Archive | movies RSS feed for this section

DCEU: Wonder Woman Set to Bomb at Box Office!!!!!111!!11!!!1!!

26 May

Nobody likes to sound like the crazy, foil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist in the room. However, every once in a while, I think that everyone gets to that point. In this case, I’m just going to accept that at this moment, I’m the crazy sounding guy.

I recently came across an article which declared that Wonder Woman is projected to take in about $65 million in its opening weekend. To put this into perspective, Man of Steel brought in $116,619,362, Batman v Superman brought in $166,007,347 and Suicide Squad brought in $133,682,248.

The projected number sound very low, of course. However, a little more perspective tells us that the first Captain America movie brought in $65,058,524, Thor came in at $65,723,338, and more recently, Doctor Strange had an opening weekend of $85,058,311.

Why are all of these numbers important? For a couple of reasons. Continue reading

DCEU: Writing to the Negative Space

15 May

Some friends and I were having a conversation about Batman v Superman recently, and the topic turned to the Robin suit that is seen in the batcave, along with the mention of Harley Quinn being involved with the death of Robin in Suicide Squad.

While a lot of people feel that the Robin story should have been explored a lot more, I took a different approach to this. The way I see it, the Robin story is doing exactly what it should be doing. It’s occupying the negative space of the story. The characters on screen are influenced by what happened, they’re circling that story and feeling that story, while not directly addressing it on screen. And this is an important lesson.

Too often, writers will feel that they have to explain everything to the audience. Doing this comes at a price. Rather than creating a world that is full of lives and stories that inform the people that we’re seeing on screen, they are creating a narrow story that only exists within the limited view that we see.

Robin tells us that Batman has lived a life. He has been fighting this war for a long time, and he has seen some horrible days. We know that Batman isn’t just brooding and angry because of the loss of his parents when he was a child. He is struggling because no matter how hard he fights and how many times he puts criminals in prison, it never ends. Fighting that war doesn’t bring his parents back and it doesn’t stop Robin from dying.

Without that suit, Batman is just angry and brooding because he’s Batman. He’s dark for the sake of being dark. By not directly showing us that Robin story, it doesn’t become about just that one thing. It becomes a lifetime of struggle, rather than moments of struggle. Sometimes, being specific and showing everything only serves to lessen the impact.

Because of that Robin suit, we can imagine Batman’s whole career. Those of us who know the comics are picturing Dick Grayson out in the world as Nightwing, and Barbara Gordon as Batgirl (both of whom have potential movies in the works). We know that Jason Todd died, so without even seeing those other characters on screen, we can imagine their relationship with Batman and where it stands right now. The Robin suit created a world.

And moving over to Harley Quinn, we see that world rippling out. The reference to her participation in Robin’s death is so brief that most probably didn’t even notice it when it flashed on the screen, but we see that event influencing her, even in the Suicide Squad movie. When she tells El Diablo to own up to the messed up stuff that he’s done, she isn’t just talking about him. That’s a hint of Harleen Quinzel right there. The great thing about Harley Quinn is that she’s not the essence of evil that Joker is. She has a lot of different layers. She has moments of good, and moments of bad. She can be brilliant, or dim.

The dead Robin, who was never seen on screen, is having a huge impact on different characters within the DCEU. I find this subtle touch really interesting.

 

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know if you agree or disagree. If Robin was supposed to be this large of an influence, should he have been seen in a proper flashback? Or do our imaginations fill in the blanks in a way that flashbacks couldn’t?

 

Also, be sure to click on this link and check out my books on Amazon. I have an ongoing dystopian series, called Freedom/Hate, if you’re into that sort of thing. I also have some wacky action satire, some supernatural fun, and a sweet little Christmas story. So click over and take a look, so I can tell people that I’m doing my job and promoting my work instead of just talking about geeky stuff all day.

DCEU : SUPERMAN

3 May

I just released a new book! Battle Cry (book 4 in my Freedom/Hate series) is out now, and here’s the link! I should totally be doing more publicity for that. But… I’m going to ramble about geeky stuff instead for a while (and by “ramble” I mean that this isn’t a professionally crafted think piece. It’s random thoughts that are coming to mind as I type). So, go check out my book link, read the blurb (warning: spoilers for the series up to that point may be in the blurb… it’s book 4, after all), look at the pretty cover, and then read my geeky ramblings. That way I don’t have to feel bad about spending my time on this stuff.

Okay, here I go. Deep breath…

Look around the internet and you will find a million people, saying a million bad things about the DC Extended Universe. They don’t like the colors, they don’t like the directors, they don’t like the way the characters are handled. All of these comments are fine. People are entitled to their opinions, and all of that (for now anyway).

