to see through an illogical foundation, especially if you're trying to evoke a serious, somber tone. And, for the record, I did indeed enjoy Unbreakable, but I had the Sixth Sense figured out way to early in the movie to feel satisfied by the reveal.
posted by dbiedny at 6:29 PM on June 30, 2010


Its Never Lurgi: I still can't imagine why anyone picked him to direct Airbender.

Nobody picked him. His daughter liked the TV show, and he approached show creators Mike DiMartino and Brian Konietzko about doing a film adaptation. M. Night managed to convice Mike and Brian that he was the dude for the job, and Nickelodeon practically jizzed themselves over the idea that a BIG NAME DIRECTOR wanted to do something with a property that they, frankly, had never really known how to handle—and the rest is history.

It must be said that this movie would never have gotten made unless M. Night had wanted to make it so badly. The problem is, he's not remotely a good enough writer to adapt the work of the incredibly talented writing staff of the show—but he wrote the script, and that's what they shot.
posted by pts at 6:29 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


C'mon there's always going to be something that kills the aliens, what difference is it that it's a computer virus, the spirit of the trees, or a glass of water,

Because there's suspending your disbelief, and then there's hanging it by the neck until dead.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:31 PM on June 30, 2010 [18 favorites]


losing other people's money hand over fist.

Has he been? Box Office Mojo suggests that he hasn't been. While Lady In The Water was a big flop, and Unbreakable and The Happening did a little better than break even, that still leaves three movies that made more than 2x their production budget in terms of domestic gross.

I'm sure the production budget doesn't include marketing, but AFAIK, that usually runs to at most the cost of the movie once again, so anything that's done 2x its budget is just pure profit from then on out. Maybe I'm misguided there.

He hasn't had a critical hit in ages. But people are (shockingly!) still going to see his movies in theaters.
posted by sparkletone at 6:32 PM on June 30, 2010


(Signs) This movie is about a man rediscovering his faith in God.

So THAT'S how he got Mel Gibson on board. I kinda figured that Shyamalan's best ability was that of Pitch-Man.
posted by snsranch at 6:33 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Uncle Lurgi, even if the aliens in Signs were just a sideplot that could have been swapped out with anything else you've failed to explain why it was an idea filled with pure, unmitigated stupid. would all of the subplots have to be this stupid for the movie to work? did the aliens have to have such a mind-numbingly stupid execution?

it seems to me that he could have made a subplot that was NOT distractingly stupid and the crux of the movie ("man rediscovers that he loves his family") could still be realized.
posted by radiosilents at 6:33 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the reason I get disappointed by M. Night Shyamalan's movies is because even though his narratives end up making you groan like a bad punchline, there is something there. The guy has something. If he didn't we wouldn't even be talking about him. He could make a good movie, but something is missing. Even Stanely Kubrick learned to start using someone elses story for a script. I think he has a good head for film making but he knows nothing about story telling. He gets good stuff out of his actors, but the stories are always so ludacris all the tension he builds up so well with his shots dissolves once you see where the story is leading. It's kind of a shame really.
posted by nola at 6:36 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Doesn't look that bad to me.


6/13/08 The Happening Fox $64,506,874

7/21/06 Lady in the Water WB $42,285,169

7/30/04 The Village BV $114,197,520

8/2/02 Signs BV $227,966,634

11/22/00 Unbreakable BV $95,011,339

8/6/99 The Sixth Sense BV $293,506,292
posted by josher71 at 6:38 PM on June 30, 2010


> Sure, no debate on that point, so why take the route that makes zero sense?

Because he ultimately didn't care about that bit. It's the deep, meaningful, spiritual bits that he cares about. As far as he's concerned it's the glowing golden thing in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction. It doesn't have to make sense, it just has to be there.

That, and he's a hack.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 6:39 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


After Unbreakable I was really excited to see what this guy was going to do with his career. After Signs I never saw another of his movies. He sucked faster than pretty much anyone in history.
posted by Huck500 at 6:44 PM on June 30, 2010


dbiedny: “In "Signs", the aliens end up dying because water is poisonous to them. Aliens allergic to water. Coming to invade Earth. I'd call that a sign, alright. Anyone who pays to see Shmeckielyin's films deserves what they get - shiny, mindless muck.”

And the best thing about that was the fact that that twist was just so original.
posted by koeselitz at 6:44 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


What a twist!

The one thing that always bugs me about Shyamalan discussion's is the distinction between a twist and a reveal seem to get lost.
A twist changes the nature of what you've already seen. A reveal just gives you more info or the info you were missing.
The only other movie, than The Sixth Sense, that had a twist was The Village. The other movies just had reveals.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:46 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm not getting anything really good out of anagramming his name.

Slimy Hangman Hat
Hath My Signalman
Shy, Malignant Ham
Sham Gym Inhalant
Lying Math Shaman
Manly Asthma Nigh
Animal Hangs Myth
Sham Night Layman
Anal Hammy Things
Taming Manly Hash

I'll stop now.
posted by kersplunk at 6:48 PM on June 30, 2010


Well at least there's still the cartoon.
posted by Max Power at 6:50 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember seeing "Signs" in the theater and being really impressed with it. It was taut and suspenseful, and I thought the actors' performances were really strong.

And them came the final act and the salvation of mankind was that the aliens were apparently related to the Wicked Witch of the West and could be utterly undone by a judicious application of dihydrogen monoxide. Aliens who could travel between stars, but were befuddled by the concept of spacesuits, or even raincoats?

I am pretty sure the sound of my jaw dropping was audible for several rows.

W. T. F. ?

I have never before - or since - encountered such a severe and bizarre left turn into stupidville as that. Sure, there are loads of movies with idiotbombs as bad as the water soluble menace from beyond (don't get me started on asteroids the size of Texas) - but they are bad movies, by and large. This had been a good one. I would have given a pretty penny to have been able to sit down with Mr. Shyamalan and ask him politely just what the hell he had been smoking when he came up with that, and did that really reflect his own opinion of the intelligence level of his audience?
posted by John Smallberries at 6:59 PM on June 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


but the stories are always so ludacris

I think you may have just figured out what's missing from his work... I look forward to M. Night Shyamalan's My Chick Bad.

Sorry. I try not to pick on other people's typos... But sometimes they're too funny to ignore.
posted by sparkletone at 7:02 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


hate hate hate his movies. The only one I got any entertainment from was the sixth sense, because it's awfulness made me laugh. And Unbreakable? really? unwatchable.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:03 PM on June 30, 2010


Doesn't look that bad to me.

The numbers you quote look right, but don't mention the budgets of each movie, and we don't know what was spent on marketing (or at least I don't). Lady cost 70 millis to make, and only made 45ish domestically. That's a big flop. A couple of the others didn't do significantly over their production budget either, which means they lost money in the theaters once you factor in marketing expenses.

But that said, there's still 3 movies there that did well in theaters.
posted by sparkletone at 7:07 PM on June 30, 2010


And Unbreakable? really? unwatchable.

I see what you did there.
posted by griphus at 7:07 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Say what you will about the massive amount of crap he's put out, but Unbreakable is still the single most mature and compelling movie-that-deals-with-comics that I have ever seen.

Indeed. Unbreakable gets a bad rap.

Everything else is varying levels of uuuuuuuuuugggggggghhhhhhhh.
posted by The Whelk at 7:08 PM on June 30, 2010


Signs is a fantastic film about a man struggling with his faith, working through the metaphor of the "other". Too bad the fucking aliens turned out to be

a) real

b) smart enough to invent interstellar travel but stupid enough to try to invade a planet that is 3/4 covered by something caustic to them.
posted by djfiander at 7:10 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


The difference between a "MacGuffin" and Shyamalan's aliens is that, as I understand the term, the point of a MacGuffin is that the suitcase stays closed.
posted by cribcage at 7:11 PM on June 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


I still think you could've pulled off a version of The Village's plot if you made it like a cheapo hammer horror movie from the early 70s.
posted by The Whelk at 7:12 PM on June 30, 2010


like say, if the reveal was in the middle of the movie....
posted by The Whelk at 7:13 PM on June 30, 2010


cavalier: Hack! Fucking Hack!
Yeah, true. The guy's a joke. But:

Just after that comment you linked, about his last shitshow, there's yet another classic robocop is bleeding comment outlining what would have been a fantastic movie. So... why is robocop is bleeding not a ridiculously successful Hollywood screenwriter whose every movie gets fawning adoration on Metafilter? God knows his average throwaway comment/plot idea is better than any of the hack-work that Shamalammadingdong spews out for millions of dollars.
posted by hincandenza at 7:13 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


WONDER WOMAN SCRIPT TREATMENTS GO.
posted by The Whelk at 7:17 PM on June 30, 2010


m. night has done the impossible... make a movie about wizards controlling the elements that gets such poor reviews that i don't see it.... THEY SAID IT COULDN'T BE DONE!
posted by nathancaswell at 7:19 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The numbers you quote look right, but don't mention the budgets of each movie, and we don't know what was spent on marketing (or at least I don't).

People always quote the showbox numbers as the end profit point for a movie, which is rarely the case. As I understand it, DVD's sometimes make a crapton of money.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:19 PM on June 30, 2010


People always quote the showbox numbers as the end profit point for a movie, which is rarely the case. As I understand it, DVD's sometimes make a crapton of money.

Right! But my understanding is that to get the big budget you need to make your hollywood movie, you need to have a track record of bringing in money during the theatrical run.

Like, I'm sure Serenity has made a SHITLOAD of money after getting to DVD... But the movie was a flop in the theaters, and as a result, it seems unlikely that anyone would fund making another movie except perhaps as a straight-to-DVD thing.

The showbox numbers aren't the end of money-making, but they are the thing that seems to matter most when it comes to deciding who/what gets made.

But I don't have any real experience here to draw on, that's just how it's seemed to work to me.
posted by sparkletone at 7:23 PM on June 30, 2010


Shamalammadingdong

I always found this irritating. Like we rail at Rush Limbaugh for constantly referring to things by unfunny/borderline racist nicknames... And yet, if you make enough bad movies... It's okay to be the target for this kind of cliche, obvious unfunniness?
posted by sparkletone at 7:28 PM on June 30, 2010 [17 favorites]


People always quote the showbox numbers as the end profit point for a movie, which is rarely the case.

How else are you going to stiff people out of their points of the profit?
posted by nathancaswell at 7:29 PM on June 30, 2010


I'll also admit to really liking most of his movies. I like the minimalism and what I think of as an impressionistic quality and especially liked the Village because it's about the power of belief in shaping our reality. It's a brilliant movie because it puts the audience in the position of believers - the same visceral fear that the inhabitants must feel is evoked in us, making the experience of living in a closed community so different from our own much more palpable. In a way, we are made into believers as well.

Žižek has a very interesting take on the film. The villagers are proto-fascists, who, in order to have their balanced & harmonious authentic community, need the fantasy of evil outsiders who constantly threaten them and they maintain an uneasy truce with. The monsters represent the typical paranoid racist fantasy - the Jews, the Muslims, the Immigrants, etc. We can even find a critique of post-9/11 politics of fear - the villagers are in a permanent state of emergency against the monsters.
posted by AlsoMike at 7:30 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


sparkletone:
Shamalammadingdong
I always found this irritating. Like we rail at Rush Limbaugh for constantly referring to things by unfunny/borderline racist nicknames... And yet, if you make enough bad movies... It's okay to be the target for this kind of cliche, obvious unfunniness?
Cliche yes, since that or variants are used all the time and I'm hardly being inventive to call him that. But take a chill pill on the racism accusations, please. Also, how the hell did Rush Limbaugh enter the equation?
posted by hincandenza at 7:33 PM on June 30, 2010


Just after that comment you linked, about his last shitshow, there's yet another classic robocop is bleeding comment outlining what would have been a fantastic movie

For much serious.

I would pay $16 to watch a robocop is bleeding movie.

And it wouldn't even have to be in 3D.
posted by cavalier at 7:35 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I used to defend the Signs monsters, by way of them not being aliens, but demons. Everyone insists they're aliens because, well, the kid had a Time-Life UFOs Among Us book that says there are aliens, and look at the blurry lights in the sky, and a zone above a city that birds appear to hit and fall dead from. But those are just signs, and the meaning they have is every bit as much read into them as are inherent in them, and the fact that the movie is about a fellow regaining faith and the critters are basically killed by holy water, water that's present because of one particular little child's quirks being suffered, and a supernatural worldwide demon spasm makes a whole lot more sense than natural aliens interested in agricultural monoculture fields. The whole signs and signifier thing was actually quite a bit more clever than most people gave it credit for.

Note the tense in "used to", though. The Village came along and it was another Twilight Zone riff, but a much blander one than Sixth Sense, and not a trace of cleverness could I see in it. Then came Lady in the Water, which made me want to punch everyone involved in its production. If movies have backpfeifengesicht, Lady had it in spades.

The Happening I only got through because of Rifftrax.

Given that one-two combination, and hindsight, I'm now pretty positive that the perceived cleverness of signs and signified meaning being read into in Signs was just an accident and something that, amusingly enough, I read into it.

