I Did Not See This Coming: Arabs Blame US, Israel For Tsunami | Main | Son of Nixon Despondent Over Aniston-Pitt Split
January 08, 2005

Stay Away From The Village

The Village is officially released on DVD Tuesday, but your video store might be renting now (as mine is).

It's hard to review this movie for those who haven't seen it, as it relies, as M. Night Shayamalan's past efforts have, upon a big surprise ending.

So I can't say much without spoiling the big mystery. Except:

Don't bother. Wait for HBO. When you're very bored and have absolutely nothing at all better to do, read, or watch.

I've tried to avoid actual spoilers below, but it's hard to completely avoid implying certain things. That said, if you want to read why you should stay away from this movie in more detail, read on past the jump.


From the first moments of the film I realized that it was so ham-handedly allegorical that I was watching, basically, an updated Twillight Zone, in living color. And from there you just have to puzzle things out-- there are, after all, only so many surprise endings possible. I mean, what are the options?

1) It's all a dream.

2) It's all taking place inside the mind of a schizophrenic in a lunatic asylum.

3) They're all really dead, and this is really hell.

4) Okay, he's not quite dead yet, but he's in the moment of death/in a coma, and this is all going on inside his head.

5) This isn't really earth, it's an alien zoo.

6) That's not necessarily mayonnaise!

Etc. Obviously, some can't apply, some won't work, and you just have to work down the list of suprise endings you've seen a hundred times until you find the one that fits the plot-pattern.

I nailed the big Suprise Ending within ten minutes. I had to work out the details on some of the rest of it, but by the thirty minute mark, I had it all figured out. All of it.

Figuring out a tricksy puzzle-movie can be enjoyable... as long as there's enough cool stuff to keep you interested even after the tricksiness has all been figured out. The Sixth Sense was like that; so was the original Planet of the Apes.

This movie isn't like that. Once you've figured things out, or seen the movie, you'll never have any desire to see it again. The only interesting thing in this movie is the tricksiness, and that's only mildly interesting.

When I figured it out, I thought That can't be right, because I didn't see how it was possible to pad that premise out into a full feature. As a half-hour Twillight Zone or Night Gallery, sure. But a two-hour feature? That would take too much padding, I thought.

But padding there was.

Further, none of it makes a lick of sense. Suffice to say that there is a way out of The Village, and that the Elders know of this way, and it just makes no sense at all that they've let children die or go blind from easily cured maladies -- easily cured, were they to get the necessary "medicines" from the "towns" beyond the "forbidden border" -- when the Elders, knowing of this special way to get through the dangerous woods, could arrange a trip at least once a year to make sure they have enough supplies that no child dies of a simple fever again.

Puzzle-movies are fun, but they often are just a purely intellectual exercise in problem-solving-- first from the screenwriter's POV, as he's writing it, and then from the viewer's, as he's watching it. There's a certain cheapness in the trick-ending, I think-- it's a bit of crutch, and having a Big Trick Ending makes a script easier to write, since it sort of forces you to put certain scenes in here and there. The Big Trick Ending essentially supplies a roadmap to the writer; he then just has to link A to B to C to D.

Shayamalan has been relying on this crutch for too long, trying to recapture his undeniable success with The Sixth Sense. It's time he grew into a more mature and interesting filmmaker, and abandoned the Big Trick Ending in favor of a normal sort of movie in which the emphasis is on character, event, and story.

There's much to appreciate about Shyamalan's laconic and confident style, but he does tend to try the viewer's patience. There's a fine line between taking your time and letting events unfold at a leisurely place and just plain boring an audience.

His directing isn't much better when it comes to his actors. William Hurt's kind of a wooden actor, right? Well, he's wooden here, as is most of the rest of the cast. But Shayamalan actually coaches the normally-effusive Joachim Phoenix to actually play more wooden and morose than Hurt. When a woman demands Phoenix open up and talk and share his emotions, for once in my life I took the woman's side, almost screaming, "Show something, for crying out loud, you big lump of inert clay!"

Scary? No. Silly? Frequently. The dialogue sometimes borders on the chuckle-worthy-- yeah, you know the effect he's after, but he's not quite achieving it, and the distance between his intent and his ability sometimes provokes a wry smile.

BTW-- if you were going to send someone on a dangerous trek through monster-haunted woods, who would you send? Well, if you were William Hurt, you wouldn't go yourself; you'd apparently send your blind daughter, and then explain this LUDICROUS and utterly cowardly decision by saying something absurd like "Love will guide her."