In the past, I’ve given some of my thoughts on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Anyone who knows me will be able to tell you that I’m not the hugest fan of that franchise. I do like some of it, but I’m not as forgiving as a lot of people. So, is it weird that I actually like the DC Expanded Universe, while so many others seem to hate it? Am I just disagreeable? Continue reading

Movie Review — Captain America: Civil War

21 Sep

Those who know me know that I am a fan of the current DC movies. This has caused a bit of a problem for me over the past year. I like the movies that people love to hate. Meanwhile, I have negative opinions about some of the Marvel movies. I don’t like the Avengers movies at all. Nor do I like Thor 2, or Iron Man 3. The rest are entertaining to varying degrees. None are what I would consider great movies, but they’re fun.

These opinions often lead to disagreements online. Those disagreements can lead to debates. Those debates can lead to arguments. And of course, it’s all silly. There is no right or wrong with something like this. There is only opinion and personal preference. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy movies from both franchises, which is an option that rarely seems to appear on anyone’s ballot. I think the franchises serve different purposes. My review is just a review of this movie, not some battle in the ongoing war between two media empires. Keep that in mind as you read this.

Continue reading

DC v Marvel : Dawn of Superhero Movies

16 Apr

There has been a lot of comic book movie talk as of late. Being the geek that I am, I have a lot of thoughts on the subject of comic book movies. I also happen to have a blog where I can rant all I want, and there is nobody to stop me. (insert maniacal laugh here)

You should probably expect more of these rants in the future. Just sayin’.

This rant is about the question that has been asked a million times over: “Is there any way for DC/Warner Bros to catch up with Marvel/Disney?”

The question is being raised because Marvel has made a lot of movies over the past decade, creating a Marvel Cinematic Universe that is all tied together. They’ve been pretty successful with these movies and they’ve made a ton of money. So naturally, people wonder if there is any way for DC to duplicate this success with their own movies.

The flaw in this question is in the assumption that DC is trying to achieve the same goal. Continue reading

Five Years Earlier…

9 Mar

As I continue to prepare my new book, Freedom/Hate for release (pre-order your copy today!), I have had some old friends stopping by for a visit in my head.

Five years ago this month, I sat down to begin writing Starlette (purchase your copy today!). It’s hard to tell whether I should feel as though it were only yesterday, or if it feels like a hundred years have passed since then. Either way, it was an exciting time for me.

The story began, oddly enough, five years earlier. As I was watching the Oscars red carpet show on television, I couldn’t help but get annoyed with the actors that I was listening to. The way they spoke about their films being “important” irritated me. They acted as though they were saving the world by making movies. Continue reading

Marvel’s House of Cards

6 Aug

No, when I say “house of cards” I’m not talking about the really well written, intriguing political drama that you can find on Netflix. I’m talking about the bad kind of house of cards. The kind where layer upon layer relies on each other and eventually it all comes tumbling down because someone left the window open.

Everyone loved the Marvel movie universe, right? Iron Man was a great superhero movie, which took a B-level comic book character and turned him into possibly the biggest name on the Marvel roster. This was due to clever writing, and of course Robert Downey Jr. In fact, could Iron Man survive in movies without him, the same way Spider-Man or Batman survive throughout the ages? That’s a question for another day.

What I really want to talk about here is the overall structure of the Marvel movies (and TV show) and the inherent flaw in their plan. See, the reason why Iron Man was a great movie was that it was allowed to be. While it had small elements that would play into The Avengers, it wasn’t forced to essentially be a prequel to the ensemble piece. The same cannot be said for the other Marvel movies, like Thor and Captain America. Even Iron Man 2 was forced to include characters that were only there to serve The Avengers.

In Captain America: The First Avenger, they couldn’t just tell a good Captain America story. They needed to set up The Avengers. At the end of that movie, Cap had to be in the modern day. So we’re left with one movie set in the golden era of comic books, but made with one arm tied behind its back. Steve’s relationship with Peggy Carter is ultimately a waste of time. The atmosphere that they established for the character and the story is irrelevant, because it’s all going to change before the next movie comes out. Even the costume, which actually didn’t suck in the movie, was replaced in The Avengers and wound up looking stupid. So at the end of the day, Captain America: The First Avenger was a glorified bonus feature which should have been ten minutes long on the Avengers DVD, rather than its own movie.

Thor suffered from the same thing, though it suffered less because the central character isn’t that thrilling to begin with. Still, instead of a Thor movie, we get Thor introducing Hawkeye, just so they don’t have to do it in The Avengers. It’s all about The Avengers, and Thor is secondary to his own movie.