On the bright side, if this Airbender thing is as terrible as preliminary reports say, and it cost the studio a lot of money to shoehorn 3-D into it, maybe it'll hasten the ending of the 3D fad.
posted by Drastic at 7:36 PM on June 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


it seems unlikely that anyone would fund making another movie except perhaps as a straight-to-DVD thing

If that were true, Whedon wouldn't still be getting job offers and it looks like he's still writing, directing, and so on for movies . I think it's the same thing for Shyamalan.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:37 PM on June 30, 2010


M. Night Shyamalan's next movie is going to be about a young child born in an underground city. It's a bleak setting, and everyone wears mathcing dark gray coveralls. The child grows up, close to his father - his mother died in childbirth. From time to time the child asks questions about "the outside world" and is told that it is a horrible and dangerous place, and they are safe where they are. Years go by. One day, the protagonist's father suddenly disappears, without any explanation or warning to his child. A friend reveals that the father actually ran away, and that the authorities are now out to arrest the protagonist. After scrambling through the tunnels and passageways of the underground community, our hero finds a secret tunnel, and manages to make it into the outside world - revealing a barren, post-apocalyptic landscape. Suddenly, there is a bright flash of light and a wooshing sound, and we see a college-aged kid in his dorm room, at his computer, playing Fallout 3.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:37 PM on June 30, 2010 [14 favorites]


Cliche yes, since that or variants are used all the time and I'm hardly being inventive to call him that. But take a chill pill on the racism accusations, please. Also, how the hell did Rush Limbaugh enter the equation?

Argh. Tone-of-writing fail on my part. That was not a strident comment, so no chill pill is needed. it was, "There are so many things to criticize about this man's work, do we really have to resort to childish swipes at his name? Can we be less cliche when flinging shit at him for being a hack?"

The most obvious example I could think of when it came to similarly unfunny, juvenile bullshit was Limbaugh. I'm not calling anyone in this thread racist or Limbaugh-esque. Just saying that it's not funny, is more characters to type than his actual name, and is completely unnecessary!
posted by sparkletone at 7:37 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just as a side note, I would agree making fun of the pronunciation of someones name is at the least a little bit xenophobic.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:40 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


If that were true, Whedon wouldn't still be getting job offers and it looks like he's still writing, directing, and so on for movies . I think it's the same thing for Shyamalan.

But kinda making my point is that most of what Whedon's done since Serenity is that he hasn't really done any Hollywood movies.

Although, I understand that Serenity was fairly modestly budgeted (40 millis, which I believe is much cheaper than any of Shyamalan's movies, but I'm too lazy to look). Whedon still made a (theatrical) flop (less than 30 millis domestic).

Afterwards, he went off and did comics for a while. And then Dollhouse (blech). Certainly, he's a talented dude with a loyal fanbase, and this is known and so it's not like he'll ever really be out of work unless he doesn't want to do anything. But ... what movies has he done since? None.

He's talked about Goners a bunch, and that's yet to materialize. He was attached to Wonder Woman for a while, then left the project. The Avengers will be his first big movie since Serenity.

I'm not saying you're a pariah after just one flop, just that if you don't show yourself able to put asses in seats (whether it's critically popular or not), I'd imagine you have trouble getting funding for future projects.
posted by sparkletone at 7:43 PM on June 30, 2010


I kind of like how Ebert managed to drop some love for the TV series - he needs a blog post to review it and save it from the mass-media movie trainwreck.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:43 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The Village, it was like a too-long Twilight Zone episode"

That's actually why I liked it and The Sixth Sense...I'll take a movie aiming for nothing more than an extended Twilight Zone riff over most of the special effects crap that's been coming down the pike since forever...

But Signs was like...a season of Lost!
posted by bonefish at 7:45 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


The movie isn't about aliens. The aliens are merely a device that serves the real plot. This movie is about a man rediscovering his faith in God and the aliens provide the motivation for that.

See, this is exactly the thing about this movie that I've decided I hate most, among many. There are at least one of two ways to take this angle, and they are both horrible: Either God sent an alien invasion, killing $LARGENUM people, to touch base with this midwestern ex-preacher and/or else God killed his wife to convey a stupid and obvious message. Which is really, really awful thing, either way.
posted by PMdixon at 7:45 PM on June 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


As an atheist, I loved the idea in Signs that God exists and is literally shouting at us, every moment of every day, but most of us are just too rational to notice. That's a great concept.

But a concept movie still has to be a good movie, and Signs was not. Certainly his subsequent output has not suggested that I should always give him the benefit of the doubt.
posted by nev at 7:46 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I, too, loved Unbreakable. It's easily the most mature, well sculpted 'comic book' movie out there. It is full of powerful scenes (he is good at arranging scenes for maximum visual impact), and pretty solid storytelling. The only problem is that Bruce Willis' superpower seems to be being sad, which, come to think of it, sums up his post Armageddon acting career pretty well.

Signs was well sculpted as well, except that the main piece of the jigsaw puzzle that lead to the conclusion was a horrible mistep. Aliens manage to figure out space travel, most likely have a pretty solid idea about things that are bad for them, then somehow decide to invade a world that is covered in that substance? Where that substance falls from the sky on occasion? A world where the substance that kills them is vital to every inhabitant of that world, and is usually readily available? Why would they even think about New England? Wouldn't Death Valley (or the Sahara) be a better setting? Sorry to belabor the point, but that's just how egregiously stupid it was. Everything else, about how everything is interconnected, and there is a plan, after all? Great. Like a beautiful gilt frame for a steaming pile.

And Six Sense was pretty decent, but, seriously, it was obvious from the trailer: Bruce Willis helps a special boy who has a problem. The boy sees DEAD PEOPLE! And Bruce Willis is trying to help him. Ahem.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:49 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but Whedon has been attached to projects which means there are people who are fine with handling them. Looking at IMDB he has a couple of films in the can that he wrote for so again more points go to the idea that people do believe in his ability. My understanding is that he was spread pretty thing while doing Firefly. I wouldn't be surprised if he just decided to take a little break after Serenity, but I don't know for sure. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and it looks like he has plenty of grease going his way, so I think his standing in Hollywood is on firm ground and has been for a long time regardless of what the "box office" showed. Hell, Kevin Smith is still allowed to make movies and I don't think that's because he doesn't make people money.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:52 PM on June 30, 2010


AlsoMike: “Žižek has a very interesting take on the film.”

Yeesh. I mean, he compares The Village with Vertigo in that review – putting them on an equal level.

Seriously, Slavoj Žižek can be sort of fun, but his deadly ray of hipster irony could kill a Pitchfork-reading moose at forty paces. At this point I'm certain he's never actually being serious about anything. I mean, there's only so much stuff a person can write about how Paris Hilton is the personification of the late Heideggerian will to eviscerate the nothing's relation to the one, or about how the "Bill Cosby Show" is an affirmation of late Marxian agitprop by way of a repudiation of Hegel's master/slave dynamic, before they realize it's all really just intriguing bullshit anyway.
posted by koeselitz at 7:56 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Put me down for "mocking his name is a douchebag move", as well. I'd like to think that we're better than that here. If you disagree, please go back to GBS.
posted by Mikey-San at 7:58 PM on June 30, 2010


Intriguing bullshit is mostly what people talk about in casual conversation though.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:58 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, the first sentence of Ebert's Airbender review is outstandingly brutal. That is how you write a topic sentence.
posted by Mikey-San at 7:59 PM on June 30, 2010


I heard that Shyamalan is terrible and I've only seen 6th sense (parts of it, anyway, and they were ok), and I didn't care a bit; but I'll never forgive him for ruining one of the best anime series. Why in god's name couldn't one of the decent directors be hired for this one? On the other hand, in a strange way, maybe this is the best thing that could have happened.. well, the best thing would be if they didn't make a live action at all. The next best thing is when they make such absolute tripe that you don't even consider seeing it.. if there was even a shimmer of quality on or about it, I'd be tempted to see it and I'd hate it because for this series, nothing but an impeccable adaptation would do, and we all know that would never happen because the world is just not that good, not to mention the world of movies.
posted by rainy at 8:03 PM on June 30, 2010


Why in god's name couldn't one of the decent directors be hired for this one?

As others have mentioned, he wasn't hired. Apparently, he decided he wanted to do an Avatar movie and actively sought out the creators of the series and talked them into letting him do one.

The question is why they didn't say no!
posted by sparkletone at 8:12 PM on June 30, 2010


after his one and only hit

Huh?

Unbreakable...did a little better than break even

Double huh? Those two comments - and josher71's reliance on domestic US box office numbers - are more than a little myopic. Even without including DVD sales, Shyamalan has had more than enough big hits to keep the money flowing his way.

Box Office Mojo puts Unbreakable's foreign total at $153,106,782. With the $95m it made in the US, that's almost $250m on a $75m production budget.

Signs earned $180m foreign and $228m domestic, for a total of $408m.

The Village (yeah, not half as bad as critics like Ebert made it out to be) earned $142m foreign and $114m domestic - $256m on a $60m investment.

Ok, Lady in the Water barely made its $70m budget back in worldwide ticket sales, but The Happening earned $163m worldwide on a $48m budget.

Shyamalan's obviously an awful writer, but you don't have to look very far to figure out why Hollywood keeps giving him money. You just have to look past the USA border.
posted by mediareport at 8:13 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's the irony of the conversation: The Last Airbender is the most culturally diverse movie series of all time.

That's from an interview with Shyamalan, linked above. Oh, his absolute certainty in his plans, to the point that is goes beyond optimism...
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:21 PM on June 30, 2010


P.o.B.: “Intriguing bullshit is mostly what people talk about in casual conversation though.”

Yeah, sometimes. A little bit. Like, you'll be at a party, and you'll argue that you actually like Sting's solo work better than his Police albums, just to see if you can do it, and to see the looks on people's faces.

But Slavoj Žižek is the guy who comes in and responds that, yes, Sting's solo albums were far superior, because they represent the transcendent mimetic juxtaposition of the urban will-to-Adult-Contemporary fused with the pan-ecological mystic fervor of the early 1990s, and because this melange of socially normative and yet immanently self-reflective sonnets stands in for Kierkegaard's "knight of faith," presenting the modern soul with a paradigm for a kind of ur-Christian renewal. But, he will then nonchalantly add, Sting's elevating grundwerke contains only bare fragments of this essential moment in modern HISstory, whereas one can find it in full flower in Kenny G's brilliant 1988 pastiche "Against Doctor's Orders."

And after that, it's just not funny any more.
posted by koeselitz at 8:24 PM on June 30, 2010 [14 favorites]


Seriously, Slavoj Žižek can be sort of fun, but his deadly ray of hipster irony could kill a Pitchfork-reading moose at forty paces. At this point I'm certain he's never actually being serious about anything.

He opens a copy of Living in the End Times, and finds the contents page. "I will tell you the truth now," he says, pointing to the first chapter, then the second. "Bullshit. Some more bullshit. Blah, blah, blah." He flicks furiously through the pages. "Chapter 3, where I try to read Marx anew, is maybe OK. I like this part where I analyse Kafka's last story and here where I use the community of outcasts in the TV series Heroes as a model for the communist collective. But, this section, the Architectural Parallax, this is pure bluff. Also the part where I analyse Avatar, the movie, that is also pure bluff. When I wrote it, I had not even seen the film, but I am a good Hegelian. If you have a good theory, forget about the reality."

I was flipping through Living in the End Times and I caught an extended riff on The Dark Knight, in which he got several basic plot points just plain wrong. (I can only imagine what strange things he's doing to headier stuff beyond my comprehension!) It impresses and depresses me that Žižek can be on such autopilot nowadays.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:27 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let's play a game! My ideal director/producer (living or dead) for a live action Avatar movie is Sam Raimi. At least we know he wouldn't write out the cabbages guy, and he'd cast Azula perfectly.

Okay now you go
posted by Mizu at 8:41 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, you guys, USA Today liked it!

4% yessssssss
posted by vorfeed at 8:49 PM on June 30, 2010


James Cameron is not the right guy to direct a Jane Austen adaptation, however much he might beg and plead (although that might be neat... Okay, I take it back. I'd pay to see that).

You've read Terminators of Endearment, or, Pride and Extreme Prejudice, yes?
posted by asterix at 8:56 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Apparently he ripped off the idea for The Sixth Sense (see #5) from an episode of Are You Afraid Of The Dark?

Ugh, when I read that yesterday it pretty much destroyed all regard I had for the film. I know everybody says they figured out the plot twist at the beginning of the movie (or even earlier, upon viewing the trailer), but I still thought it was very nicely executed.

As an atheist, I loved the idea in Signs that God exists and is literally shouting at us, every moment of every day, but most of us are just too rational to notice. That's a great concept. \

I'm not an atheist but that's pretty close to the way I read Signs too and that's why it's still one of my favorite films. I thought the aliens were just poorly planned plot devices.

Žižek has a very interesting take on the film. The villagers are proto-fascists, who, in order to have their balanced & harmonious authentic community, need the fantasy of evil outsiders who constantly threaten them and they maintain an uneasy truce with. The monsters represent the typical paranoid racist fantasy - the Jews, the Muslims, the Immigrants, etc. We can even find a critique of post-9/11 politics of fear - the villagers are in a permanent state of emergency against the monsters.

The Village is what killed any dregs of hope I had left for Shyamalan. At the time I saw it as a seriously pathetic attempt at psychological horror. But viewing it as a post-9/11 cautionary tale about social and political manipulation based on all-consuming, self-destroying fear of people and things "not us" might have worked for me.

Sorry, but unless he attempts something ridiculous like remaking Citizen Kane, I'm done with M. Night.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:07 PM on June 30, 2010


I hope Shyamalan does a Chubby Checker biopic.
posted by mazola at 9:10 PM on June 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


This is a tragedy, but I guess in some ways it is better to have an avatar movie that is so bad I know I will never watch it than have an avatar movie that kinda sucks but I watch anyway.
posted by snofoam at 9:11 PM on June 30, 2010


Personally, I really liked The Village. The plot was, okay, whatever, but visually it was gorgeous.

