M Night Shyamalan has unleashed his new film on audiences that feel safe enough to go back to the cinema. The time this viewer started consistently watching new releases every week coincides with the Shyamalan “Hollywood embarrassment” phase. The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth. Three of the worst big-budget modern movies. This critic will never forget seeing the latter two opening weekends. He still Thinks about Dev Patels hilariously over the top delivery of “bring me all your elderly” Or the fact that Shyamalan reduced score material rich in mythology and worldbuilding as The Last Airbender animated series. In Shyamalan’s big-screen edition four men do a choreographed dance to telekinetically move a boulder.
Split was solid. That said it was not quite good enough to make this watcher see what people saw in Shyamalan. Going into Old the same watcher knew nothing about it beyond the fact it was a big new release and the fact it was a Shyamalan film. What did this writer find within Shyamalan’s latest mystery box?
This was a truly bizarre viewing experience. All the hallmarks of what has made Shyamalan such a Hollywood punching bag at his worst are here. The gimmicky premise, that has been meme fodder since release. Thin characters. Tonal range from sincere to hugely embarrassing. Multiple twists. There’s an argument that this film is just as terrible compared to Shyamalan at his worst. That said, this viewer was inexplicably engrossed by events on screen. The laughable material in Shyamalan’s previous decade of work has a complete lack of self-awareness. It was complemented by creative teams that were too indebted to Shyamalan’s previous greatness, to be honest with him in terms of how laughable these productions were. Old is similar in this regard.
This time everyone involved appears to have committed to delivering on the insanely silly sci-fi premise. A beach the rapidly ages those unlucky enough to step on it. No matter how insane the premise might be to some this viewer was engaged in seeing it resolved. As things progress the narrative also becomes strangely moving in places. Before delivering a very distinctly Shyamalan twist ending that is guaranteed to cause debate. As the credits rolled this writer could not decide if it was an insanely cheesy and hilariously atrocious addition to Shyamalan’s bottom tier work. Or was it some kind of insanely flawed but genuinely fascinating cult masterpiece that will have a following in years to come? One thing is for sure. This is the first time this writer got a genuine glimpse of what his fans see in M Night Shyamalan This kind of genuinely wild swing for the fences is the kind of thing you do not see very often in mainstream filmmaking. Even if watches despise it with every fibre of their being it deserves to be seen and supported. It’s a film you almost certainly want to come out of and discuss afterwards.
Is M Night Shyamalan’s Old another legendary embarrassment from a man whose career is already littered with them? Or is it some kind of bizarrely flawed masterpiece that its fans will be advocating for in the future? This viewer honestly can’t tell. What he can say is this. It’s a film you will truly come out of having an opinion on and wanting to talk about Whether the film ends up being laughably terrible or insanely misunderstood is irrelevant. The critical point is that viewers will remember it. In an age in which so much mass media has a distinctly formulaic style, the memory elements are worth celebrating.