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26 September 2006 @ 01:33 pm
Lady in the Water  
Title: Lady in the Water
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Media Type: Film
Reviewer: nakedcelt
Summary: Do not see Lady in the Water. Just don't. No, seriously, don't.

I am never going to see another M. Night Shyamalan movie again. Yes, it really was that bad.

There is a term much used in the fanfiction community: "Mary-Sue". It means a particular type of character, which any halfway good author will have grown out of writing. The diagnostic features of the Mary-Sue are as follows:
  1. Mary-Sues have special, usually unique, powers.
  2. Whether another character is good or evil may reliably be gauged by their attitude to the Mary-Sue — right from the moment they meet her or, perhaps, even hear of her. Anyone with a shred of decency finds her adorable.
  3. Except for her powers, the Mary-Sue typically closely resembles her author.
  4. Mary-Sues are a bit lacking when it comes to actually doing anything. They just sit there being Special, and the plot happens around them.
Your typical Mary-Sue author is about fourteen years old; as I said, any halfway good author has grown out of writing them. It's a phase you go through. Hey, I was writing Mary-Sues (albeit male ones, for which there is no universally agreed term) when I was that age. The appropriate response to a Mary-Sue story is to gently teach its author the single most important skill a writer needs, which is the ability to handle rejection.

Well, it seems that M. Night Shyamalan is not a halfway good author, because Lady in the Water is a blatant Mary-Sue story. Story — that's her name — enters the world through an apartment-block's swimming pool. The apartment-block's caretaker Cleveland Heep finds her, discovers that she is being chased by something, and takes her in. The only clues he has to her identity are, first, the word "narf" which she utters more or less at random, and, second, the thing chasing her, which looks like a green dog. Asking around the apartment-block tenants, he finds that a "narf" is a water-nymph from an Asian folk tale, sent to Earth to awaken a human "vessel" who will bring a message of peace to the world; and that "narfs" are generally pursued by "scrunts", which are, you guessed it, big wolf things with grass growing on their backs. If you're wondering how a guy with a name like Shyamalan could think that "narf" and "scrunt" sounded even remotely Asian, so am I. But that is far from the worst of it.

All Story knows about her destined "vessel" is that it's a writer. So Heep goes off in search of a writer. Now, Heep keeps a journal revealing his dark past — his family were killed by a burglar one night when he was out of the house — and so you start thinking, about this point, that Heep himself is the vessel. Well, that would have been a rather cheesy, clichéed and predictable way to end the story, but still much better than what actually happens.

What actually happens is that one of the tenants is writing a book about leadership and politics and stuff, but has writer's block just at the moment. So Heep brings him and Story together, the writer gets a tingly feeling and his writer's block is cured. Story, who can see the future, predicts that his work will inspire a young man in "the Midwest of this land" who will go on to become President and put all those world-saving ideas into action.

This is where it gets really sickening: the writer is played by M. Night Shyamalan himself.

Now that Shyamalan has had his tingly feeling and been revealed as the next great prophet, Story's purpose is fulfilled. All she has to do is get home without getting munched by a scrunt. The Asian folk-tale details how this is done in ridiculous detail, which involves identifying various characters by rôle; there's the Guardian, the Healer, the Interpreter, the Guild, and I forget who else. What they actually do is unimportant, because the important thing is to identify them correctly. Only the real Guardian can be "the Guardian", only the real Guild can be "the Guild", etc.

Heep goes to ask the opinion of a movie critic who's just moved into the building how one would identify the requisite characters in a story. Bewailing the death of originality, and maintaining a sneering tone throughout, the critic gives him clues. Using these clues Heep assembles a group to help Story back home, but it turns out the clues were wrong, the characters were misidentified, and Story gets dragged off by a scrunt. They rescue her, sort everything out, and a giant eagle called the Great Eatlon takes her home, on schedule. All the characters fall in love with Story on sight, despite the fact that she has done nothing except give Shyamalan a tingly feeling. All take the Asian folk-tale completely seriously from the instant they hear about it. Except the movie critic.

When he figures out that he's got all the characters wrong, Heep wonders aloud who could be so cavalier about the truth when lives are at stake. Cut to the movie critic, who promptly becomes the scrunt's only actual victim.

Moral: Shyamalan is the next great prophet, and his critics are a bunch of evil scoffers who deserve to be messily killed in the name of peace and love. I haven't seen such a self-worshipping heap of crap since Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, and that at least had some well-done dance sequences. Do not see this film. Do not see it at the theatre. Do not get it out on video or DVD. If it comes to television, change the channel. It really is that bad.
 
 
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