If we look at the TV series, Agents of SHIELD, we see the same thing. The show will never be allowed to tell its own story. It will never be free to be a good series, because everything they do has to fit into the movie schedule. No twist can have a shockwave that hits the movie. Yet the movies will impact the series all the time, dictating the direction of the series (as we saw in season 1). More than that, they are so closely related that if you don’t see the movie and watch the series on the day they come out, one will be spoiled by the other. The show is little more than an infomercial for the Marvel movie universe.

All of these elements are so closely connected and so dependent on each other that Marvel is setting themselves up for disaster. If one movie flops and audiences reject it, how will that hurt the movies that they’ve already filmed that depend on the flop?

You say it can’t happen? I say that it already has. Though audiences seemed to love The Avenger, I say that it wasn’t worth the cost. It wasn’t worth the sub-par Captain America movie or Thor movie. It wasn’t worth taking a potentially good Iron Man sequel and turning it into an Avengers prequel. The Avengers, simply put, was a bad movie. If you want my reason for saying this, read on…

When I last watched The Avengers on Netflix, I decided to keep track of the issues that I have with the movie. People always assume that I hate it because I’m a DC fanboy and have no legit reason to dislike The Avengers. Well, here’s my list. Make of it what you will.

avengersposter

At the end of Thor’s credits, Dr. Selvig meets Nick Fury and is shown the… blue boxy thingy. We see Loki keeping watch over Selvig and it is implied that Selvig is being manipulated by him (Loki makes a comment, which Selvig repeats). Yet, in The Avengers, we see Selvig coming under Loki’s control when Loki returns to Earth. This was either poor writing in Thor, or poor writing in The Avengers. Most likely, both (since The Avengers should have taken what happened in Thor into consideration, regardless of whether it went along with their plans or not)

As the beginning of the movie plays out and we see Loki and his newly brainwashed minions fight with the good guys, it becomes abundantly clear that all Shield agents are just crappy shooters. Not one of them seems to hit any of their targets.

Fury declares that they are going to Level 7… As of this moment, they are at war. To which Carlson responds: “What do we do?” I sincerely hope that super secret agents would at least read their super secret agent manuals enough to know what “We’re going to Level 7” means and the protocols that go along with it! When Captain Picard yells “Red alert!” on Star Trek, nobody says “What do we do?”

Side Note: One of the main problems that I have with the movie as a whole is that it is written as a comic book. They’re taking things from the comics and putting them on screen. In any adaptation, there needs to be alteration. A novel can’t just be filmed as is, because there is a translation to the screen. Comic books can be translated to cartoons easily enough, but once you’re putting things in live action, you need to put more consideration into the “reality” of the story and how things play out. You can’t just rip it from the page and put it on the screen or it will look silly. That opinion informs many of my comments about this movie.

Black Widow goes to track down Bruce Banner. She knows who he is and what his issues are. Yet when he seems to be losing his temper, this super suave manipulator of situations pulls a gun on him, and a tactical unit prepares to move in… with more guns. In what person’s brain did this scenario seem like a good idea? Black Widow would have to be an idiot for this to happen.

Then we move to the giant base in the sky, which I’m sure works great in the comic books, but it is a heaping, steaming pile of WTF when it comes to the movie. What logic is there in bringing the Hulk into this ship? We see that they built a cage for him and that’s swell, except they don’t put his lab in that cage, so the plan is to… ask the Hulk to kindly step into the cage, should he decide to go on a rampage? What is the point of this ship flying at all, when every element of it seems like it would be more secure and make more sense in the water? It’s not because it’s well defended, since bad guys sneak up on the ship with ease. It’s not because it’s super strong, since one engine going out cripples the entire ship.
Granted, the ship seems super fixable. When the bad guys blow up an engine, they can just slap it back together, so all of the parts that were blown up were probably just for show anyway, right?
But when they lose control and begin to fall, why doesn’t the thing just drop like a rock? There is no aerodynamic aspect to its gliding like a plane. And for that matter, why does the cage that Thor’s in fall faster than the ship? I haven’t done the math exactly, but wouldn’t the cage either fall at the same speed as the falling ship, or possibly slower than the way heavier ship?

Captain America says something along the lines of nothing being able to surprise him anymore, and Fury bets him ten dollars that he’s wrong. Captain America pays him the ten dollars when he sees the ship… Seriously? That flying evidence of poor judgment was what could surprise Captain America at that point? The man just jumped how many years into the future? Hell, if I jumped 80 years into the future, I’d be surprised if we didn’t have flying bases.

Captain America’s new costume is super lame. He looks like a Power Ranger. I liked the one from his movie better.