Lady in the Water, though, was just cringingly awful. I just felt horribly embarrassed for him the whole time I was watching it. Especially when the critic got eaten.
posted by moss at 9:23 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


P.o.B.: “Intriguing bullshit is mostly what people talk about in casual conversation though.”

Yeah, sometimes. A little bit. Like, you'll be at a party, and you'll argue that you actually like Sting's solo work better than his Police albums, just to see if you can do it, and to see the looks on people's faces.


Going a little further off on the tangent...as a hardcore Police and Sting fan, whenever I hear someone trying to make that argument about Sting solo versus Sting with the Police, I can't roll my eyes hard enough.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:25 PM on June 30, 2010


I was flipping through Living in the End Times and I caught an extended riff on The Dark Knight, in which he got several basic plot points just plain wrong. (I can only imagine what strange things he's doing to headier stuff beyond my comprehension!) It impresses and depresses me that Žižek can be on such autopilot nowadays.

Sounds kinda like Tim Rogers, actually, but with movie and music reviews instead of how great it is to be Tim Rogers and live in Japan.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:30 PM on June 30, 2010


In the interest of making this thread slightly less sad:

Did you know that Dave Bronner is a huge Avatar fan and made an Avatar-themed Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap label? It's true, and I posted a copy of the label if you want to see it.
posted by snofoam at 9:31 PM on June 30, 2010 [10 favorites]


Plagiarism, I think, is nothing new to M. Night "What a twist" Shyamalan. The Village is an unabashed rip-off of Margaret Peterson Haddix's excellent 1995 YA novel Running Out Of Time. It's about a young girl in an isolated mid-19th century village who has to escape to obtain medicine for her dying brother and... to quote EW.com, "she gets a surprise."

Needless to say, Haddix's book is far better written and has a far more compelling plot and characters than the Shyamalan movie. She told me at a book signing that her publisher was considering a lawsuit for a while. I'm not sure if they dropped it... or perhaps they settled out of court. But it pisses me off that such a talented, hard-working writer would get her ideas stolen by such an overrated so-called "auteur" like Shyamalan.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 9:34 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why the Whedon talk? Anyway, just pair Whedon who can't direct with M Night who can't write and you've got a great movie on your hands. Unless you mix up the writing/directing movies.

As to making fun of his name, why does nobody pick on him changing his middle name and going by M Night? That's up there with Dr Raven Darktalon Blood with silly names and yet everyone chooses to make fun of his perfectly normal Indian surname!
posted by Silentgoldfish at 9:36 PM on June 30, 2010


Metafilter: Like a beautiful gilt frame for a steaming pile.
posted by emjaybee at 9:44 PM on June 30, 2010


I hope Shyamalan does a Chubby Checker biopic.

Hardcore porno parodies.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:55 PM on June 30, 2010


Sure, there are loads of movies with idiotbombs as bad as the water soluble menace from beyond (don't get me started on asteroids the size of Texas) - but they are bad movies, by and large. This had been a good one.

Yeah, this is the real frustration with M.Night.S. He's actually got a substantial talent but it's not complete. So we get sucked into thinking we're watching a genuinely excellent movie and then it FAILS ... badly. If the man could grasp his weaknesses and figure out how to collaborate with other creative types (ie: listen to dissenting voices and maybe incorporating some of their ideas), he'd be a cultural force to be reckoned with. But no, his ego won't allow it.

Interestingly, when I first scanned the wording of the post, I thought it was going to be about George Lucas.
posted by philip-random at 10:01 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Say what you will about the massive amount of crap he's put out, but Unbreakable is still the single most mature and compelling movie-that-deals-with-comics that I have ever seen.

Can someone please explain all this love for Unbreakable? We start with title cards very somberly telling us how comic books are really popular, then it's two mopey hours of Bruce Willis brooding and walking around. Everything is grey, and it's slow, dull, and depressing. Nothing really happens. Actually, disasters do happen here and there, and it turns out Bruce is Superman, but he didn't know that. That would be an interesting premise for a film's beginning or middle, not the very last fucking scene.

Sam Jackson is Lex Luthor or something, and somehow knew that Superman existed and created massive disasters on the off chance that if someone actually survived, then it must be Superman! Let's discuss the odd of this logic. Considering there are 6 billion people in the world, even a big disaster with thousands of people dying, it's unlikely in the extreme that Luthor would find his Superman in that way. He was pretty damn lucky it was only took a few!

Really, I thought this movie was as bad as Signs or The Village, albeit for different reasons. All, though, depend on The Twist!!! which ultimately sinks them.

Shyamalan--as it's been pointed out upthread--is a good, even above-average director. But he can't write his way out of a paper bag.
posted by zardoz at 10:03 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Slavoj Žižek can be sort of fun...

Oh, are we debating Žižek now? I don't see the problem people have with his references to pop culture - I think he sees illustrations of philosophical concepts in pop culture, and once he said that his examples are for explaining to idiots, because he is that idiot. The joke is that his readings of "vulgar" pop culture hearken back to when philosophers and intellectuals were arbiters of taste and culture, exposing how easy it is for them to have their personal preferences installed into the canon of culture because we put them in that position. So the absurdity of his examples are his way of undermining himself, of refusing to allow you to put him in the position of the Lacanian Big Other, the authoritative one who knows all the answers. Many of the standard accusations - that he's vulgar, a jokester, a fraud, he doesn't provide a consistent philosophy, he makes factual mistakes, his physical appearance is ridiculous -- strongly indicate a need for philosophers to occupy this position. We want a Serious Philosopher, definitely not one who makes stupid fart jokes. He refuses to be that for you. So if you're saying that he's a just a weird guy and you don't need to take anything on his authority, then... yeah. We agree. But that's a bad reason to write him off completely.

And technically you are wrong, he doesn't put The Village and Vertigo on the same level, just mentions that they both had similar criticisms made against them. But I will let that one go because I'm generous and I know what you mean.
posted by AlsoMike at 10:17 PM on June 30, 2010


Unbreakable was terrible.

The last book of the Golden Compass trilogy was so horrible it still makes me angry to think how disappointingly it ended.

Signs was OK tension-wise even if parts were ridiculous, and the Village was good/OK right up until the money shot.


I thought it was interesting the M Night was doing this film, thinking to myself as I sat in the theater watching the preview, "I guess his career is so far in the shitter that the only thing he can get someone to pay for is someone else's ideas..."
posted by Windopaene at 10:23 PM on June 30, 2010


If there are any merciful gods in this universe, there will be no sequel, and the mental soil that is Shyamalan's breeding ground for new script ideas will be salted and left barren to birth such movies no more.

...happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. It's back down to 6% on RT! Huzzah!
posted by zennish at 10:28 PM on June 30, 2010


I've never seen Unbreakable, but a guy I knew who was also a big comics guy had a very compelling case for why it was total crap and actually had no respect for the art of comics at all. If i remember the essence of it correctly, he spelled out how what Shyamalan was basically saying was "look, I can take a lowly, vulgar art form like mere comix and make something deep and resonant out of it", which is an approach that nobody who actually liked, knew, and respected comics as an artform would actually take.
posted by anazgnos at 10:43 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


AlsoMike: “We want a Serious Philosopher, definitely not one who makes stupid fart jokes. He refuses to be that for you. So if you're saying that he's a just a weird guy and you don't need to take anything on his authority, then... yeah. We agree. But that's a bad reason to write him off completely.”

Yeah, and that's why I still find myself fascinated and drawn to him. I pick up every book he writed, and I breeze right through it – I am not saying "look at me, I parse Lacanian terminology as easily as mortals parse alphabet soup," I only mean that I sort of ignore that and just look for names I recognize. And it's great fun.

I just, well, meant what I said above - I don't know when he's being serious. I don't know if he ever means what he says. I suppose it's not a big deal if he doesn't, but I get the feeling some people are looking for some deep meaning in his work. Maybe I'm just trying to take that down a notch. I also find it sort of comedic that he's such a Lacanian, given that Lacan is (at least the way I read him) a pompous blowhard who has no sense of humor, and who isn't much worth reading anyway.

Anyway, I mostly wanted to post this comment to say that I would be delighted and happy to see an M Night Shyamalan movie with a screenplay by Slavoj Žižek. That would be worth a good deal of money to me.
posted by koeselitz at 10:53 PM on June 30, 2010


he spelled out how what Shyamalan was basically saying was "look, I can take a lowly, vulgar art form like mere comix and make something deep and resonant out of it"

I could see that if you were to start from a position of already hating the movie and thinking M. Night is an asshole. Which is understandable, but not a very compelling way to say you didn't like something. My take is that Unbreakable has to be watched with a sort of comic book filter in place to really enjoy it for what it is, and the same goes for the Lady in the Water with a fairy tale view point. If you watch them from those vantage points, you come out with a much larger appreciation.
I would agree with Ebert's take on Signs and that it isn't until your done with the suspense of the story do you think "heeeyyy wait a minute" about the water.
Personally I don't watch trailers and haven't for a long time, I think they ruin more movies than spoileriffic internet users do. I'd rather watch a movie like The Sixth Sense with fresh eyes than having it ruined for me by some asshole commercial editor.

Anyway, just to ramble on about my nit, I still think The Sixth Sense and The Village are the only movies of his that include a twist.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:58 PM on June 30, 2010


I could see that if you were to start from a position of already hating the movie and thinking M. Night is an asshole. Which is understandable, but not a very compelling way to say you didn't like something.

Well, I've put myself in the inadvisable position of trying to present someone else's argument and communicate what I found compelling about it while not actually being able to make that argument. But I do think he had liked Sixth Sense.
posted by anazgnos at 11:29 PM on June 30, 2010


Remember his wretched American Express "My Life, My Card" commercial? It was part of the series featuring famous directors.

I remember seeing the Wes Anderson one in the theater and thought it was very funny. I loved watching Scorcese's right now. His agonizing is absolutely hilarious, and his look at the employee after asking his opinion and getting a useless answer is fantastic. It is such a wonderful ephemeral bit of comedy that lasts only one second.

Then I watched Shylaman's. He goes for unexplained weirdness to build tension. Oh look, dude's actin all normal in some kinda crazy restaurant. Oh look, there's symbolism that will never be explained, and then, oh look! All of a sudden a beautiful lady walks up and starts gushing like Niagara. "Mr. Shylaman? I love your movies! I've seen them all!" Ok look and get ready to chuckle, because, his forceful indifference tells us that he gets that all the time.

Now he had a hilarious self-insert in The Lady in the Water, The Writer who has the greatest story ever in the whole wide world to tell but that Mean Ol' Critic is just so nasty to his art, I sure hope maybe something horrid will happen to him. I never thought I'd see again an auteur so transparent in his self-insertion.

But here came this ad, which featured Shylaman as wildly imaginative man who we watch as he wildly imagines things and then tells us he's wildly imaginative. He manages to accomplish the nigh-impossible: he freakin' Mary Sues himself.

Absolute genius.

That's the only title I can bestow upon the man. Well, the only one that doesn't involve any cussing.
posted by Spatch at 12:19 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


The nice thing about art is that it's polarizing. So if you have a bunch of people who love your work, and just as many who hate your guts, then you're doing something right. Let's face it, people may mock Michael Bay, but do they hate him like they hate Mr. M?

disclaimer: I like most of his movies, except Signs because it had Mel Gibson in it and the water lady one because i didn't see it. Yes, you heard me, I liked The Village.
posted by davejay at 12:32 AM on July 1, 2010


and yes I liked the happening and unbreakable too, truly
posted by davejay at 12:34 AM on July 1, 2010


you know what movie I hated? kill bill. And I fucking love Tarantino.
posted by davejay at 12:35 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


he spelled out how what Shyamalan was basically saying was "look, I can take a lowly, vulgar art form like mere comix and make something deep and resonant out of it"


That's another take on why I actually like the movie. It's a serious movie, about real people and the lives they lead that slowly leads into a superhero origin story. There's no leather (okay, Jackson sports some), no spandex. No huge unbelievable fight scenes. But it's still a comic book movie. To me, the difference is that where a hack like Ratner (behold the X-crement!) couldn't give a shit about the source material, Shyamalan actually told a comic book story respectfully. It was set in the decay of a dying marriage, and yeah, it was a little dark, but I'd take Unbreakable over Fantastic Four any day. Twice on Thursdays.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:53 AM on July 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I know I'm in the minority on this, but I still think "Signs" is his masterpiece. Watched it again the other night - that's a really great film. I love everything about it - the pacing, the off-kilter delivery of dialogue, the tone.

But then, I tend to like all of his stuff, even the stuff that I can acknowledge is bad (Lady in the Water). But his films exist in this strange vacuum, this world with its own logic, and they only work if you are totally inside that vacuum while watching.
posted by jbickers at 4:20 AM on July 1, 2010


Let's face it, people may mock Michael Bay, but do they hate him like they hate Mr. M?

Yes. They do. Michael Bay is a disgrace. A loud obnoxious cinematic equivalent of shitty thrash metal being blasted from blown out speakers in an unfinished basement. Shama-lama-ding-dong makes movies that are QUIET and shitty, but just as bad. Maybe even worse, but to me they are ONE and the same. M. Night and Bay ARE what's wrong with Hollywood, at the two extremes. Bay is what's wrong when egomaniacs get to make hugely expensive crappy action movies, and M. Night is what's wrong when hacks with good networking skills get to make hugely expensive crappy "thrillers." They suuuuuuuuuck! Suck balls. Am I hater? As Al Bundy said, "Shoe betcha!"
posted by ReeMonster at 5:48 AM on July 1, 2010


I was looking forward to the Avatar movie, and may still try and see it despite the reviews, if it's still around a month from now (when I'll have the time to see it). It'll be a real disappointment if it's as bad as many are claiming, versus just jumping on the hate bandwagon for one reason or another.

