Look, America. No one has tricked us except for ourselves. In reviews of the new Marky Mark film--oops, the new Donnie Wahlberg film--oops, le nouveau film de M. Night Shyamalan, nearly every critic unleashes all they've got of mockery and cynicism. Rating a terrible 20% at Rotten Tomatoes (and an even worse score among respectable "top" critics), "The Happening" is sure to bomb and may just put an end to Mr. Shyamalan's Hollywood career. Opening this weekend, it's up against an Incredible Hulk movie, but sadly--very sadly--it cannot pose as the "intelligent alternative" to the Hulk, since by all accounts, it is just as retarded.
My contention: it's not that this person's films have gotten worse. Rather, we have become increasingly aware of how hacky and boring and pretentious and badly-scripted, etc. they were in the first place. There is a handy graph of this data on Rotten Tomatoes, but here are the ratings scores for his films (in chronological order):
Sixth Sense: 84
The Village: 43
Lady in the Water: 24
The Happening: 20
I saw the first four of those when they came out (I love movies). At the time, I too felt that Unbreakable was stylish but boring; Signs was stylish but dumb; and The Village was stylish but truly retarded. Lady in the Water starred my least favorite actor Paul Giamatti, so I didn't go see it, and who knows about the Happening. Sure it *sounds* bad.
So, it does indeed seem like this man's films get progressively worse. But I saw The Sixth Sense recently: IT IS HORRIBLE. Easily as bad/dumb as any of those other movies. And once one feels this way, it does not at all incline one to think, "Well his second and third movies were also, y'know, kind of good." Once the first illusion is dissolved, his films certainly do not look like a steady decline.
>Epistemologically, what we have hear is a randomly arranged pile of equivalently-bad films. By "random" I mean that their chronology is irrelevant on video store shelves, and in terms of absolute quality-evaluations. The *illusion* of a decline (i.e. the illusion of an initial quality) only spells out our obvious biases and desires: we wanted these movies to be good, and we kept on wanting that even when they weren't. Each time that they weren't good, we pretended that it was the fault of the object (of our criticism), when really they are all the same. Our "disappointment" in Mr. Shyamalan was really guilt at an initial mistake that we could not admit and therefore had to keep repeating
So, while I cannot defend these shitty movies, I make two charges: that everyone had a serious lapse in judgment as regards The Sixth Sense (and to a lesser degree his other positively-reviewed films); and that the venom spat at his newest work should really be turned towards reviewers themselves for encouraging him in the first place and not admitting their complicity in this pretentious, bombastic career.