Why would Loki need to destroy that dude’s eye in Germany, just to get a scan of it?

Also in Germany, when Loki is attacking the crowd, Black Widow flies in and orders him to stand down… while she aims her weapons into the crowd. And what are we expecting to happen here? Is there a chance that the guns will work or that he will actually stand down? What is her goal here?

Despite the fact that most of the people in the movie have been seen reading the Shield files, nobody seems to know who Thor is when he shows up. Strange.

The Thor/Iron Man fight is nothing short of stupid. It seems like a fan film at this point, because there is no use for this scene at all, aside from a fanboy desire to see the two of them (and Captain America eventually) get into a spat. Meanwhile, Loki goes completely unguarded. It’s a good thing he wanted to be captured, because he could have easily escaped here. This scene adds nothing to the movie and makes all involved seem like morons.

When the Avengers find out that Shield was designing weapons, they are all offended. How does this make sense? Captain America is military, so should have no issue with weapons to be used against a strong enemy. Iron Man is a weapon of mass destruction in and of himself! And Thor throws destructive lightning around like it’s nothing! Why would any of these people be offended by the idea that human would design weapons to be used against enemies that have proven stronger than them over and over again in the past?

And the whole “nuclear options don’t work” line is stupid. Nukes ended WWII, whether you see it as good or bad, it happened. And mutually assured destruction kept another world war from breaking out a couple of decades ago. Nuclear options work… which is why we try so hard to keep our enemies from getting them.

Thor seems to think that fighting is petty, which is silly for that character.

During the fight on the ship, Fury has to tell a navigator how to steer the ship. This is just sad.

The movie is entirely dependent on the incompetence of the good guys. In fact, it seems like most of the fights in the movie were good vs. good! They fought themselves more than the bad guy. If they could do their jobs, the movie could have been cut down to a half hour sitcom episode.

The security on the ship is just horrible. Despite the fact that there are countless extras playing Shield agents, none of them seem to have any weapons, or any ability to actually do anything… except play video games. Only the people with speaking lines seem to do anything. It’s just odd.

Why do people bother to shoot at the Hulk? Are they trying to make him even more mad? And when he is on a rampage, why doesn’t he actually kill anyone? He attacks, attacks, attacks, but people are miraculously undamaged.

When Carlson approaches Loki with the weapon, why does he engage him in conversation, rather than use the element of surprise to take the mother f—- out? At this point, Carlson deserves to die.

But why would Carlson’s death rally the Avengers. Most of them had little or no interaction with him. How many people died during that attack? Why should he be the one who matters to them?

Tony Stark is a genius, right? So, why would it take him so long to realize that the bad guys would be using his own tower, which is really the only place that they could go through with their plan?

Loki tosses Tony out the window. Mid-air, his suit comes and he puts it on. Right before he slams into a crowd of people (who are standing there, waiting for him to fall on them), he rockets into the sky… with rockets powerful enough to stop his fall and propel him upward, and yet don’t burn the crap out of the people who are only a couple of feet beneath them. What technology is that?

As the alien dudes pour out of the portal and invade New York, they seem to be trying to avoid killing anyone. They shoot everything in sight, except for the people!

And during the attack, as things are crashing and things are exploding, it is strange how the damage only seems to effect the surface of the buildings. I think one building actually fell, while the others just had dings taken out of them or windows broken… this when suffering major explosions which should have blown them apart.

Why would Hawkeye be saving a bus full of people when the city is being invaded. While he saved one or two people, ten other people would have probably just died… if the bad guys were trying to kill people.

Out of nowhere, Hulk can control himself. Throughout both versions of the Hulk movies in the past as well as the beginning of this movie, the point has always been that he is completely incapable of controlling himself, Hulk can suddenly take orders, work with allies and carry on pretty much like any other human being with a temper.

While the military should have been all over New York at this point, I think we see something like one truck pull up. No planes. No army of soldiers fighting with the Avengers. Nothing. Where are they? On vacation? This is kinda their thing!

I’m not familiar with the comics… does Black Widow have powers? Because she can handle g-forces like nobody’s business, and seems super human as she attacks the aliens and forces them to fly her around. They haven’t really mentioned any powers in the movies, have they?

The pointlessly shadowy people who are giving Shield orders decide to nuke New York… because this seems like a perfectly logical plan to them? Rather than attack the beam that’s shooting into the sky, or send a nuke through the hole where all the aliens are pouring out, they decide to nuke their own citizens… which means they are the ONLY people trying to kill these citizens! And what will this accomplish? They’re not actually targeting the enemy!