As for Signs, the aliens and a planet 3/4th covered in water... It's not like the aliens are landing in the ocean. First, how many planets out there have humanoid/people worth swooping down and enslaving? Probably not that many. At the least, the fact that the aliens would come to Earth notes that humans are a particularly valuable resource for them. Second, I'd say at least a billion if not more, people live in arid places, where rain is not abundant (or at least prevalent), nor near large bodies of water. There's a reason why there's an increasing alarm about the lack of fresh water. Third, an alien race who can cross space to come to earth with flying ships would also be able to recognize weather patterns and not land in areas where it's raining or about to rain. It's not a stupid premise. If you want something to hang your hat on to complain about, complain about why the space travelers don't have the sense to wear some kind of protective garment. That's the thing to ponder.

Lastly, water also goes into the religion aspect of the movie. If you note, the water "solution" arose first in Israel, and was then spread out through the world as the means to fight the aliens. It's water that defeats the alien in the house. In Christianity, baptism by water is the symbolic means of being saved. Christianity arose from the Middle East. Voila. The direction by Gibson to his son to use the water signified his return to his faith.

I enjoy most of his films. I enjoyed the faith aspect of Signs, the comic hero element of Unbreakable (a hero rising to meet his destiny as such), the 6th Sense, and I even liked the Village until the costumes came out (then it was diminished). Lady in the Water I enjoyed due to the aspect of a fairytale taking place in modern life (the only thing I didn't like was the director injecting himself into the movie in the form of someday to be martyred author). The Happening is the only movie I haven't seen and I just became uncomfortable watching people fall over dead. Maybe in the future I'll try again.
posted by Atreides at 6:00 AM on July 1, 2010


But Atreides, you yourself pointed out just a simple basic idea (stilsuits, if you will) that would have made the movie better. I agree that so much of the movie is well done. It's almost certainly the last film I actually enjoyed watching Mel Gibson in, for what it's worth. The problem I have with it is that it wasn't finished. There are a lot of movies out there that when you see them, you think, hey, that was pretty good, but maybe if they'd just done another draft of the script, it would have been fantastic (say... Dark City). But Signs doesn't even merit that, since the aliens are just so dumb. And this is ignoring the Prawns in District 9 ('dumb' aliens done exceptionally well), as they were well thought out. The aliens in Signs seemed like a total afterthought (and yes, they weren't supposed to be the focal point of the film, I understand that). Honestly, I think there are just too many movies that ignore any form of logic when they create their world. Aliens with spaceships? And they don't have any kind of scout force? They just attack en masse? No environmental hazard suits? Space suits of any kind? For that matter, no automatons/robots/probes to send first? It's like a freaking textbook on how not to invade a planet.

It's one thing to have a kind of lame monster. It's another to have the actors interacting with a tennis ball on a stick and then forget to add the cg later.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:26 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Edward L: .
Tell me a story, that's all I ask."

Once upon a time there was a young boy, only 7 years old, of both British and East Asian heritage, who loved the cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender. This little boy delighted in seeing a hero who looked just like him. He loved pretending he was the hero, Aang, a young boy like him.

When he learned that the movie cast Aang as white, this same young boy asked his aunt if this meant that he couldn't be Aang when he played Avatar with his friends from now on.

And his aunt's heart broke.

posted by ShawnStruck at 7:38 AM on July 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


I know I'm in the minority on this, but I still think "Signs" is his masterpiece. Watched it again the other night - that's a really great film. I love everything about it - the pacing, the off-kilter delivery of dialogue, the tone.

I agree with you. It is the only one of his films I rewatch regularly, and I consider it one of my favorite movies. I am an atheist, but to me it is one of the few movies that actually meaningfully shows what faith is about. It has so many beautiful moments, and it's so well-acted to boot. It was my litmus test for "can I still bear to watch Mel Gibson" after the sugar tits incident. I like The Sixth Sense well enough, and it is certainly a well-made and well-acted film, but I don't really ever want to watch it the way I want to watch Signs. That said, I hated Signs the first time I saw it, because I went in expecting a horror movie about aliens, and I didn't get one. I can see what so many people like about Unbreakable, and it too has many amazing moments, but I find it distressing to watch.

Shyamalan has George Lucas-sized hubris when it comes to his insistence on writing, even in the face of the evidence that he mostly sucks at it. His real strength is in directing, he is wonderful at building tension, and in finding gorgeous little moments. I enjoyed The Village, as silly as I ultimately thought it was, but it has some moments that are just beautiful (Lucius guiding Ivy out of the fire, for one).

That said, The Happening made me laugh out loud at how awful it was in every way, and this movie looks horrendous.
posted by biscotti at 8:01 AM on July 1, 2010


I'd just like to say that because of all of the recommendations in this thread, I started the cartoon (is it anime? I can't tell, can non-Japanese people technically make anime? whatever) last night and blew through the first 5 episodes. It is awesome and funny and cute, which leads me to ask of the live-action movie - - Why so serious?
posted by Think_Long at 8:07 AM on July 1, 2010


Thanks to the posters who pointed out I was wrong about M. Night's financial track record. I was under the impression that his films (with the exception of Signs and Sixth Sense) were financial stinkers, but that's not the case. For shame, people, for shame.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:38 AM on July 1, 2010


Oh, man, Think_Long, you are in for a treat. The series goes from strength to strength, and never loses sight of character development as the driving force for the plot - you'll remember how the people developed more than the story (and it's a great story!)

Sokka slowly emerging as leader and tactical mastermind, even while remaining a doofus - Zuko's relationship with his Uncle - Aang's growing insecurity and how his friends help him through it... man, TV really doesn't get much better, for kids or adults.

Oh, yeah, also: gorgeous animation and a fully realized, lovingly, painstakingly complete fantasy world.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:50 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks to the posters who pointed out I was wrong about M. Night's financial track record. I was under the impression that his films (with the exception of Signs and Sixth Sense) were financial stinkers, but that's not the case. For shame, people, for shame.

I had thought so as well! But then thought that it was worth looking at how badly they'd failed over time. So I was just as surprised as you to discover that he wasn't the financial failure I assumed given the general public opinion wrt his movies.
posted by sparkletone at 8:58 AM on July 1, 2010


You've read Terminators of Endearment, or, Pride and Extreme Prejudice, yes?

Asterix, I think I love you.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:14 AM on July 1, 2010


As for Signs, the aliens and a planet 3/4th covered in water... It's not like the aliens are landing in the ocean.

No, but they're walking around in air filled with water vapor.
posted by COBRA! at 9:19 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


As for Signs, the aliens and a planet 3/4th covered in water... It's not like the aliens are landing in the ocean.

No, but they're walking around in air filled with water vapor.


Love him or hat him, you have got to give M. Knight credit - people have been having this exact exchange going on 10 years now.
posted by Think_Long at 9:35 AM on July 1, 2010


I definitely hat him. I hat him with the fire of a thousand sunhats.
posted by Think_Long at 9:35 AM on July 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


Hat is a powerful emotion. Don't let it consume you.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 9:37 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


a few things:

1. can someone who has not watched Avatar as a child please explain to me what is good about the show? I've watched the first few episodes and the most I could think was "yep. definitely not for my age bracket." i'm 30, btw. But I keep encountering people my age - or at least not that much younger - who obsess over the show and I have no idea why. I get why kids would like it. It is very good as a kids' show. It's just the adults liking it thing I don't quite get. I hear people talk about how well written it is, and I don't see it. Cliches, bad jokes, obvious plots... all things that are fine in a kids show, but I don't understand liking it as an adult and would love to know what I'm missing.

2. Signs is a piece of shit on every level. Yes, it's about a man rediscovering his faith. It is badly written as a man rediscovering his faith. The principle moment (SPOILER ALERT) that jarred his faith in the first place is the death of his wife. There is a "poingnant" scene where we watch him have his last moment with his wife, the moment that rocks his faith, and what does she say? "Tell [joaquin phoenix] to swing away." wtf? why on earth would that be what she says? well, there's a reason for that and we'll get to it. speaking of swinging away, joaquin phoenix's big crucible in the story is coming to terms with the fact that he had baseball talent but pissed it away by swingning at every fucking pitch that was thrown at him. why on earth would he do that? is he stupid? well, he might be. so joaquin phoenix has to come to terms with the fact that he is stupid. well, ok. stupid people need heroes, too, I guess. oh, and then there's abigail breslin, who obsessively leaves water glasses everywhere. why does she do that? *shrug* something about germs I guess. well it doesn't matter, because the POINT is that there are water glasses everywhere. why do people let her leave water glasses everywhere? I guess 'cause mel gibson is only a good father when he believes in god or something.

OH WAIT I KNOW WHY ALL THIS HAPPENED. it's so that when the alien comes into the house, mel gibson can tell joaquin phoenix to "swing away" and then joaquin phoenix will, with. a baseball. bat. hit water glasses into the alien to drive it away.

that is it. all of that. all the absurdly, inexplicably quirky little character traits they all had... all for the weakest climactic moment ever. all so that mel gibson can say something stupid to someone stupid so that he will choose the stupidest way possible to get something wet. there is zero character development. zero. it's all a setup for an intensely stupid way to save the day.

the water thing? really stupid. everyone sees how stupid that is. in fact, stupid water things are a big part of the worst moments in many shyamalan films. it's dumb. but the truly ruinous part of that film is that all the character setup - which is so quirky that it strains credulity - was for that one awful moment, and thus is the entire movie ruined. joaquin never finds himself. the girl never gets normal re: water. and mel gibson finds god again in the most cliched irrelevant-to-the-rest-of-the-story way possible: by praying his son doesn't die from something outside his control. the burgeoning possibility of a relationship between gibson and the police lady? poof. what relationship? mel gibson coming to terms with his wife's death? poof. that probably happened when the screen faded to black.

sorry, that movie sucks.

3. Unbreakable was a fantastic movie for 2/3 of it, and so horrible for the final 1/3 that the good parts are ruined. as a treatment of what happens to normal people when the abnormal takes over their lives, you can't beat the first part of that movie. as a treatment of what happens when a lunatic decides to bomb things at random and stalk the survivors to find out if they're immortal? christ, that is the worst plot device in the history of cinema. actually, no it is not. it is the second worst plot device. the worst is bruce willis' thing with water. yes, water again. see, bruce willis can drown. now ask yourself: does this make water bruce willis greatest weakness? could you kill him with a glass of it and a baseball bat? no. no you could not. and yet that is what sam jackson tells him over the phone: his weakness is water. it is reinforced when the only truly dangerous moment in the film involves bruce willis and a serial killer falling into a pool... OF WATER! dun dun dunnnn. here's the thing, just as a matter of internal consistency: bruce willis just needed to breathe. that's all. if he can't breathe he dies. if you shot him sans aircraft or space suit into space, he would die. if you could suffocate him with a pillow (assuming he could not use his considerable strength to push you off) he would die. it didn't need to be water, except that shyamalan needed it to be water for god knows what reason. but all of that is secondary to the incredibly stupid revelation that samuel l jackson had been causing disasters at random hoping to find a superhero. It takes everything that happened in the movie and says "hey, this was all caused by an idiot!" it is the bug in the typing machine at the beginning of brazil, except that it's not a joke. it's dead serious in the worst way possible.

the sixth sense was great. everything else shyamalan has done. EVERYTHING else. awful crap.
posted by shmegegge at 9:40 AM on July 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


I've read all the comments and it's really interesting to see the different reactions people have to Shamalyan.

To me it's obvious he's super talented, but also extremely flawed. He's a supervillain, not a superhero because he makes gorgeous films that often manage to have a fatal flaw which (for many, many people but clearly not all, as this thread shows) saps the enjoyment of the film and actually makes you hate yourself for liking the first 3/4 of the film. He has an incredible conventional imagination, but unfortunately when it's time to take things in a different direction, either through reveal or plot twist, he is completely unable to dream up something interesting, compelling, or consistent. 3 of the 4 times I have seen his movies in the theatres, the walk out of the theatre was full of angry people. That is pretty darn rare.
posted by cell divide at 9:43 AM on July 1, 2010


I'm sorry. everything else except that one thing about rosie odonnell and the orphan and something about baseball.
posted by shmegegge at 9:46 AM on July 1, 2010


can someone who has not watched Avatar as a child please explain to me what is good about the show? [...] Cliches, bad jokes, obvious plots... all things that are fine in a kids show, but I don't understand liking it as an adult and would love to know what I'm missing.

How much of the show have you actually watched?

Are you sure you're not being the tiniest bit dismissive of it because of its medium (i.e., animation)?

I'll be happy to take a crack at answering the question of "what's good about the show," but I want to be sure I'm not wasting my effort.
posted by pts at 9:50 AM on July 1, 2010


How much of the show have you actually watched?

Are you sure you're not being the tiniest bit dismissive of it because of its medium (i.e., animation)?


as I mentioned, the first few episodes. say, 3 or 4 episodes. They didn't inspire me to watch the rest, so I'm wondering if there really is better material coming down the pipe I should hold out for. no, I'm not being dismissive of the medium, I'm a huge fan of animation in general. everything from looney tunes to pixar, with anime and things like that lumped in as well.
posted by shmegegge at 9:59 AM on July 1, 2010


I hear people talk about how well written it is, and I don't see it. Cliches, bad jokes, obvious plots... all things that are fine in a kids show, but I don't understand liking it as an adult and would love to know what I'm missing.

