Review/Lady in the Water

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Lady in the Water

Lady in the Water
created by M. Night Shyamalan
released 2006
Rating 3/8

I finally got around to seeing Lady in the Water this week.

I'm split on this one. I tend to like Shyamalan's movies, and I like the idea behind this one, but I feel the movie itself was premature. I can completely see why it has such a low rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Let me explain...

I really like it when someone tries to invent an entirely new mythos. I like the ideas of the Scrunts and Tartutics. I would have truly loved to have heard this story as a radio drama. (Or as the bedtime stories from which it spawned.)

That said, it just doesn't transition well to a movie.

Much of the movie is expository dialog introducing the mythology. As J. Michael Straczynski is fond of saying, if you can step away from the TV and do something else without missing any of the story, you're not watching TV, you're listening to the radio. (At least he did do some editing. The deleted scenes on the DVD show that the movie had a lot more expository dialog.)

I think Shyamalan should have kept it to the book form and let the universe develop in the literary format for a while before taking it to the big screen. (Perhaps by-way of an audio drama.) It's a pity that the movie has probably killed the mythos in its infancy.

So much for the mythos itself, now for the film-making aspect...

I liked the creature designs for the Scrunts and Tartutics. I do wish they had done some prosthetic work on Bryce Dallas Howard to distinguish her from humans a little bit. (After all, human legs just aren't appropriate for something that spends its life in the water.) (Of course, I didn't terribly mind seeing a half naked Bryce Dallas Howard in human form, but that's another story.) Just something to distinguish her as a Narf would have been nice. (Of course it would have taken out some of the "suspense" if she was clearly not human, but that sense of suspense wasn't really pursued anyways.) ...and don't get me started on the name "Narf". Every time I heard it in the movie I chuckled, thinking of Pinky's catch-phrase in Pinky and the Brain.

On to the hubris...

The blatantly obvious treatment of the movie critic in the movie was a little annoying. OK, so it was very annoying. I'm surprised any movie critic gave it a positive review after that. Maybe they had just fallen asleep by the time those scenes came around. (Or maybe they were just making out with their girlfriend / boyfriend / self in the back of the theater instead of paying attention.)

Also, M. Knight choosing himself to play the part of the author whose writings would eventually change the world just reeked of hubris. I mean it's one thing to have a cameo in your movies, but to put yourself in a major role as someone who will save the world -- well, it's just bad mythologizing. It's like if Homer had taken Achilles out of The Iliad and put himself in the role.

Finally, the audio editing was horrible. The audio was so bad I couldn't understand half of what they were saying in some of the more important scenes because MNS seems to like to have his actors whisper the important lines because he seems to think it adds to the mystery. (A cheap trick to make you watch the movie again rather than legitimate misdirection techniques like he used in Sixth Sense.)

So, to recap...

I liked the beginnings of a new mythos, but I really think it should have had some more time to develop in other media before it was brought to the screen. Unfortunately, the movie will probably just make the mythology end up as a footnote on MNS's Wikipedia entry when Father Time looks back on our society.

(Long live JRR Tolkien's memory. Now there was someone who knew how to create a mythos.)


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Tometheus (talk) 00:00, 15 June 2007 (CDT)

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