Wednesday, July 16, 2008

M. Night, the "Ehh"

M. Night Shyamalan created a large fan base founded upon his ability to create great visual films and his habit of telling deeply spiritual stories. They are not Christian by any means, but they are spiritual and they are spiritual in a postmodern sense. They show at once the inherent weaknesses of postmodern spirituality but also the potential it carries as well.

Unfortunately, as time has gone by and he has made more movies, he has shown that while he has his good, he also has his—some would call it bad but it is really more of an “ehh,” and then most recently… his UGLY. Two movies fall into the middle category. Maybe not total misses, but the idea and the realization did not really come together:
Unbreakable (2000): 
This movie is the answer to the question: what would it be like if comic book heroes were real. Unfortunately, there is a reason ultimately why comic book heroes can never be too real—fantasy never works without the fantastic. That and the ambitious attempt to simulate comic books through shot framing and dialogue where each line is trapped in its own “bubble,” makes for a difficult viewing. It also doesn’t help that the studios created false expectations marketing it as another “scary” film like The Sixth Sense, which it was never supposed to be. It’s not bad, just shy of the mark.
Lady in the Water (2006): 
Shyamalan’s great epoch mythology, created as a bedtime story. The problem is his mythos lacks poetry and ultimately feels made-up. Okay, all fantasy is made up… but good fantasy has weight; it feels real. And most all fantasy taps into the same handful of universal archetypes, Shyamalan’s are random and feel pointless. Hmmm. Maybe he does have a bad film here.


  1. While I agree on Unbreakable being quite a disappointment, I thoroughly enjoyed Lady in the Water and felt it was a deeply spiritual movie.

    It's easy to get caught up on some of the tangental things about it... which can happen with any fantasy movie.

    But at its core, the main message I received was that it is a journey back to one's own innocence.

    As Jesus said, we must become like children to enter the kingdom of Heaven. In my interpretation, he is referring to the innocence... the same innocence that Shyamalan brings forth in this film.

    There is also a strong message that we are all interconnected and have a divine purpose. This is why the character that Shyamalan portrays will go on to impact the world so heavily, and why he needs a 'kickstart' to get going from somebody else who can see through him and know his purpose.

    Another obvious message in the story is regarding faith faith - about people who don't believe, but at some point they HAVE to believe... because their experience shows them no other choice.

    We could look at the intense healing that Paul Giamatti's character goes through -- that he must heal from his past to be able to embrace the present. Emotional healing is very much a spiritual practice as it leads us closer to ourselves, and therefore, closer to God.

    There's also a lot of other metaphors in the movie, such as the beasts representing many peoples' fear of the Divine.

    I say that in all seriousness -- that many people want to connect with God, but they're also scared to.... they ask questions like, "Am I worthy?" "Will he judge me?" and other similar statements that only serve to belittle themselves and stifle their own greatness.

    As one moves past the place of fear, they become able to see their own greatness, and therefore, more able to receive the greatness of God.

    So yes, while there are some parts of the movie that could be improved - I feel this was Shyamalan's most spiritual movie of all.

    Chris Cade

  2. Thanks for the comment! I think you are right, and I wanted to like this movie. I have begun to think that what M. Night needs is to bring other writers into his projects. He is obviously a great director and a good story teller, he just needs help fine tuning his stories and scripts before delivery. I hope he gets better, but first he went and got worse. (See my next entry.)


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