I'm not sure how its cliche really. Like I said, I've only watched 5 episodes so far, but it seems like the plot is pretty advanced. The ostensible villain of the show is a teenager who is hellbent on capturing the avatar, but really he's just trying to gain the respect of his father again. In episode three or four, the bad guys don't even meet the good guys. Instead, Kuzo (sp?) spends the episode arguing and dueling with a disrespecting general - we find out that this evil prince actually fights with more honor than the esteemed commander.

Finally, while everyone says the movie is dripping with verbal exposition, we seem to be finding out things slowly. Information is given out spottily through dialogue.

From the second episode: Kuzo is fighting Aang and says something along the lines of " I'm going to bring you back to my father. Not that you would know anything about that, being raised by monks".

What an important piece of characterization, and it's thrown out just like that! Most children watching the show would miss that bit, but it is this kind of storytelling method that has gotten me hooked.
posted by Think_Long at 10:04 AM on July 1, 2010


Kuzo is fighting Aang and says something along the lines of " I'm going to bring you back to my father. Not that you would know anything about that, being raised by monks".

I hope it is "something along" those lines and not exactly those lines, because that's pretty clunky writing.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:15 AM on July 1, 2010


Okay, in that case, let me say that starting with its fairly standard kid's adventure story beginnings, Avatar evolves into a nuanced and engaging fantasy narrative. The first real payoffs come midway through the first season, with Season 1 Ep. 13, "The Blue Spirit." The final three episodes of the first season form a complete arc, and it's there that the show reveals its capacity for genuinely epic moments—more of which are to come.

Season 2 involves the introduction of a new member of the main cast, Toph, a 12-year-old blind girl who is also the greatest earthbender in the world. So that's pretty cool, I guess. Also, the last third of this season pulls the rug entirely out from under everyone, as both character and viewer expectations are flatly defied. I don't want to spoil too much, but suffice to say that the writing is pretty damn smart. Some elements: Secret societies, puppet rulers, brainwashing, double-crossing, and the most dangerous villain in the show.

Season three is all about paying off the two seasons of build-up that lead to it. There's a last-ditch assault, a prison break, a dude who can blow shit up with his mind, an entire episode that's an homage to The Breakfast Club—there's romance, failure, loss, revenge, and redemption. And Airships. And a sword made out of space metal.

And the hell of it is, all this stuff feels like it matters. It's not just crazy shit happening on screen, "Take that, Decepticons!" lasers and explosions and a PSA at the end. The characters face difficult choices, and the heroes don't always do the right thing. The setting is one of fantasy and magic, but the characters struggle in very human ways. The narrative is not just about what they do but also who they are.

I dunno, man... maybe that doesn't sound cool to you. Me, I enjoyed the fuck out of it
posted by pts at 10:17 AM on July 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


I do not spot twist endings. People who don't watch nearly as many movies as I do -- people who don't think about movies as much as I do -- will say, "I totally saw that twist coming." I don't. It's just not how I watch movies.

I guessed the twist in The Village after watching the trailer.

Also, M. Night Shyamalan Finally Made A Comedy.
posted by brundlefly at 10:18 AM on July 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


I really liked Lady in the Water. I can see how you cynics would have a big problem with it, though.
posted by luriete at 10:20 AM on July 1, 2010


Avatar is a marathon, not a sprint. The first episodes lay down the groundwork - introduce you to major characters, plot points and background. In order to make this not-boring, there's a little more action adventure silliness. To my mind, the fifth episode is where it really starts to get interesting, with larger political ramifications and subtlety of character motivations beginning to be revealed, is Ep. 5.

But really, the series is really just finding its feet in Season I - Season II is where it really and truly shines. (Season III has a few Dragon Ball-esque fight scenes that I could have done without, but is still excellent.)

Major characters may be introduced at any time, and may not reveal themselves to be major characters until later (and sometimes earlier!) in the series - it's not just the exploits of three plucky kids and the sole villain they foil in every episode. The badguys, even minor villains, are treated to just as much plot and character development as the heroes - serious, imagine a Star Wars where they took the time to explain Grand Moff Tarkin's motivations and how they've changed since he signed on as an eager young officer.

It never bogs down, either - there is more than enough action, suspense and comedy to keep the impatient engaged with the larger story, and they know when to lay it on, and when to back off for quiet moments. Think of Claremont's first run on X-Men - he knew when to not have action, and in an action-oriented series, that takes skill and timing. Avatar has the same mastery of pacing.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:33 AM on July 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Instead, Kuzo (sp?) spends the episode arguing and dueling with a disrespecting general - we find out that this evil prince actually fights with more honor than the esteemed commander.

well, i agree that the show is well written for a kids' show. it's certainly leagues beyond pokemon or god help me the old dragon ball z or something like that. but my point is that that scene in particular is very much a kids show thing, not a thing that would fly if it were in a more adult targeted show, which is why I'm surprised to see non-kids raving about the show. In that scene, what you describe as "the evil prince" is clearly not an evil prince, he's a very typical headstrong but not completely unlikable type, unpopular within an evil organisation, who I imagine is going to have his big moment of becoming a not-the-bad-guy-anymore character. it is old old stuff. and that's fine. further, his fight with that commander is easily one of the most boilerplate kids show fight scenes ever. they're shooting fire at one another without getting injured. the less likable character does something shady. the more likable character succeeds anyway and doesn't do the evil thing when the evil character is yelling "DO IT!" it is a huge cliche.

all this is fine, because it is a kid's show, is my point.

on preview, there are more comments about this, so I'm a keep reading.
posted by shmegegge at 11:07 AM on July 1, 2010


Um, actually: I re-watched The Sixth Sense recently. And it's not that good. His "look at me" directorial tics really get in the way: "now I'm going to film this shot in a mirror! now from down here!"

I would say this though: Signs is the most claustrophobic I've ever felt in a cinema. Sure, the ending was disappointing; but the buildup, the feeling of enclosure and breathlessness, was very effective.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:08 AM on July 1, 2010


I dunno, man... maybe that doesn't sound cool to you. Me, I enjoyed the fuck out of it

well, it sounds like a decent enough reason to keep watching. I mean, tastes differ, obviously, but it sounds like it gets much better.
posted by shmegegge at 11:09 AM on July 1, 2010


serious, imagine a Star Wars where they took the time to explain Grand Moff Tarkin's motivations and how they've changed since he signed on as an eager young officer.

YOU'VE BEEN READING MY FAN FICTION!

seriously, though, thank you for the responses everybody. I'll keep watching the show.
posted by shmegegge at 11:11 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


god shmegegge you're reasonableness is annoying. What you are supposed to do is dig in and call us all sophomoric, and then tell us to go watch Truffaut if we want to really enjoy something.
posted by Think_Long at 11:20 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Apparently he ripped off the idea for The Sixth Sense (see #5) from an episode of Are You Afraid Of The Dark?

Ugh, when I read that yesterday it pretty much destroyed all regard I had for the film. I know everybody says they figured out the plot twist at the beginning of the movie (or even earlier, upon viewing the trailer), but I still thought it was very nicely executed.


I've actually always seen it as a rip-off of Goosebumps: The Ghost Next Door--my familiarity with which helped me figure out what was happening ten minutes into The Sixth Sense. It's not exactly an uncommon twist, though.

I've long felt like M Night relies entirely too hard on these sorts of twists. Since The Sixth Sense was pretty dry an unwatchable once you figure out the twist, I've gone into his movies since then having already known the ending. If they work when you know the twist, I'd venture its still a worthwhile experience.

So accordingly, I actually enjoyed The Village. Lady in the Water, too, which doesn't really have a twist at all and was a nice stab at fairy-tale esque storytelling. But I felt like his having a critic torn apart alive by monsters and playing the writer who brings about cultural revolution was a little (?) self-indulgent. I can't believe that no one told him that those were terrible ideas from the outset.

The Happening, which I saw in the theater because I (rightly) suspected it would be hilarious, was a steaming pile of shit piled atop a steaming pile of shit, though. Deep down, I suspect Shyamalan's problem is that he's just really not that smart. The whole plants-make-you-kill-yourself-because-they-take-away-your-self-preservation-mechanism is probably the stupidest horror conceit I've ever encountered.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:24 AM on July 1, 2010


My ex got me into Avatar. I liked it but it rapidly filled up my DVR (Nicktoons shows something like 4 episodes a day on some days), and I don't have time to follow it right now. I'll start renting it one of these days ...
posted by krinklyfig at 11:39 AM on July 1, 2010


I really liked Lady in the Water. I can see how you cynics would have a big problem with it, though.

Sure are a lot of cynics out there.

Consensus: A far-fetched story with little suspense and unconvincing scenarios, Lady In The Water feels contrived, pretentious, and rather silly.
posted by philip-random at 11:54 AM on July 1, 2010


luriete: "I really liked Lady in the Water. I can see how you cynics would have a big problem with it, though."

Surprised Ebert's LITW review hasn't specifically been cited yet (unless I missed it)...
You can feel the movie deflate before it's even started. The disembodied narration and cave-like drawings all but announce: There will be no mystery, no discovery, here -- everything is going to be explained and explained and explained in the most banal, literalistic fashion. No show. Just tell.
...
"There is more to tell of course, like why a scrunt might break the rule and try to attack a narf on the night the Great Eatlon comes... because there is a reason."

OK, stop. No. No, there is not a reason. All these convoluted "rules" -- including rules about what happens when somebody breaks the rules -- are as arbitrary as they are frivolous. Throughout the picture, Shyamalan coyly reveals one new "twist" in the story at a time, and each is nothing but another inconsequential red herring, another false obstacle over which the characters have to schlep in order to get from one story beat to the next. (Not only are they red herrings, they're dead horses. How's that for a mythological creature?)

"You have to believe that this all makes sense somehow!" says one character, in a shameless act of special pleading. But Shyamalan keeps playing cutesy nudge-nudge, wink-wink games with the audience, as if to say: "Hey, I know this is pretty silly -- and I want you to know that I know that. But you have to believe in it!" It's a movie that insists on the importance of fairy-tale mythology and storytelling that doesn't respect the integrity of mythology or know how to tell a story.
After this I feel like Ebert felt like he should made a big show of going easy on The Happening, just to show that he was a reasonable guy without an axe to grind.
posted by anazgnos at 12:04 PM on July 1, 2010


Here's what I don't get: the screenplay for The Sixth Sense was actually really good. It was excellently written. Better than the movie, even, which was not spectacular but solidly decent.

Good writing doesn't happen accidentally. Either Shyamalan had talent and lost in a Faustian bargain with the devil (what a twist!), or he had someone talented edit the stupid out of it before it ever crossed the desk at Disney.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:45 PM on July 1, 2010


shmegegge and Think_Long, just to warn you, the sixth episode is IMO the worst in the entire series by far -- I have no idea what happened there. I didn't get into Avatar for several years because I randomly caught that one episode on TV and thought it was all like that, but now it's one of my favorite TV series. (And I LOVE the Blue Spirit episode ... oh god, I don't even what to think about how Shyamalan ruined that sequence.)

In that scene, what you describe as "the evil prince" is clearly not an evil prince, he's a very typical headstrong but not completely unlikable type, unpopular within an evil organisation, who I imagine is going to have his big moment of becoming a not-the-bad-guy-anymore character.

Well ... kinda? But also kinda not? It definitely gets a lot more complicated.

So, who else is having an Avatar rewatch now or in the next few days?
posted by bettafish at 12:50 PM on July 1, 2010


Good writing doesn't happen accidentally. Either Shyamalan had talent and lost in a Faustian bargain with the devil (what a twist!), or he had someone talented edit the stupid out of it before it ever crossed the desk at Disney.

Before Sixth Sense hit big, M.Night.S was a comparative nobody. No doubt his script went through many levels of analysis and breakdown at Disney and, surprise, surprise, the studio system kind of worked. It was a fine-tuned thing by the time he got to production.

Enter Big Deal success and suddenly M.Night.S is an auteur who doesn't need to take shit (or notes) from anybody. He pulls off Unbreakable (sort of, I'm very much onside with those who think it's final act comparatively weak), he gets away with Signs (good box office, who cares about how DUMB it ultimately was?) ... and so on ... diminishing returns.

I'd love to see a mash-up of that American Express thing by the way. You wouldn't need to touch visuals, just re-imagine the soundtrack with an emphasis on some kind of self-satisfied, self-aggrandizing voice-over.
posted by philip-random at 1:06 PM on July 1, 2010


can someone who has not watched Avatar as a child please explain to me what is good about the show?

Aside from fun action, the cliches fall off from the first few episodes and start going into some interesting territory- you start seeing situations that seem like they're going to go into cliche'd afterschool special morality and instead, veer off into grey areas ("No, actually, lying is ok sometimes.").

The show starts dealing with some real issues without being too dark or explicit - war, refugees, being left outside your own culture, fascism, etc. You start seeing not all of the good guys are good people and not all the bad guys are bad people.

For a kids' show, it does some pretty amazing stuff.