Hulk slams the crap out of Loki… then leaves him. Loki is slightly dazed but pretty much fine. So, why are we just walking away from the bad guy who we’ve been trying to stop for the entire movie again?! KILL HIM!

Captain America and Thor are fighting together (on the same side for once!). Thor asks, “Ready for another bout?” to which Captain America says “What, are you getting tired?” (or something like that). This exchange makes no sense. Thor might as well ask Cap what happens to a toad when it gets struck by lightning.

Black Widow has a plan to close the portal and stop the invasion. Unfortunately, she never tells anyone. As a result, a nuclear attack is ordered on the city. Way. To. Go!

Pepper’s phone is on vibrate? For real? This woman’s entire life would be that cell phone. She would probably want to be ready for a call from Tony at any second. She would be talking to Rhodes. She would be doing a lot of things… none of which would be putting her cell phone down on a table, on vibrate, and walking away!

The nuke goes off, destroys the mother ship, and all of the bad guys in the city die. Moral of the story is that the next time we’re at war, we should look for our enemy’s mother ship, because that thing is one giant, super convenient light switch.

And can I just say that the bridge/overpass/whatever thing that the Avengers were coordinating their fight from was the best bridge/overpass/whatever thing ever? It was hit by how many exploding things, and never went down! (but then, most of the city seems to be explosion-proof)

At the end, I’m just left with the impression that the movie is nonsense. ¾ of it seemed to be spent with stupid in-fighting between the good guys, while the bad guy twiddled his thumbs. And when the invasion started, the invading force was super nice about not killing people or destroying things. Comic books are fun, but there must be a translation when going to live-action. Man of Steel is getting a ton of crap because of all the destruction and death, but at least it was realistic for that scenario. Superman is also getting crap for not helping clean up, but The Avengers literally ends with a scene of the Avengers sitting around, eating dinner, while victims of the attack are cleaning up the rubble.

This movie needed to be awesome, just to make it worth sacrificing the other Marvel movies. It needed to be a home run. It wasn’t. It was a cartoon, with a larger budget. In the process of being a bad movie, it took down how many other movies with it? I really don’t care how much money it made or how popular it was. At the end of the day, to me, it just wasn’t worth it.

And the next time this happens, the audience might see the flaws. If the Avengers was received as badly as it should have been, the entire Marvel movie and television universe would have imploded.

Miracle On 34th Street (1994) : A Study In “What The F*ck Were They Thinking?”

10 Dec

Somewhere, back in 1994 or 1993… or whatever… a meeting was held. In this meeting, super important people who drover super important cars, and who undoubtedly had much puffier hair than they would ever think of having today, got together and decided to bring Miracle on 34th Street into the modern era.

Now, this was not an awful idea in and of itself. It wasn’t the first time that the story was remade, and there are countless versions of other Christmas classics, which we don’t hate just because they’re not our preferred version. Granted, Alastair Sim is the only man to play Scrooge in my opinion… but others seem to like different versions and that’s fine. I’m willing to accept people of all beliefs, even if they are guano crazy.

But then, something happened. At some point along the way, one of those people—whether it be the writer, the director, the producers, the studio heads or Satan himself—decided that they would enrich this classic Christmas tale by first showing us some fat dude’s ass and then bringing the concept of pedophilia into this heartwarming tale.

I’m not a prude. I’m not a puritan who faints at the sight of plumber’s crack. I may quickly look away and bang my head against the wall in the hopes of inducing amnesia, but I think that’s probably pretty common, right? But I’m not one of those crazies who cries foul every time an unmarried couple holds hands on television.

That said, Miracle on 34th Street is a movie that the whole family should be able to sit around and watch together without children being exposed to the drunken Santa’s ass and without parents having to explain to their kids what kind of inappropriate touching Santa is being accused of.

These movies are classics because of the heart of the story. We connect to them because they bring us to a warm and cozy place that makes the Christmas season feel somehow different than the rest of the year, when we are subjected to every horror that the world has to offer. We don’t watch Miracle on 34th Street to remind ourselves that pedophiles are out there and that children are quite possibly sitting on their laps, getting their picture taken in the middle of the mall. We watch that movie for the very purpose of forgetting that old fat dudes in Santa costumes are trying to prey on little kids. Can you imagine rewriting that classic Christmas letter to say, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And he might want to do some very creepy things to you, so you better stay away”? Kinda loses the appeal, right?

For the sake of keeping this somewhat short, I will refrain from going into the parts of the movie where the weird neighbor guy (who only became weird once the concept of pedophilia was brought into the movie) shows up in his robe on Christmas morning, with a creepy smile on his face, having just knocked up the little girl’s mother… but don’t worry, they got married in the middle of the night, when apparently nobody was keeping an eye on that poor little (possibly molested) girl.

