Film School Rejects has spent this week dedicated to all things Hulk with its extensive compendium for the release that we fanboys are eagerly awaiting. I think the coverage is great, I think the stories have all been well-written, informative, and fun. But isn’t a prominent director releasing a film this week? A filmmaker more accomplished than Louis Letterier? A director who’s been compared to (by himself and critics) to Alfred Hitchcock?
It’s easy to see why the movie-going public doesn’t care about The Happening. In fact, this week (the same as the film’s release) M. Night Shyamalan’s movie was only brought up once — in the final paragraph of Ashley Demma’s article about Avatar: The Last Airbender, Shyamalan’s reported next film. With the last 10 minutes of Signs, the second hour of The Village, and the entire runtime of Lady in the Water, it’s become apparent that this man has lost his way as a story-teller. His ego has turned the people who used to love his movies against him. But I’m actually curious why Film School Rejects has not reported more on this.
I offer 5 Reasons Why We (FSR) Should Care:
1. Shyamalan has been a box office smash, for the most part.
We don’t need to be reminded why the Sixth Sense was huge. It crushed the 1999 box office, beating every film except The Phantom Menace. Unbreakable had moderate success when you compare it to its budget. Signs made almost $230 million and The Village opened to $50 million in the U.S. His only mis-step has been Lady in the Water which made only $42 million in its entire run (and, well, Wide Awake — his directorial debut — was an independent film that only made $282,000). From an economic standpoint its hard to argue that the man doesn’t make profitable films.
2. All his films are beautiful.
Granted, most of the screenplays are sh*t (because Shayamalan insists on writing everything he directs), but he’s got great vision. Some of the scenes in Signs and The Village are so beautifully shot, it’s not just renown cinematographers Tak Fujimoto and Roger Deakins to be thanked for that.
3. The plot to The Happening is kickass.
A suicide epidemic? Japanese filmmakers have tackled the subject to various success. Granted, The Happening is not some unexplained phenomena like Hitchcock’s The Birds, I know there’s a supernatural explanation that will be attached, but it’s still a scary premise.
4. Lady in the Water was a pet project.
He said that from the start. He basically made the film because it’s the story he made up as a bedtime tale to tell his kids. No one was really jacked up for that, and it was something he made for himself, not the critics. Of course it sucked. If you made a movie based on the stories you told your friends or family, and had the money and resources to make said film, it would probably suck too.
5. It’s Rated R.
As a commercial informed me yesterday, this is “the first film from Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan to be rated R.” Oh. My. F*cking. God. Imagine all the chills and scariness that an R-rating will bring that a PG-13 movie just can’t contain. I hope someone drops the C-bomb.*
In reality, though, no one will care. The Incredible Hulk will crush The Happening at the box office, and probably on Rotten Tomatoes, too. The truth is that there was a phase when M. Night was making films we hadn’t seen since Hitchock’s heyday. But that doesn’t make him the “next Hitchcock.” In reality, it makes him closer to “this generation’s William Friedkin.” Friedkin had big box office and critical successes with The French Connection and The Exorcist, but was eventually directing Blue Chips and an episode of “CSI.” A lot of filmmakers get hot for awhile when they make a big splash on the screen, but eventually hype tapers off and you become the director who makes a movie every once in a while. Shayamalan has reached that point. The Happening is that movie.
My advice: Stop writing. If you truly want to be the next Alfred Hitchcock, hand the pen over to someone else. Hitchcock didn’t need to put his words in the mouths of his actors for it to be successful. Your career has been the cinematic equivalent of the Bush Administration. People were stunned by your arrival, gave you the benefit of doubt for awhile, and now write you off as soon as they see your name. The only difference is that instead of surrounding yourself with “yes” people, you’ve surrounded yourself with yourself. That’s why your films suck now. Because when your head is so far up your own ass, all you can do is look around and see shit.
* I actually got really pissed when I saw the commercial tauting the R-rating. Who cares? Gore Verbinski’s first R-rated movie was not The Ring. The Ring was PG-13 and it was terrifying. His first R-rated film was The Weather Man because it talked about camel toe.