Anyway, that's why I like it.
posted by yeloson at 1:06 PM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Io9's review: M. Night Shyamalan Finally Made A Comedy.
posted by MrVisible at 1:08 PM on July 1, 2010


shmegegge: well, i agree that the show is well written for a kids' show. it's certainly leagues beyond pokemon or god help me the old dragon ball z or something like that. but my point is that that scene in particular is very much a kids show thing, not a thing that would fly if it were in a more adult targeted show, which is why I'm surprised to see non-kids raving about the show. In that scene, what you describe as "the evil prince" is clearly not an evil prince, he's a very typical headstrong but not completely unlikable type, unpopular within an evil organisation, who I imagine is going to have his big moment of becoming a not-the-bad-guy-anymore character. it is old old stuff. and that's fine. further, his fight with that commander is easily one of the most boilerplate kids show fight scenes ever. they're shooting fire at one another without getting injured. the less likable character does something shady. the more likable character succeeds anyway and doesn't do the evil thing when the evil character is yelling "DO IT!" it is a huge cliche.

all this is fine, because it is a kid's show, is my point.


Honestly, I completely agree. There are much stronger episodes than the one you are referring to, and a decent amount of the world-building is interesting and imaginative (amazingly so when compared to most crap they make for kids, but better than lots of crap they make for adults, too), but it really isn't The Most Amazing Thing Ever Animated, not by a long shot. Personally, I really enjoyed the episodes where they delved into the world scenery, or followed up some logical conclusions to some of the ideas the introduced. And I respected the way it didn't just hand-wave all thought out the window entirely, 'because it's only for kids.' But at the same time, I thought the action sequences were the worst part of the show, both in terms of interestingness and also application of logic.

The three parts of the last episode were, to me, the weakest and most boring 90-ish minutes of the entire three seasons. The whole third season was a let-down compared to the second one, and the second act of the third season was yawn-inducing.
posted by paisley henosis at 1:21 PM on July 1, 2010


I hasten to add: over-all, I liked the show and I enjoyed watching it. A few of the episodes were fantastic, and a few more handled really interesting issues for a kid's show, and did them very well.
posted by paisley henosis at 1:23 PM on July 1, 2010


krinklyfig: Netflix Streaming. (huzzah!)

I think pts gave a great description of what makes the show work. We also have really enjoyed it, both the silliness and the long-building story. It's one of those shows that rewards remembering relatively minor characters and does reincorporation quite well.

Personally, I gave up on the whole idea of an Avatar movie when I heard that Mako had died. I loved his voice as Uncle Iroh.
posted by epersonae at 1:31 PM on July 1, 2010


but it really isn't The Most Amazing Thing Ever Animated, not by a long shot.

I would genuinely like to hear exactly what it was that bothered you about the action sequences, because again—I thought they were incredibly well done (and looking at the key animation drawings from the art book that just came out has only solidified this feeling).

I think it's unquestionably the most ambitious animated TV show to come out of this country in years, and would welcome any counterexamples you might have, because they must be AWESOME and I would love to see them.

But then again, I loved pretty much every episode of the third season, so our narrative priorities may be somewhat different.
posted by pts at 1:34 PM on July 1, 2010


Okay, I just have to say this.

Don't waste a Netflix pick on it. Don't plan your life for this event. Don't try to make this happen.

But if you ever happen to be in front of The Happening with a snarky person you love...

like say your inexplicably wrong TiVo has picked it up as a suggestion...

Watch it together.

Seriously, between our jokes and our own bemusement, I can't imagine having more fun on accident. The next morning, I felt like I'd done 500 crunches before bed because my sides hurt so much.

By the ending... and if you've seen it, you know what I mean... I thought the villains of the piece were coming after me, trying to suffocate me for mocking this. Very. Serious. Message. because I nearly suffocated. But it was really from all the laughter.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:02 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


man, the animation to come out of this country the past few years has been awful, mostly. the shit I've adored has been poorly animated (adult swim stuff, so it's related to budget) except for Venture Brothers, which is the best thing ever by any standard you care to name and yes i will fight about it.

previous to that, it was all about invader zim and futurama as far as I was concerned. those shows were visually awesome and the writing was top notch. but they weren't serious, which allows a certain freedom that a serious adventure series may not have.

anyone remember samurai jack? man, that show as hit or miss, with wild variation in either direction. everything in it was either the best thing ever or the worst thing ever.
posted by shmegegge at 2:04 PM on July 1, 2010


By the ending... and if you've seen it, you know what I mean... I thought the villains of the piece were coming after me, trying to suffocate me for mocking this. Very. Serious. Message. because I nearly suffocated. But it was really from all the laughter.

Yeeeah . . . I was trying to explain to some people at a party recently that I was so glad I saw the Happening because it was oh, so very funny. Like, just thinking about that scene with the old lady and the windows makes me giggle, still.

They didn't get it. Guess you had to be there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:05 PM on July 1, 2010


The Last Airbender is a bad movie. This seems to be empirically proven. The question the remains is just how bad is The Last Airbender? Judging by the reactions on my Twitter feed, it's one of the most catastrophically bad movies ever made. These reactions make me feel weird, since I think it's just run of the mill bad. Still, it's telling that I could end up being one of the film's biggest defenders by simply saying 'It's just regularly bad.'
posted by brundlefly at 2:20 PM on July 1, 2010


"Good writing doesn't happen accidentally. Either Shyamalan had talent and lost in a Faustian bargain with the devil (what a twist!), or he had someone talented edit the stupid out of it before it ever crossed the desk at Disney."

Before Sixth Sense hit big, M.Night.S was a comparative nobody. No doubt his script went through many levels of analysis and breakdown at Disney and, surprise, surprise, the studio system kind of worked. It was a fine-tuned thing by the time he got to production.


Nope. That's not at all what happened. Again, without outing myself, I can say with confidence that M.N.S. was in full control of the script from the beginning. When he was still writing Sixth Sense, he already knew he had a hit on his hands - he expected to get a million for the screenplay. He got $2.5 and the right to direct, which he wanted anyhow. It was super hot. Disney wasn't in a position to insist on anything. He made the film he wanted, without any "fine-tuning" from Disney. M.N.S. is not a shrinking violet vs studios. It's all about your power - he had the material they desperately wanted = he had the power, end of story.

Before Sixth Sense, M.N.S. was a respected hollywood screenplay writer, with a couple unsuccessful movies, but he didn't need to wait for the sixth sense to be filmed to become powerful - he became powerful the moment the script became a "must have".

But you can see the man in the boy. He was what he was already before sixth sense, though maybe some of his psychological tendencies became exaggerated, I suppose, once he had box office. I eventually moved on, but I'd still hear things about him from friends in the biz.
posted by VikingSword at 2:21 PM on July 1, 2010


pts: I would genuinely like to hear exactly what it was that bothered you about the action sequences, because again—I thought they were incredibly well done (and looking at the key animation drawings from the art book that just came out has only solidified this feeling).

I think it's unquestionably the most ambitious animated TV show to come out of this country in years, and would welcome any counterexamples you might have, because they must be AWESOME and I would love to see them.

But then again, I loved pretty much every episode of the third season, so our narrative priorities may be somewhat different.


TONS OF SPOILERS AND SPOILERS AND SPOILERS, DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU CARE AT ALL ABOUT AIRBENDER SPOILERS.

The wizards who control Earth must be near some rock or dirt in order to control it, likewise those who control Water. Air is, obviously, pretty much everywhere, but the Fire wizards make fire out of nothing all the time. It doesn't even deplete their Chi, they just all happen to be that much more magical.

Fire is a Prime Element, but for some reason that means that a hand full of Fire wizards can also shoot lightning out of their hands. This is not a big deal and is never thoroughly explained. Also, for some reason that I don't think is ever explained, exactly one person can control not just lighting and Fire but also fire which is blue. I know, the dragons, the dichotomy, whatever, but there is no reason that she should have blue fire.

Fire and Water magic wax and wane depending on the cycles of the sun and moon, but Earth and Air are static, for some odd reason.

Going back to the lightning magic: a bolt of lighting can be deflected from hitting someone by a strong wind. Are you kidding me? Even if I give you wind deflecting a fire ball, and even if I give you wind destroying a flying rock, how the hell is it blowing away lightning? That is stupid.

People throw fireballs around seemingly forever and there is never, never any accidental secondary fires or injuries to bystanders. In fact, there are only two instances in the entire show of Fire magic ever actually burning anyone at all.

The whole thing about the highest masters of Magic on the world being children is such a silly trope that I almost don't want to mention it, but having a 12 year old discover metal magic, something that no one in all of history has ever known, is a bit much. The Water girl is a better example of this, especially when she goes from unable to control her water to a master not just in a one montage but explicitly in a few days (unless they said it was weeks, but even still).

The double-deus-ex of fixing his wound by, what, bumping his back? and simultaneously unlocking his last chakra, somehow? so that he could beat the guy who he waited until after the literal last second to fight. That was an amazingly huge hand wave.

But as far as hand waves go, you can't beat the one established in the opening monologue: the four nations are supposed to be in balance, but the only Air guy in the entire world is a mortal. Since magic is racist, the only people who could possibly re-populate the Air magicians are his children, and no matter how many of them there are and how gifted they are, someone with only 9 years of experience will be the only one to teach them the culture. The Air magician society is gone forever, and even better, once the Avatar dies, there will be no one to teach the next one Air magic.

What kid's shows from the US are better? You're right, it's slim pickings out there. But even if this show is the best-smelling turd in the pasture, that doesn't make it a rose. (I also don't think it is a turd, I'm just saying.)
posted by paisley henosis at 2:26 PM on July 1, 2010


M. Night Shyamalan: The King Midas of shit.
posted by signalnine at 12:35 AM on July 1 [+] [!]

For a moment I thought that was an anagram. Slightly disappointed it isn't now - would have been the best anagram ever. Maybe


I'm afraid that you are wrong and that the spot will not be contested for the foreseeable future.
posted by Anything at 2:48 PM on July 1, 2010


SPOILERS CONTINUE. DO NOT READ THIS COMMENT UNLESS YOU HAVE SEEN THE TV SERIES IN ITS ENTIRETY, OR DON'T CARE.

paisley henosis: The wizards who control Earth must be near some rock or dirt in order to control it, likewise those who control Water. Air is, obviously, pretty much everywhere, but the Fire wizards make fire out of nothing all the time. It doesn't even deplete their Chi, they just all happen to be that much more magical.

You can go a couple of ways with this, but the alternative is to have firebenders require a source of flame, and this is an absurdly unbalancing choice. I understand your complaint, but requiring firebenders to use extant flame means that they're hopeless against a bender of any other element.

Firebenders need to be fearsome.

Fire is a Prime Element, but for some reason that means that a hand full of Fire wizards can also shoot lightning out of their hands. This is not a big deal and is never thoroughly explained. Also, for some reason that I don't think is ever explained, exactly one person can control not just lighting and Fire but also fire which is blue. I know, the dragons, the dichotomy, whatever, but there is no reason that she should have blue fire.

Again, I understand your complaint, but since the control of lighting serves an incredibly important point in the development of Zuko's character, I think it's a justifiable element (so to speak). Avatar nearly always privileges character development over other considerations, and it's because of its resonant characters that it's so successful as a work of fiction. I'm willing to accept that in the show's world, "lightning" is a close enough analogue to "fire" that sufficiently talented firebenders can control it, particularly since the mastery of lightning (or more accurately, the mastery of its redirection) is so crucial to a main character's story.

Fire and Water magic wax and wane depending on the cycles of the sun and moon, but Earth and Air are static, for some odd reason.

You're right that environmental factors that might affect the bending of Earth and Air are never explored. I felt that there was a pleasant symmetry to the notion of two dynamic elements whose potency can wax and wane, and two static elements that are simply always there—but in any case I feel this was more a case of there being neither sufficient screen time nor sufficient reason to delve into the mechanics of this aspect of the magic system.

Going back to the lightning magic: a bolt of lighting can be deflected from hitting someone by a strong wind. Are you kidding me? Even if I give you wind deflecting a fire ball, and even if I give you wind destroying a flying rock, how the hell is it blowing away lightning? That is stupid.

That would be really stupid. It also never happens -- I'm not sure where you got this idea? Lightning is only ever redirected through a person's body; it is never blown away by wind.

People throw fireballs around seemingly forever and there is never, never any accidental secondary fires or injuries to bystanders. In fact, there are only two instances in the entire show of Fire magic ever actually burning anyone at all.

Aang accidentally burn's Katara's hands the first time he attempts firebending. Zuko's father scarred him. Song's leg was burned by firebending soldiers. When the Fire Nation comes to Kyoshi Island in the first season, they are there to raze the town to the ground by starting a lot of fires with their bending, then letting them burn out. Zuko and Azula's confrontation in the finale leaves the palace around them in flames. I don't think you can reasonably argue that the show doesn't basically deal with the consequences of having the ability to generate and manipulate fire.

The whole thing about the highest masters of Magic on the world being children is such a silly trope that I almost don't want to mention it, but having a 12 year old discover metal magic, something that no one in all of history has ever known, is a bit much. The Water girl is a better example of this, especially when she goes from unable to control her water to a master not just in a one montage but explicitly in a few days (unless they said it was weeks, but even still).

Well, this is fundamentally a story about a group of kids and teenagers who save the world. They don't do it alone, but y'know—that's what it's about. I feel like enough attention is paid to both non-bending characters and to adults that it earns its "talented kids" conceit.

The double-deus-ex of fixing his wound by, what, bumping his back? and simultaneously unlocking his last chakra, somehow? so that he could beat the guy who he waited until after the literal last second to fight. That was an amazingly huge hand wave.

This, I will concede. For what it's worth, that was part of the original pitch of the show going all the way back, and while many other rough points were ironed out along the way, that moment stayed because the creators fought for it. It is admittedly the one beat in the finale that I feel falls short of the overall message of the show, which is that individual action matters. I do not feel that it ruins the finale or counts as a particularly glaring fault.