Monsters or no monsters, a blind girl is not really the sort of person you send through a woods with no map and no trails. And yet, there you go. For no plausible reason at all, we've got a blind girl feeling her way through entirely-unknown forest hoping to somehow stumble across a safe harbor along the way.

Why send the girl? Because the plot points dictated by his Big Trick Ending demanded it. And so logic and common sense had to be subordinated to the imperatives of the Big Trick Ending.

Second Thoughts: I wasn't quite fair about the "padding" or the claim that there's nothing here of interest, except for the tricky plot. The movie is "padded," if you will, with a couple of romances and/or romantic triangle, and these are almost interesting enough to make you nearly forget that practically nothing at all is happening for an hour or so.

Bigger Spoiler: If you really want a hint as to which kind of surprise this movie ends with, highlight the following text (printed in white font):

Think "reverse Scooby-Doo."

Yeahp, Scooby-Doo. Shayamalan avoids some of the most hackneyed twists -- they're all dead and this is hell, etc. -- only to choose what must be the most cliched twist of all -- the ol' Scooby-Doo special -- used in every single one the three hundred Scooby-Doo cartoons.

The only thing missing was the "Old Man Wiggums!" after the unmasking and some grumbling about "meddling blind girls."

digg this
posted by Ace at 01:51 AM

| Access Comments




Recent Comments
publius, the Persistent Poperin Pear: " With "utilizaton" voltages, most wiring is rate ..."

X-ray: "I shot, skinned, and gutted a squirrel today. Its ..."

BignJames: "I shot, skinned, and gutted a squirrel today. Its ..."

ScoggDog: "[i]308 I shot, skinned, and gutted a squirrel toda ..."

Alberta Oil Peon, survivor of GNAMM: "Dood, only reason I even know about the fires is t ..."

NaCly Dog[/i]: "Nevergiveup Pretty cool. Hope the backstop ..."

publius, the Persistent Poperin Pear: ">> Don't most things come with a plug that dictate ..."

You will love my Richard: "I shot, skinned, and gutted a squirrel today. Its ..."

PMRich: "I left just shortly before the flood. Anybody ..."

Under Fire: "Maxine Waters: 'I Will Go and Take Trump Out Tonig ..."

Misanthropic Humanitarian: "But don't try to take away my food processor or I' ..."

Peaches: "pixy, one of these days, boy, one of these days, i ..."

Recent Entries
Search


MuNuvians
Polls! Polls! Polls!
Frequently Asked Questions
The (Almost) Complete Paul Anka Integrity Kick
Top Top Tens
Greatest Hitjobs

The Ace of Spades HQ Sex-for-Money Skankathon
A D&D Guide to the Democratic Candidates
Margaret Cho: Just Not Funny
More Margaret Cho Abuse
Margaret Cho: Still Not Funny
Iraqi Prisoner Claims He Was Raped... By Woman
Wonkette Announces "Morning Zoo" Format
John Kerry's "Plan" Causes Surrender of Moqtada al-Sadr's Militia
World Muslim Leaders Apologize for Nick Berg's Beheading
Michael Moore Goes on Lunchtime Manhattan Death-Spree
Milestone: Oliver Willis Posts 400th "Fake News Article" Referencing Britney Spears
Liberal Economists Rue a "New Decade of Greed"
Artificial Insouciance: Maureen Dowd's Word Processor Revolts Against Her Numbing Imbecility
Intelligence Officials Eye Blogs for Tips
They Done Found Us Out, Cletus: Intrepid Internet Detective Figures Out Our Master Plan
Shock: Josh Marshall Almost Mentions Sarin Discovery in Iraq
Leather-Clad Biker Freaks Terrorize Australian Town
When Clinton Was President, Torture Was Cool
What Wonkette Means When She Explains What Tina Brown Means
Wonkette's Stand-Up Act
Wankette HQ Gay-Rumors Du Jour
Here's What's Bugging Me: Goose and Slider
My Own Micah Wright Style Confession of Dishonesty
Outraged "Conservatives" React to the FMA
An On-Line Impression of Dennis Miller Having Sex with a Kodiak Bear
The Story the Rightwing Media Refuses to Report!
Our Lunch with David "Glengarry Glen Ross" Mamet
The House of Love: Paul Krugman
A Michael Moore Mystery (TM)
The Dowd-O-Matic!
Liberal Consistency and Other Myths
Kepler's Laws of Liberal Media Bias
John Kerry-- The Splunge! Candidate
"Divisive" Politics & "Attacks on Patriotism" (very long)
The Donkey ("The Raven" parody)
News/Chat
Archives
Powered by
Movable Type 2.64