If you’re reading this website, ostensibly that means you already have a fairly firm grip on film and the culture of pop therein. So, you probably already know that one of the biggest criticisms leveled against filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and from there his credits kind of trail off into mega-navel-gazery and missing-the-pointism) is that his scripts tend to need, well, a lot more work before he starts shooting. Shyamalan even wrote the screenplay to his adaptation of The Last Airbender, which was originally a pretty good children’s adventure cartoon before he turned it into a maudlin effects vehicle, which merely traveled the same path of its animated predecessor without having any of the fun along the way.
With every new Shyamalan movie, critics and fans alike utter the same refrain: When will he put down the Final Draft program and focus solely on direction? Because if there’s one thing all of his films have in common, it’s that they’re pretty gorgeously shot. Hell, a deleted scene from Unbreakable that conveys so much almost entirely through visual storytelling may just be one of the most effective and affecting scenes to ever hit a cutting room floor. For those who haven’t given up on Shyamalan, the consensus seems to be that the man could make a great movie again if he’d just get out of his own way.
Recent news that Shyamalan’s latest project will enlist the help of two additional screenwriters might indicate that he’s finally taken the hint. Stephen Gaghan (writer of Traffic, writer/director of Syriana) has been tapped to put the finishing touches on the script for One Thousand A.E., which was initially penned by Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) before Shyamalan himself took a pass at it. But it looks like the final film will feature Gaghan’s work to an unprecedented degree (considering Shyamalan’s oeuvre), as he will continue refining the script throughout pre-production in order to “get the script into shooting shape.” Which probably translates as executives at Sony — who is producing the new film with Overbrook Entertainment — not taking any chances with Shyamalan’s disappointing authorship.
Gaghan is an interesting choice for One Thousand A.E.. While his past work indicates a definite talent around a typewriter, he seems more geared toward hard-edged thrillers with political messages than science fiction adventures. Gaghan’s movies tend to star people like George Clooney and Michael Douglas doing questionable things while profoundly pontificating, which isn’t the type of movie The Smiths (Will and son Jaden) typically take on. Actually, One Thousand A.E. really does sound more like a Denzel Washington picture. Here’s the synopsis:
“[A] father and son who crash-land on Earth one thousand years after mankind has abandoned the planet. The crash leaves the elder Smith badly injured, and it’s up to the boy to find help in what is now a strange and dangerous place.”
I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a m, mystery but the “A.E.” in One Thousand A.E. sounds like it probably means “After Exodus,” which along with the above synopsis does sound admittedly pretty interesting. It’s just too bad it’s also going to be an M. Night Shyamalan movie, unless he can coax a Haley Joel Osment worthy performance out of Jaden Smith, but hopefully the new screenwriter will be the trick he and his movie needs regardless. Otherwise, I won’t be surprised if this is also the last M. Night Shyamalan movie.
Rob Payne also writes the indie comic The Unstoppable Force and tweets on the Twitter @RobOfWar. He hopes you’ll find the strength within yourself not to use some variation of “Shyamalamadingdong” if you comment below. He went through an entire article without using that lame and hackneyed insult to criticize the director’s work, so surely you can, too.