Now, let’s get to the end of the movie. That part where in the original version, we have mailmen carry bags upon bags of letters to Santa into the courtroom and dump them on the judge’s desk. It’s iconic. It’s as much a part of that story as Santa inappropriately touching—wait, that never happened in the original. Never mind. But it was a big part of the original movie, right?

In the 1994 version of the movie, this scene is replaced by having the little girl walk up to the judge and hand him a Christmas card, right before he announces his decision. It’s a weird scene which seems awkward for a number of reasons. But within this card, there is a dollar bill, with the phrase “In God We Trust” circled. The whole point of the movie comes down to telling the target demographic of this film (the Christians who are celebrating Christmas) that their God is pretty much akin to the actually-nonexistent Santa Claus. Umm… way to play to your audience, fellas.

The movie was bad for a number of reasons, which all seem to boil down to the point that those who made it did not understand either the appeal of the original, or the audience that they were writing this movie for. It highlights the reason why there have been so few truly classic Christmas movies made in recent decades (I’m thinking The Santa Clause and Prancer and… umm… That’s pretty much it. And that was me really stretching the term “recent decades”). Is Hollywood capable of creating something with heart these days? When they try, it usually turns into a political message, which doesn’t sit right in this type of movie, even if you do happen to agree with them. Do they know the meaning of Christmas? Do they know how to avoid being d-bags in general? Or are most movies today made by people who have no heart, or no soul, and therefore cannot possibly tap into those resources for the sake of making a movie that warms the heart like the original Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life?

And with those deep thoughts in mind, I leave you to your hot cocoa and warm blankets, so you can gather around your TV and watch the cast of Glee bastardize classic Christmas songs.

If you value your sanity, watch the Christmas episode of Community instead.

The Shocking Twist…

16 Oct

In the first chapter of Starlette, I made a joke about M. Night Shyamalan movies. The joke was based on a lot of comments that I’ve seen about his work, and was coupled with a joke about Lost. Truth be told, I disagree with both criticisms. I’m a fan of Lost, right through the last scene of the last episode, and M. Night Shyamalan is one of my favorite directors of all time.

There seems to be this fad going around, where everything that Shyamalan does must be hated, even before it is released. Now granted, The Last Airbender was not my cup of tea, but I won’t really count that as being a true Shyamalan movie, since it was based on another story and adapted for the film. I’m a fan of Shyamalan’s original scripts.

So, where does this hate of Shyamalan come from? I think it has something to do with the strange perception that all of his movies include a shocking twist of some sort. This started with The Sixth Sense, which did have a great twist. However, not every Shyamalan movie has a twist like that… and half the time, he’s still criticized because the twist wasn’t good enough.

This is going to be a lengthy read. I apologize for that. It’s just that, if I really want to discuss why I like Shyamalan’s work, I need to discuss each of the movies that he’s made (except The Last Airbender because I haven’t had time to review the source material and compare it, and all of that). So, let’s start at the beginning of his popularity:

 

The Sixth Sense

This is perhaps the most popular of all of Shyamalan’s movies. Oddly enough, it’s near the bottom of my list of favorites. Not because it wasn’t a great movie, but because I can’t watch it without kinda-sorta holding a grudge against it.

The movie was brilliantly crafted. The atmosphere was perfect. The acting was great. The twist was shocking… but it is something that haunts Shyamalan’s career. Now, any development in any of his scripts is perceived as a “shocking twist”, and then people complain that it wasn’t shocking enough… more on that later…

One thing that this movie does, which differs from most of Shyamalan’s movies, is spell everything out for the audience. At the end of the movie, we’re walked through the entire plot and Shyamalan holds our hands through the entire unfolding of the storyline, so everything is very clear and very obvious. There’s really no need to look much deeper than the surface. This is not normal for a Shyamalan movie, which usually involves deeper meanings and hidden themes.

It’s a good movie. A classic… Just not my favorite Shyamalan film.

 

Unbreakable

The film that followed The Sixth Sense, and died in the box office because of it. Years later, it has a strong and loyal following, but when it was released it was seen as a flop. Why? Well… The curse of The Sixth Sense.

I remember seeing the early trailers for Unbreakable. It was all very mysterious, with hints of the supernatural. It was kinda played as something similar to The Sixth Sense, and at no point did I get the impression that it was a superhero movie. Simply put, they didn’t actually advertise this film, they advertised his previous film. So, what was the audience to do with that information once they got to the theater? It was obviously not what they signed up for, and so they left feeling like it didn’t meet expectations.

