Some Sweet Shyamalan Backlash
I don't like M. Night Shyamalan. The Sixth Sense was good, maybe great even. I've even watched it in the last year or so, it holds up fine, it's a legitimately good movie. Had Shyamalan died in a tragic accident, like a piano falling on his head, shortly after Sixth Sense was released, he would have been included in all nerdy debates about who the most promising young filmmakers of all-time were. But no piano fell, and he continued a long career that has literally not a single entry I enjoy, or ever plan on watching again. I haven't paid to watch a Shyamalan film since Signs. And it's not just the terrible movies that does it for me, there is something about his attitude I don't like either. It's kind of a "studios always give me tons off money, so I'll do what I want with it, but it won't be that cool, but I'll think it's the greatest thing ever" kind of attitude...
Well, regardless of what I think, College Humor made a funny fake trailer about how M. Night Shyamalan refuses to accept the fact that no one likes him anymore.
I'd definitely put Sixth Sense in the "great" category. I liked The Village probably more than it deserved, largely on the strength of the key performances - Bryce Howard and Adrien Brody in particular. This was tricky material, and if the actual result was mixed, his vision was clear and he helped the entire cast nail it.
While I agree that most of the rest of his movies have bit, he's a long way from "nobody likes him anymore." Despite some of the worst reviews in the history of movie reviews, The Last Airbender opened at $40 million, on its was to over $250 million theatrical box office. Family movies often double their theatrical run on home release. Throw in cable, planes, etc. - could easily be looking at total grosses in the $500 million+ range. I'd take that.
Not disagreeing with anything else you've said, or suggesting that money = love...I'm just saying.
I wonder, though, if any of the millions of people who helped make The Last Airbender be so monetarily successful actually liked the film. I like to think by making such an accessible film (with a built-in fanbase), he pointed out to his biggest audience yet that he's losing his touch. I'd like to see the numbers on his next film, whatever it may be. Or the numbers on Devil, which comes out this weekend, that he has been slapping his name all over.
[Scott Roberts] "...actually liked the film."
You raise a very good point. I just looked it up, and the Cinemascore rating was a C - and Cinemascore ratings tend to trend a hair high, because the only people surveyed are the ones who cared enough to actually buy a ticket. For one extreme example, Eat Pray Love earned a 37 at Rotten Tomatoes, but an A- Cinemascore.
HOWEVER....compare Last Airbender to the latest Resident Evil picture. A truly venerable franchise whose grosses keep growing, especially overseas, where they're 2.5 greater than in the US, where it's extremely rare to even GET to a 3rd sequel, much less have it make substantially more than the ones before.
Cinemascore: D-. That's right, a notch above F.
Which means that, relatively speaking, Airbender did okay with audiences. C is definitely a passing grade. Especially given the strong overseas numbers and the likely ancillary numbers, the producers will triple their money without audiences running screaming.
Devil, I don't have any predictions. I've never heard of the movie or MNS's involvement, and I think of myself as pretty in tune with the movie biz. So I don't think that it's a fair indicator one way or the other.
re: Airbender though, no getting around that it was far from a disaster, for anyone involved.
Yeah, a C ain't too shabby. I was expecting worse, but I guess I've never actually met someone who's seen it in real life, so I didn't have a very good gauge on it's reception other than the surface hatred most people saw, haha (on Rotten Tomatoes, newspapers, television shows, etc. Well, basically any form of "professional" review). Hey if the people who are paying to see it actually liked it, then more power to it! I'd still like to see Shyamalan try and make a movie that has even a shred of the universal appeal that Sixth Sense did, but I still think it will take a lot of shovels to dig his credibility out of the hole he's put it in.
In regards to Devil, it is the first entry into "The Night Chronicles", a new thing Shymalan has set up, and from what I gather it is basically going to be a series of movies that M. Night has either written, produced, or contributed a story to. I have seen the trailer to Devil at literally every theater visit I've gone to in the last month and a half! And now the commercials are flowing in. I don't mean any offense, Tim, but I'm honestly shocked someone hasn't heard of it, I'm actually becoming over-saturated with its marketing! And it all has Shymalan's name written on it. The movie itself doesn't look that bad for what it is, but I'll pass on it for something else this weekend.
re: DEVIL - I will put this out there, not sure if it is a remote possibility, but it seems to me that this movie will have...a surprise ending. Maybe not, but seems like it might.
re: M. Night Shyamalan - I enjoyed Signs - recently watched it in HD and it holds up. Everyone liked the Sixth Sense. Airbender is the first thing he directed that he did not create from scratch - I wonder how much of its perceived awfulness was him or the studio. Still $279 million is pretty good for a bad movie.
Let's see how many other movies that are not very good (go for it Tim) made a lot of money:
Matrix Revolutions - 424 mil (did M. Night write the ending?)
The Hangover - 461 mil (some funny gags but I think I may have hit fast forward a few times)
King Kong (Jackson) 547 mil (a good idea and good production values but in my opinion nothing special)
Eclipse - 680 mil (I got sick to my stomach watching that with my wife)
So just because we middle aged media pros don't like a movie does not mean it will not make a boat load of money and be loved by 18-24 year olds.
Just remember, in the words of King George (Lucas) - 8 year olds loved Jar Jar.
I could just as easily step away from Shyamalan and move on to Tim Burton...