But as far as hand waves go, you can't beat the one established in the opening monologue: the four nations are supposed to be in balance, but the only Air guy in the entire world is a mortal. Since magic is racist, the only people who could possibly re-populate the Air magicians are his children, and no matter how many of them there are and how gifted they are, someone with only 9 years of experience will be the only one to teach them the culture. The Air magician society is gone forever, and even better, once the Avatar dies, there will be no one to teach the next one Air magic.

I think you're reading too much into this. Bending talent is explicitly not genetic; there is pair of identical twins in the show, only one of whom is a bender. It is not at all clear that the only Aang's notional children have the potential to be airbenders. You're right that the x-factor of bending is left totally ambiguous, but I can't see this as anything other than a deliberate choice. Magic does not seem to be racist so much as it is regionalist (note the "swampbenders," waterbenders deep in the heart of the earth kingdom); hopefully the in-production followup miniseries will somehow address this obvious question of where the next generation of airbenders will come from.

The main weakness of Avatar's worldbuilding and magic system is in its spots of ambiguity, and given a relatively limited amount of screen time, I think it makes more sense to devote footage to character development and storytelling than in hashing out all the edge cases of how its magic works. This is a simple issue of priorities, and one that is certainly a matter of personal preference—but I feel that it's a tribute to the fundamental soundness of the system and the story that these arguments are even possible.
posted by pts at 3:25 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

I think pla addresses all those points way better than I could, but I wanted to add that Iroh and Zuko don't learn to bend lightning because they are special bending snowflakes with unexplained extra powers; they learn because Iroh experiments with fringe firebending techniques (by studying waterbending techniques, apparently an unconventional area of study), learns a new technique that works, and teaches it to Zuko.
posted by bettafish at 3:48 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


pts: You can go a couple of ways with this, but the alternative is to have firebenders require a source of flame, and this is an absurdly unbalancing choice. I understand your complaint, but requiring firebenders to use extant flame means that they're hopeless against a bender of any other element.

Nah, c'mon, the girl with the weird hair carries a little tube of water everywhere she goes, no reason they couldn't do the same.

pts: That would be really stupid. It also never happens -- I'm not sure where you got this idea? Lightning is only ever redirected through a person's body; it is never blown away by wind.

You're right, I was confusing it with the blue Fire (which looks almost identical and is really confusing.) Blowing fire away is still dumb.

pts: Aang accidentally burn's Katara's hands the first time he attempts firebending. Zuko's father scarred him. Song's leg was burned by firebending soldiers. When the Fire Nation comes to Kyoshi Island in the first season, they are there to raze the town to the ground by starting a lot of fires with their bending, then letting them burn out. Zuko and Azula's confrontation in the finale leaves the palace around them in flames. I don't think you can reasonably argue that the show doesn't basically deal with the consequences of having the ability to generate and manipulate fire.

I can and I do. You are right that three people got burned, not two like I said, but I'm right that that is practically zero when you divide it by the number of balls and jets of fire thrown at other human beings. The kids dodge fireballs like bullets in the Matrix, which seems cool until you remember that fire doesn't work that way and being an inch away from the jet of a flamethrower is only mildly better than being hit by the jet. Many times people literally duck under a chest-high blast of fire thus avoiding all damage, it's stupid. It's necessary to keep from everybody dying in the first handful of episodes, but it is still dumb.

pts: Well, this is fundamentally a story about a group of kids and teenagers who save the world. They don't do it alone, but y'know—that's what it's about. I feel like enough attention is paid to both non-bending characters and to adults that it earns its "talented kids" conceit.

I forgive the use of such an exhausted trope out of hand, because it is a show about kids for kids, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a lazy trope and that it isn't executed in unbelievably laughable ways. Like I say, 'mastering' Water magic in a week, for someone who has never been trained, ever. I get it that it moves the plot along, and that's fine, but it is still stupid, and doesn't 'earn' jack, it just hand-waves it in.

pts: For what it's worth, that was part of the original pitch of the show going all the way back, and while many other rough points were ironed out along the way, that moment stayed because the creators fought for it. It is admittedly the one beat in the finale that I feel falls short of the overall message of the show, which is that individual action matters. I do not feel that it ruins the finale or counts as a particularly glaring fault.

Jar Jar Binks was an original part of the idea for Episode One, and some people (I imagine) don't think he ruins the movie. There's nothing wrong with that, but I think it was amazingly lazy as well as being a complete 180 against what they had established.

pts: Magic does not seem to be racist so much as it is regionalist (note the "swampbenders," waterbenders deep in the heart of the earth kingdom);

That's another good point. But it is an established rule that the only single person who can be born in one nation and learn the magic of another Prime Element is the Avatar, no one else ever can. Once the four Prime Magics have been learned from the animals, only those born within the clan can master them, unless that person is a living god. If it isn't racist per se, then it is equally prejudicial and inherited. Note also: lack of inter-marriage.

Really, we can agree to disagree. Personally, I would say it is nothing more and nothing less than a good cartoon for kids. You seem to feel that it supersedes that description, but I think we can both at least agree that it is a good cartoon for kids.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:04 PM on July 1, 2010


bettafish: I think pla addresses all those points way better than I could, but I wanted to add that Iroh and Zuko don't learn to bend lightning because they are special bending snowflakes with unexplained extra powers; they learn because Iroh experiments with fringe firebending techniques (by studying waterbending techniques, apparently an unconventional area of study), learns a new technique that works, and teaches it to Zuko.

Lots of people besides the uncle use lightning, and I don't think the prince ever does. Either way, no one can explain only one person ever seeming to use blue Fire, which is because it was a stupid thing thrown in just to be different.

Sorry, I don't mean to pick the scab, I'm just trying to be frank about it. It really is a good show, and I'm sure I'll show it to my kids some day.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:08 PM on July 1, 2010


All this means is that Twilight is going to make even more money.
posted by cell divide at 4:09 PM on July 1, 2010


paisley henosis: At the end of the day, everything that you're saying sounds to me as though you're just not interesting in watching all-ages genre television. That's fine, but there's still a strong case to be made that Avatar transcends the limitations inherent to TV-Y7 to become a genuinely compelling story for anyone who's paying attention.

You seem to be accusing it of sloppy storytelling and worldbuilding, which I feel is an objectively wrong statement. For it to be sloppy it would need to be thoughtless, and it is clearly anything but. It is, like any TV show, beholden to constraints of time and content, and yet—

And yet.

Anyway, I have to go make some cheesesteaks.
posted by pts at 4:16 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


isn't Katara's tube of water some kind of special healing water?
omg I am getting into a discussion of minute details of a kids' cartoon?!
posted by epersonae at 4:23 PM on July 1, 2010


Love Sixth Sense. LOVE Unbreakable. Love Signs, and have defended its virtues on numerous occasions to those who whine about "the aliens landing on a planet that's mostly water". Was totally excited for The Village until I saw it. Liked Lady in the Water except for the blatant masturbatory cameo/major role Night gave himself. Didn't bother with the Happening.

Yeah, that about brings us up to now.

I'm really conflicted about TLA. I loved the cartoon, and I would hold it up as one of the finest examples of televised serial animation ever, right up there with Bruce Timm's DC stuff. On the other hand, I knew there was a chance of it not going well right when I heard they were trying to make the story "more serious" (one of my favorite parts of Avatar was its sense of humor). Then the trailers came out and I was back on board.

Now the reviews...man. This really looks like it's a travesty. But with relatively few exceptions, I don't judge movies before I see them - I either go or I just don't care. One of the perks of working in my field is that you can see a lot of free movies, and I've got a pair of tickets for TLA on my bookshelf that will be used soon. I'll formulate my opinion then, I suppose.

They better have gotten Appa and Momo right, is all I'll say.
posted by HostBryan at 4:41 PM on July 1, 2010


paisley, YMMV and all that -- if you're "meh" about Avatar, you're "meh" about Avatar. I love the show but I don't think it's without flaws. What puzzles me, though, is your insistence that the things you don't like about it are what mark it as a kid's show, when only one issue you list shows up more in all-ages works than anywhere else ... and that one just gets modified for its intended audience. "Teenager saves the world" is not a huge stretch more implausible than "20-year-old saves the world" or even "a single person/an extremely small group of people about the size of an average TV cast saves the world."

It just seems like you're saying, "This kid's show has flaws, and those flaws are because it's a kid's show," and I'm not seeing the logic there.
posted by bettafish at 5:31 PM on July 1, 2010


pts: paisley henosis: At the end of the day, everything that you're saying sounds to me as though you're just not interesting in watching all-ages genre television. That's fine, but there's still a strong case to be made that Avatar transcends the limitations inherent to TV-Y7 to become a genuinely compelling story for anyone who's paying attention.

So just because I think it had faults, I must not actually be interested in something I've said repeatedly that I enjoyed and have recommended? As you like...

bettafish: paisley, YMMV and all that -- if you're "meh" about Avatar, you're "meh" about Avatar. I love the show but I don't think it's without flaws.

I'm not 'meh' about it, I quite liked it. I just think it's ridiculous when people talk about it like it's the best thing to happen to TV or some such nonsense. The only reason I got into some of the shortcomings are because pts specifically asked me to do.

And I'm not trying to consign it to the kiddy-show-ghetto, it's a good show and more imaginative by half than most shows on TV, for any age group.

Just to make it clear: I like the cartoon and have seen every episode at least twice, and many of them 3+ times. I don't understand why I can't like something *and* acknowledge the faults it has.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:56 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


ph: Fair enough.
posted by pts at 6:17 PM on July 1, 2010


Upon reflection, I think that what I love about Avatar more than anything else is that it delivered. It made a bunch of narrative promises about what it was going to do, as a story, and it basically those things. It told a complete story from beginning to middle to end, and rarely felt either rushed or dragged out.

That is really, really rare in television, where shows are either canceled before their time, dragged out beyond all relevance, or gradually diddled with until they're unrecognizable. That is why I love it, and that is why whatever its missteps, it succeeds at a fundamental level in a way few serial narratives ever do.
posted by pts at 6:24 PM on July 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Vulture Breaks the News to M. Night Shyamalan About The Last Airbender’s Reviews

VULTURE: Well, for the most part, critics have not been kind. Are you just ignoring them? Will you read them this weekend? Have you just not had time?

M.NIGHT: Are you saying that in general they didn't dig it?

VULTURE: In general, no. Roger Ebert, who liked The Happening, did not. The first line of his review is, "The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category that I can think of and others still waiting to be invented." How do you react to something like that?

posted by philip-random at 6:59 PM on July 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Paisley's critiques are sort of valid. In light of the continuity and world-building in every other telelvision show, they're kind of vapid and nit-picky. You go, you contrarian you!
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:24 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


paisley, one of the main faults that seems to bother you is that fire is really nasty stuff, and that fights between benders aren't nearly dangerous enough. And you're actually right, but consider what happens if you continue your train of thought to its logical conclusion.

Think of airbending. Probably the weakest of the four disciplines, it can summon hurricane-force winds on demand, which are not trivial. Few buildings could stand against that kind of force, and few armies could fight. With a sufficiently powerful bender, it would be trivial to sandblast the skin right off them. Hurricanes are dangerous; hurricanes on demand are terrifying.

And what about earthbending? The bender can, depending on his or her strength, lift many tons of rock and shape it at will. If a bender can move such a large mass so easily, with no apparent energy problems, think about just how intensely lethal they'd be with simple pebbles. They could accelerate those things to vastly hypersonic speeds; each and every earthbender should be a walking machine gun. Stronger benders would be like artillery pieces, and someone like Toph would be a whole freaking division, the destructive equivalent of a hundred guns or more. If she really wanted to destroy a city the size of San Francisco, she could level it within hours, possibly within minutes, killing every man, woman, and child. With her earthsight, there would be no escape; the slaughter would be total.

And consider gentle Kitara, the waterbender, able to move water around in all these lovely forms. Well, the human body is about 90% water, so if it ever occurred to her, she could just wave her hand and suck your brains right out through your eyes. Or, if you argue that water in humans isn't pure enough, all she has to do is throw two tiny lances of water into your eardrums and liquefy your brains that way instead.

And then think of what happens when they have their first fire/waterbender fight. Zuko or whoever throws a big flame blast, Kitara responds with a wall of water, and suddenly you have a huge cloud of superheated steam that would parboil our heroes almost instantly.

Somehow, I don't think Nickelodeon would greenlight a show where the protagonists end up in a burn ward, dying after weeks of mewling agony.

So, you know, the fact that they're not being very realistic isn't sloppy, it's a requirement to have much of a story at all. With the essentially unlimited power and complete violation of the laws of conservation of energy and mass that the benders exhibit, any kind of realistic treatment would make them a force too terrible to contemplate. I don't think civilization would even be possible with that kind of power imbalance. You'd have people (the benders) and cattle (everyone else).

Yeah, maybe you could spin a tale in that world, but it would be dark and dreary and awful. A proper bender fight scene would be probably deserve an X rating for the intense levels of gore.

So, yes, you're right. But if it was realistic, it would probably be a rotten story. I'm reminded of the Warren Spector quote, "Anytime reality gets in the way of fun, fun wins." (in reference to video games.)

And, hell, as long as we're being critical, why even allow bending at all? Where does the power come from?

I'm sure they thought about a lot of this. But if you accept bending in the first place, it strikes me that accepting that the heat of fire is contained within its column, and that benders are extremely accurate and well-controlled with their disciplines, is a pretty small additional stretch. I mean, consider, s being extremely precise in their strikes, even with a miss, would be a significant survival advantage. Sloppy firebenders wouldn't last long in that population.