Is there a twist at the end? Some would argue that the Mr. Glass reveal was a twist, but that it wasn’t very shocking. I would argue that it wasn’t very shocking because it wasn’t so much a “twist” as it was a “reveal”. It didn’t completely change the movie. It brought the movie into focus. It was the natural progression of the story that we were watching. We didn’t feel jarred by it because it wasn’t supposed to be jarring; it was supposed to be the natural order of things.

I’m glad that Unbreakable has established a following after its release. It’s a really great movie, and an interesting take on the superhero concept. The characters are layered and interesting and the movie doesn’t go overboard… in fact, that’s one of the things I love about Shyamalan’s movies. He doesn’t constantly push things beyond their breaking point. Things can be quiet and simple, which makes them beautiful.

 

Signs

This has to be my favorite Shyamalan movie, and possibly my favorite movie of all time. I have seen it more times than I can count, and each time I watch it, I walk away with some new revelation.

The first time I saw the movie, in the theater, I remember thinking about it on my way home. I remember hoping that there would be a director commentary on the DVD, because I knew that there was so much going on in the movie that I had missed when I first watched it.

There’s no commentary on the DVD. All of the work is on my shoulders, and I actually appreciate that now. I don’t need Shyamalan to tell me what it all means. In a way, it doesn’t matter what he thinks it means, because the film is what it is and we take from it what we take from it. Once a story is out there, the audience interpretation is just as valid as the writer’s.

The first realization that brought this whole movie into focus for me was that it wasn’t about aliens. You have to set aside what some characters actually say. Honestly, what do they know that we don’t? They’re just making guesses, and so we can’t trust every word out of their mouth as being the gospel truth.

The movie is about faith. It’s about demons, both literal and metaphorical. See, the characters have all of those conversations too (in addition to the alien conversations), but those moments are so quiet that you don’t read them as explaining the main story.

Let’s look at the weakness of the “aliens” in the story: Water. It’s a symbol of purification. Baptism. Cleansing. One criticism of the movie is that these aliens come to a world that is made up largely of their greatest weakness… But that’s assuming that these are aliens, which I don’t think they are. So, the question becomes: Why are demons here?

The movie speaks of an ancient weapon, discovered in the middle-east, which fights off the attackers. The middle-east is the motherland of the world’s most dominant religions. The ancient weapon is faith or prayer. Redemption is how we ward off the attackers.

Now, these are all assumptions made by me. I know that Shyamalan probably doesn’t share the same religious views as I do, but the theme carries into a lot of different belief systems, I think. So, I’m not sure if this is what he was going for. I just know that it’s there when I watch it.

Watch the movie again, with this thought in mind. Each time you see it, a new layer of the onion will peel back and you’ll see slightly more of the picture. It’s a very interesting film.

There’s no twist here. There’s no shocking revelation. The film is just a quiet, beautifully shot piece of art. (My favorite shot comes toward the end, when Bo hurries to look through the window as Merrill fights the “alien”)

This film is brilliant. The layers, the characterization, the visuals… It’s just a great movie.

 

The Village

This one might be my least favorite. Still placing it above most movies out there, but not high ranking on the list of Shyamalan movies. I know there was technically a twist in this one, but I figured it out a year before the movie was released, when I first saw the trailer. So, I went into the movie with that in the back of my head.

Some elements of the plot seemed forced to me. They draw attention to the fact that air traffic was restricted over this place, which only highlights a plot hole that would have easily been overlooked if it simply wasn’t mentioned. Airplanes can’t travel over this area, but that raises the questions of satellites and other issues which I never would have even considered if they hadn’t been raised by Shyamalan.

That said, the movie was still good. It was about characters, and those stories are still interesting whether there’s a twist or not. The look of the movie was really nice, and the story that played out was still interesting. A twist is only good the first time around anyway. So, once you take that element away, the movie has to hold up as a good story. Once you know who’s behind the mask in Scream, the only thing that makes you want to watch that movie again is the story that plays out around that mystery. The Village did that well, and I still enjoy watching the movie, just for the characters.

Still, it’s not my favorite Shyamalan movie of all time.

 

Lady in the Water

I actually really like this one. It’s a fun bedtime story. It’s like watching The Neverending Story in some ways. The story isn’t terribly complex, though it has strong themes. There’s no twist. The characters are likable enough and quirky enough to make the story fun. The monsters are cool. The legend within the story is intriguing.

I don’t know what people were expecting when they went to see this movie, but the fact that they released a children’s book to go along with it should have been a clue that this wasn’t meant to be The Sixth Sense. It’s not dark and broody. The atmosphere is something like Rear Window, but the tone of the film is much more fun. It’s a modern fairy tale, and I thought that it was well done. It had all of the elements of a classic fairy tale, without blatantly ripping off the old stories. It had strong themes, and good characters.