Let us not forget that Alice in Wonderland, my vote for possibly the worst film of the year that I've seen so far (at least in the bottom 5), recently joined the $1 billion club for worldwide gross.
It's gross to me that such a poor film is considered such a success. It will only further the creation of more poor films.
[Scott Roberts] "It will only further the creation of more poor films."
That sums up so many problems with Hollywood. Same goes for animated features - they are guaranteed to make a lot of money due to the small selection of G rated movies. And I feel bad for the artists who do fantastic work. I'm sure the effects and makeup artists who worked on Planet of the Apes and Alice in Wonderland are proud of their work and they should be.
Yeah, I hope I didn't offend anyone's work on bad films, I didn't mean to. Such as the case with Alice in Wonderland, I thought the faults were with the director, the writers, the actors, the director, possibly the writers again, definitely the producers, and I should probably say the director again.
I'm sure there were 100's of talented people who worked on Alice in Wonderland, worked hard and did a great job at what they do. I only wish those talented people could have used their talents on a film I didn't think was such garbage.
Hypocritically though, if I got offered work on Alice in Wonderland (or any Hollywood feature, even Saw 19: The Revenge of Jigsaw's Revenge) I'd take it in a heartbeat.
[Scott Roberts] "if I got offered work on Alice in Wonderland (or any Hollywood feature, even Saw 19: The Revenge of Jigsaw's Revenge) I'd take it in a heartbeat."
So true. A director is only as good as everyone else he or she has working on the project.
Likewise, you can build a house with great detail in the finish work, crown moldings, plush carpeting, a 97 inch television, velvet theater seats, a popcorn machine, a six burner range, granite countertops and top of the line security system - all installed by top notch vendors. but if the contractor skimped on the engineering the foundation may crumble. if the architect got too daring it could be a long walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night. or if the roofers were told to cut costs you could have a leaky roof and all your other artistry will go down the drain.
Obviously starting to veer off topic here, but....
[Mike Cohen] "[Scott Roberts] "if I got offered work on Alice in Wonderland (or any Hollywood feature, even Saw 19: The Revenge of Jigsaw's Revenge) I'd take it in a heartbeat."
So true. A director is only as good as everyone else he or she has working on the project."
Or vice versa. Sometimes the director is the logjam. Or there are a lot of them.
The thing that's so amazing to me is that ANY movies are good. There are so many people responsible for so many big parts of them! Dozens of people in absolutely critical key positions, some of whose names we'll never know. Robert Altman famously said that he never once got final cut on his movies, but considered it a fair trade for all of the other liberties the studios gave him with their money. So who exactly was responsible for the final cut of Nashville? No idea, but they did a pretty dang good job.
And while the studio/auteur discussion goes back decades, it's pretty clear that for the vast majority of American film history the only auteur for a picture like Casablanca or Singing in the Rain WAS the studio (hence, a Warner Bros picture, an MGM picture) -- and again I say, well done, lads.
re: working on movies that fall flat, Scott, you're right, we'd all take that job. I know a lot of VFX folks here in the COW, and many of them have, erm, "mixed" feelings about the movies they work on. The COW's Pete O'Connell is just wrapping the compositing for the next Harry Potter picture, and used to end the short description of his work with "and the highly-acclaimed Transporter 2." He stopped doing it because even a playful wink seemed to him disrespectful to everyone who knocked themselves out for it.
A somewhat related observation: Tony Hudson has been in the COW for many years. He designed and operated the whale puppets for Star Trek IV, did the exploding head animation in Men in Black, and a whole bunch of wonderful stuff. He told us that there were times that he had NO IDEA what movie he was working on, or who it was for.
Anyway, I'm blunt about which movies and TV shows I like, and which I don't...but I do try to be very specific with my criticism to avoid tarring the people who did good work in good faith.
Finally, to an earlier point, Airbender does indeed still leave open the question of whether MNS still has his touch for "written and directed by" features following Lady in the Water and The Happening.
[Tim Wilson] "Or vice versa"
I think that is what I was getting at. A misguided director, with/without studio meddling, can put together a great crew of artists to create fantastic work, and still screw up the final result.
[Tim Wilson] "Star Trek IV"
That is one of my top 10 all time favorite movies. I could watch that and the 2001 parts of 2001 for days on end and be happy.
Speaking of which, we recently rented Time after Time - HG Wells travels to modern day San Francisco, sells his eyeglasses to get some pocket money and falls in love with a modern woman. Sounds familiar, and for good reason - same writer. Good film once you get over the cheesy effects - but they weren't cheesy when they were made.
Kinda interesting that Devil earns 50-50 at Rottentomatoes...still early in the game, though...and 60% of viewers rate it "like."
Metacritic is also early in the game, but only one reviewer there goes below a "mixed" review (50 in Metacritic parlance), and that was from The Onion. I never know what those guys are up to. Viewers at metacritic give Devil an 8.9.
Not much money coming in, but looks like a low budget. This is the first of three movies that are going to be done this way - more an anthology rather than a trilogy - but generally speaking, off to a promising start.
The takeaway from this and Airbender is that while MNS may have run off the rails when he wears all the hats, it's working better for him to be part of a team. Who knows? Maybe a few more rounds of this and he might find a way back to the old groove. Or maybe not. He could do worse than being a producer/hired gun for a long stretch....