Hey, kid, let’s go for a ride.
Ok, so perhaps my fellow Reverse Shotter Michael Koresky’s short piece in defense of M. Night Shyamalan isn’t going to send shockwaves coursing through the New Times universe, but its nice to see some mainstream ink that isn’t devoted to outright dismissal (or idiotic bloviating: see Caryn James’s latest) of a filmmaker we’ve been examining and arguing over for a long time.
I think all of us who do generally like his works recognize and fully acknowledge the times when he’s ridiculous. All the portent in Signs adds up to nothing so much as a righteous alien hootenanny (featuring the best/worst Mel Gibson performance this side of The Million Dollar Hotel), and Unbreakable‘s comic book mythos frame dances with rendering the whole thing farce of a particularly juvenile variety. However, Shyamalan raises a crucial question: Setting aside personal preferences or general distaste of the man’s films for a second, where else can we look for a young filmmaker working within the studio system who is actively trying to carve out an aesthetic idenitity amidst the myriad outside forces that work in shaping any huge production? Brett Ratner? Gore Verbinski? Please, let’s be serious.
Even if the films were all bad, which they’re not, they work from moment to moment better than almost anything of a similar scale in theatres. By all accounts Lady in the Water is silly, narcissitic, and incoherent, but I can’t imagine that it will be nearly as insulting as Cars or as sodden as The DaVinci Code. It may not make sense, but I’m betting there’s plenty of material worth the price of admission. I’d even take a good campy laugh or two. Given the size of investment in any blockbuster entertainment, enough checks and balances are usually put in place to keep the proceedings from getting too far out of hand, but for my money, that’s the point when things can get really interesting (can, not necessarily will). Personally, I’ve had enough “safe” blockbusters that strive only to not be horrible (and often fail to reach even that meager benchmark) and would prefer a culture that praised a filmmaker for wresting something totally bizarre, idiosyncratic, incoherent, uncommercial, and yes, potentially awful from the jaws of mediocrity.
At the very least, Lady‘s pre-release press has us all debating something that’s often forgotten when budgets go into the tens of millions: filmmakers.