People complain that Shyamalan cast himself as a visionary character in the story. They criticize him for casting himself at all, and claim that he has a large ego because of it.

When I watch the movie, I don’t see that. First of all, directors have acted in their own movies for decades. It’s not uncommon, so I don’t get why it’s a big deal here.

The character seemed to me like a commentary on how Shyamalan was treated after The Sixth Sense. He was supposed to be the second coming of Hitchcock (and I still say that he’s right up there). He was supposed to be the new face of Hollywood. He was supposed to change the world through his movies. He didn’t cast himself as the visionary… everyone else did. He just had fun with that in Lady in the Water, the same way he had fun with the movie critic.

I love how the critic saw the world. It was all about these formulaic stories which had to unfold in certain ways, and he held firmly to those views even as the plot was going against the grain… Shyamalan is praised for being original in his writing, but torn to shreds because people don’t want anything too original. They want to walk out of the theater knowing which mental box they’re supposed to store that movie in. They want the twist, which is why they insist that all of his movies have twists, yet they criticize him for constantly sticking twists in his movies… even though they don’t all have twists.

Anyone else getting a headache?

 

The Happening

This movie was torn. To. Shreds. People hated this movie so much, it’s not even funny.

Only, it is funny… kinda.

For starters, in order to really drive home the point of this movie, I think that it’s best to watch it in black and white. Go to your TV’s color settings and turn that sucker down (remember where you started though, so you can put it back after the movie).

Suddenly, the movie is in context. The way the characters dress. The way the characters speak… It’s a 1950’s paranoia thriller. In the 50’s everything was about the nukes. They would destroy the world. They would create mutant monsters. They were the McGuffin (a term which is easily found on Wikipedia if you don’t know what I’m referring to) which propelled a lot of movies of that era because nukes were the great unknown force that people were facing back then.

So, what do we have that’s similar to that today? The environment. Global warming. Terror in the streets as people panic over the impending apocalypse, brought about by man’s upsetting the natural balance of things. In short… we’re scared of the wind.

The movie doesn’t make fun of the environmental movement, just as those movies about nuclear monsters didn’t mock the threat of nuclear war. It was just a commentary on the fact that the mentality is the same in many ways.

We even see one scene, as the characters make a stop for supplies while on the run, where there is a nuclear power plant in the background (an oddly clean energy source, for those keeping score of the conflicting paranoia of the times).

One genius element of the movie is that the first time we see the main character, played by Mark Wahlberg, he’s discussing the disappearance of bees in North America. He clearly says that scientists will come up with some explanation for what’s happening to them, but the truth is that some things just happen in nature. We explain things for our own comfort, even when we don’t really know the answer.

What makes this funny is that we’re given an answer by scientists on the TV, and generally speaking, the audience seems to buy what those scientists say. We’re told not to buy it, but moviegoers buy it anyway… and then it becomes one of the main criticisms of the movie.

Like with Signs, you have to throw away what you’re outright told, and go with what you see happening in the movie. That’s why I love Shyamalan movies, I think. You can’t just go along with the ride and have it all explained to you (like in The Sixth Sense). You have to stop and wonder if what you were told is really what you saw.

Watch the movie in black and white. It’s much better that way.

 

Devil

Shyamalan didn’t direct this one. He produced it and came up with the story for it, but it was written and directed by others. Still, I think that there are a lot of Shyamalan trademarks here. The story is relatively small in scale. It’s about strong characters, more than the outward plot device. It’s about exploring something inside of those people. The way it played out was really interesting and it was a good movie. I don’t know if they’re going to continue the Night Chronicles or not, but I hope they do. Shyamalan has a Hitchcockian vibe to him. He’s not ripping off Hitchcock, but he’s the type of guy who has a strong vision and interesting ideas. I enjoy the way that he presents his stories.

 

Shyamalan has been torn apart. People hate him, often just because it’s cool to hate Shyamalan. I’m not saying that people can’t dislike his movies for legit reasons. That’s all a matter of opinion, but I think it’s a shame that one of the few people who really tries to be original and creative in that industry is mocked for it. Most movies fit into neat little boxes. Shyamalan might not always hit it out of the ballpark, but I think it’s refreshing to watch a movie made by someone who is trying to explore a little bit. I like that I have to watch some of his movies a few times in order to really get a feel for them.

 

So, in closing… Sorry about those jokes in Starlette, Mr. Shyamalan. They weren’t so much about you as they were about those characters and the fact that certain opinions are often just as hip and trendy as the latest clothing styles.