Plus, of course, there's that whole martial arts mythology thing they have going on, and that'd go right out the window when the earthbenders started throwing hand grenades.
posted by Malor at 1:08 AM on July 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


From that link: apparently Amanda Palmer twitted that product placement is only Ok if you either accept no money for it or, failing that, give the money to the KKK.

Pretty douche-bag thing to say.


Looks like she's on a roll too.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:44 AM on July 2, 2010


All I have to add here is, say what you want about Signs, the scene at the Brazilian birthday part scared the crap out of me.
posted by gc at 5:41 AM on July 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going to agree that no matter what else MNS has done, that birthday party scene was fucking genius.
posted by josher71 at 7:59 AM on July 2, 2010


Malor: So, yes, you're right. But if it was realistic, it would probably be a rotten story. I'm reminded of the Warren Spector quote, "Anytime reality gets in the way of fun, fun wins." (in reference to video games.)

Just for the record: he came pretty close to summoning a hurricane when he blew multiple, huge wrought-iron tanks off a cliff with one gust, the 'water inside people' angle was covered, and the girl took control of people's bodies more than once (in the same episode it is subtlety suggested that she could drain the water out, but never explored for obvious reasons), and the sand stuff is, apparently, Earth not Air (and the sand and swamp people would have been a neat segue into an evolution of hybrid magic, but c'est la vie).

Most of what you're talking about can be handled as a level of power thing. Also, the free will and morality of the users is an explicit factor: the Water girl doesn't want to control people's bodies, she can, but she finds it replant and refuses. As powerful as the blind girl is, we are lead to believe that she simply cannot move Earth on a higher level than we've seen, which suggests that no one can, ditto with the hurricane thing.

Your point about a huge cloud of steam killing everybody is a pretty good one, and actually more along the lines of what I was trying to say. It isn't something that couldn't be resolved but it was something they clearly chose to hand-wave away, like the proximal heat and spontaneously generated Fire. I'll say it again: that doesn't make it bad show by any stretch.

epersonae: isn't Katara's tube of water some kind of special healing water?

That was the tiny phial she had from the spirit spring in the north pole where that fish died. The bamboo tube was just normal water, and I think we even see her refill it from a stream at some point.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:39 AM on July 2, 2010


Video interview with Shyamalan... in which he mentions leaving things for the next movie. Well it's nice to have confidence.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:11 AM on July 2, 2010


Aint-it-Cool-News weighs in:

Capone says M. Night Shyamalan's THE LAST AIRBENDER is a hate crime against those who love movies!!!!

There was a 14- or 15-year-old girl sitting behind me during this screening, and when the end credits began rolling, she turned to the person next to her and said, "Look at your watch. That movie was only 90-some minutes long; it felt like three hours." Truer words have never been spoken. If you still want to see this movie, you're either too dumb to understand why you shouldn't or too young to care. Fair enough. Enjoy spending the rest of your life with the memory of THE LAST AIRBENDER fouling your brain. This summer is beginning to feel like the End of Movie Days. God save us.
posted by philip-random at 10:33 AM on July 2, 2010


My two big criticisms of the TV series, even as a big fan were:

1) Katara gets shoved into the "motherly role" in Season 2 and never quite gets back full individual status. I felt her decisions about the relationship between her and Aang were a great source of agency that gets erased at by the end.

2) The last episode cops out on the big moral decisions for Aang and Zuko, which basically boil down to the same question, "What do you do with people who are trying to kill you, that you cannot reason with?"

I still enjoyed this series way more than anything else I've watched in the last few years, but those two issues stood out the most to me.
posted by yeloson at 10:40 AM on July 2, 2010


I want my money back... and my hair back too
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:41 PM on July 2, 2010


this interview with moviegoers after the movie was pretty entertaining. Pretty much everyone hated it. Pretty hilarious.
posted by delmoi at 4:00 PM on July 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


I want my money back... and my hair back too

I think he'll might be being trapped in a line with that guy in the fedora, but that was pretty funny.

Also seemed weird that everyone was complaining about name pronunciation. I'm guessing it's "ang" as in "sang" on the show and "ahng" as in "song" in the movie?
posted by sparkletone at 4:53 PM on July 2, 2010


... and last (for now) but not least:

Remember in Get Him to the Greek, when it's said of rocker Aldous Snow's music video "African Child" that it was the worst thing to happen to Africa since apartheid? The Last Airbender is THAT bad. In fact, it's so supremely bad in every way possible that I started to think while watching it that perhaps someone at the studio was using some kind of evil story-bending power to deliberately make it bad, thereby destroying the remnants of Shyamalan's career once and for all.
posted by philip-random at 8:46 AM on July 3, 2010


I think he'll might be being trapped in a line with that guy in the fedora, but that was pretty funny.

That fedora guy's costume was awesome! It takes a true fan to dress up as a character from that one lost episode with the Blues Traveler cameo.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:27 AM on July 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


josher71: “I'm going to agree that no matter what else MNS has done, that birthday party scene was fucking genius.”

What, this? I guess you had to be there.
posted by koeselitz at 11:45 AM on July 3, 2010


What, this ? I guess you had to be there.

"Move children! Vamanos!"
posted by delmoi at 2:42 PM on July 3, 2010


Sadly I am bound to like this movie:
  1. I have no knowledge of the material this is based on;
  2. My expectations are incredibly (unreasonably?) low going in;
  3. whatever faults M Night has, he tends to work with good cinematographers and I tend to like that
On the other hand, I'd have to go see it and I can't imagine myself buying a ticket.
posted by mazola at 3:34 PM on July 3, 2010


I just finished watching the TV series, and I didn't like how the last episode kind of dodged the big moral issue of how to deal with an enemy that you simply cannot reason with. (Did that thing with the giant turtle come out of left field or what?!)

The lack of on-screen casualties or general collateral human damage started to bother me once I noticed their absence, but eh, it's supposed to be kid-friendly--I can let those things go if the rest of the show makes up for it, which it certainly did. Plot holes? Whatever, Rule Of Cool. [WARNING: TVTropes link]

One thing I can say for sure is that there is no way in hell I will ever voluntarily watch the movie.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 1:46 AM on July 4, 2010


Lurkers, I agree about the lion-turtle thing. Many people thought it was a classical deus ex machina move as well. This is adult critique, of course, since we all know American kid television producers are loathe to put "violence with consequences" on the screen (Gargoyles is the only kid series I can think of that actually did this, and to a lot of parental screaming that forced them to censor later). There were several loose ends by the end of the TV series, but the closure is still much more complete than... pretty much any American TV series I can think of, just by virtue of the creators' desire to make the show explicitly finite.

That turtle irritated me, but also because I couldn't understand a damn thing it said.
posted by Ky at 10:08 AM on July 4, 2010


Ok, people, it's been long established that Shamalamadingdong is a terrible director, but SOME PEOPLE (/glares at the American populace/), SOME PEOPLE are ignoring this and still going out to see his movies. The Last Airbender made over 50 million dollars this weekend. 50 million! That's not great for a movie that cost 6 or 7 times that to make, but if that doesn't drop off soon, that movie could break even. Or, for fuck's sake, make a profit!

Stop going. Stop seeing this tripe. That goes double for Michael Bay movies. Just stop. It seems if a trailer is flashy enough, with enough shiny toys, you people will go see anything. Stop it, you.
posted by zardoz at 5:16 PM on July 4, 2010


Stop going. Stop seeing this tripe. That goes double for Michael Bay movies. Just stop. It seems if a trailer is flashy enough, with enough shiny toys, you people will go see anything. Stop it, you.

I'm gonna have to make plans to see this movie if only because of this comment. One man's garbage can always be another man's treasure, after all. I enjoyed the first Transformers movie (not the second), and other Bay stuff (The Rock). Anyhoots, the movie cost about three times what it brought in, including an idiotic move to spend $15 million to make it 3D. It hasn't opened internationally (more people to run out and feed upon the tripe!) There are also some people who don't trust or care for what a critic has to say. Not to mention the feeling of bandwagonness that has seemed to follow upon MNS' work as of recent. I'd expect the movie is better than expected, which may still well be not very good, but the result of such low expectations may result in a positive vibe from those who went into it. Thus, they may tell others to go see it. If it's still in the theaters by the end of this month, I'll go confirm or reject my hypo!
posted by Atreides at 7:38 AM on July 5, 2010


Just don't look! Just don't look!
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 9:13 AM on July 5, 2010


Ok, people, it's been long established that Shamalamadingdong

Ok, look. I don't like what he's done with this movie, or his previous two... but making fun of his last name is just more racialized Othering.

Shyamalan. It's not hard to spell, it's not hard to pronounce and it's not hard to respect another human being's heritage.
posted by ShawnStruck at 9:20 AM on July 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


it's not hard to respect another human being's heritage.

True... but Shyamalan himself went from Manoj Nelliyattu to M. Night while he was a student...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:38 AM on July 5, 2010


fearfulsymmetry: "it's not hard to respect another human being's heritage.

True... but Shyamalan himself went from Manoj Nelliyattu to M. Night while he was a student...
"

Someone choosing a different name to self-identify with is much different than someone else Othering a last name.
posted by ShawnStruck at 9:41 AM on July 5, 2010


Shyamalan himself went from Manoj Nelliyattu to M. Night while he was a student...

I'm not disagreeing with you, just pointing out that if a guy named Philip decides to go by Phil, that doesn't mean we can just start calling him Dickhead because, hey, he changed his name first.
posted by surenoproblem at 11:51 PM on July 5, 2010


It isn't something that couldn't be resolved but it was something they clearly chose to hand-wave away, like the proximal heat and spontaneously generated Fire.

Well, I'm not sure about the 'couldn't be resolved' part. At some level, they absolutely have to handwave a lot of it to make the story work. The heat from fire is, from my perspective, very low on the list of problems with characters that have nearly unlimited energy on demand.

They can control the heat well enough to throw the fire around to begin with; perhaps a tight thermal barrier around the edges is required to even do it at all. It would cool off very fast and cease to be fire if it were allowed to mix freely with the air it was passing through.

Spontaneous generation seems like a workaround for the original screwup from antiquity, the four basic elements. Fire doesn't exist routinely in the same way that the other "elements" do. If firebenders couldn't make it from nothing, they'd be really gimped compared to the other types -- and they'd have to dramatically increase its lethality to compensate, which probably wouldn't make for a very good story. (see: burn ward comments.)
posted by Malor at 1:51 AM on July 6, 2010


So I went to see it this weekend. I figured since I'm going in with extremely low expectations (what with all the negative buzz and 0% RT scores) I won't be totally disappointed and I'll probably be somewhat entertained by the vfx eye candy and only moderately bored by the Shyamalan routine. I mean, how bad can it be, right?

Well, turns out it can be all kinds of bad. Not just bad really, but outright terrible. TLAB may very well rank among the 10 worst movies I've ever seen and it certainly has earned a 0% RT rating. What a total train wreck.
I literally can't think of a single thing about it that would qualify as redeeming. The acting is as bad as the acting in the new Star Wars movies. So is the dialog. The choice of actors was extremely poor (some call it "The Last Racebender"... white leads in roles as children and members of tribes that are decidedly Tibetan- and Inuit-like in appearance otherwise? Why? It certainly wasn't because of their superior acting skills...). The choreography, camera work and editing ranged from lame to painful. The story adaption was full of fail and the vfx eye candy wasn't good enough to distract from the misery of having to watch everything else.

I want my money back.

This movie might actually be worse than "Signs". I'm not totally sure and I'd have to watch "Signs" again to be certain but I'd rather have my toes smashed with a hammer like Mel Gibson in "Payback" than watch either movie a second time.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:20 AM on July 6, 2010


zardoz: “Stop going. Stop seeing this tripe. That goes double for Michael Bay movies. Just stop. It seems if a trailer is flashy enough, with enough shiny toys, you people will go see anything. Stop it, you.”

Atreides: “I'm gonna have to make plans to see this movie if only because of this comment. One man's garbage can always be another man's treasure, after all.”

In that case, I want to warn you: San Soleil was hideously awful, every single one of Andrei Tarkovsky's movies was an absolute failure that no one should see, Godard's Weekend was the worst movie I've ever seen, and The Color of Pomegranates was terrible from beginning to end. Seriously, you should never see any of these movies. Do not rent them, do not order them on Netflix. Avoid them at all costs.
posted by koeselitz at 12:38 PM on July 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I ran through my previous choices of non-music things to use as background noise this weekend, so I tossed the Avatar cartoon in my streaming queue and watched about 3/4 of it.

Not handicapping for intended audience (and the constraints that come with that), it's enjoyable and lightly entertaining. As someone said in the debate about the show's merit's upthread it's just.... Really, really, really solidly constructed. I can't think of anything that felt like it hadn't been thought out carefully ahead of time and planned for.

With the handicap, it's pretty goddam awesome. Like I'd rate it with things like Batman: The Animated Series when it comes to seriously great kids shows that don't do much in the way of talking down to their audience, etc.

I haven't converted into the fedora hat guy, screaming about the mispronunciation of Aang's name, but ... Um. Yeah. I could've been half paying attention to Jaws 3 while reading or something instead, but I'm glad I chose this.

Also... I noticed that Mark Hammil does The Fire Lord's voice right away, but it took me until one of his conversations with Zuko to realize that Zuko is voiced by Rufio. I LOL'd a little bit at the idea of Luke Skywalker and Rufio in a room yelling at each other about honor, then fighting with swords (and also magicks).
posted by sparkletone at 12:49 PM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


PS. I will not see the movie ever without a rifftrax to go with it.
posted by sparkletone at 12:49 PM on July 6, 2010


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