Review: Devil by Jamie

Spoilers Ahead!

I’ve been trying to write about this film for almost a week now. The reason being that I don’t want to come of as just another Shyamalan hater just because I didn’t like this film. Don’t get me wrong, I dislike the films of Mr. M. Night Shyamalan but I don’t want to seem like one of those people who are just jumping on the bandwagon without any particular reason and yet I’m sure writing a negative review of ‘Devil’ will attract exactly those kinds of accusations. Balls to it. I can’t help feeling the way that I do.

I had a small glimmer of hope for this film. Lately I’d come to regard Shyamalan a bit as I see George Lucas these days, as a man who can come up with really quite good ideas but when it comes to the execution of those ideas he just can’t quite pull it off. With ‘Devil’ the basic idea was that the idea for the story had come from Shyamalan but everything else such as the screenplay writing and directing at duties would be handled by other people. Perfect, I thought to myself, this is exactly the way that he should do things for the time being. Maybe watching other directors put his ideas on the screen would give him some pointers on how he could do it better himself.

Of course, now I think of it, similar thoughts were running through my head when I heard that he was directing ‘The Last Airbender’. Great, I thought to myself, this is exactly the that he should do things for the time being. Maybe focusing on directing rather than the story will enable him to perfect his craft. Well, I think we all know how that turned out.

So, yeah, I was willing to give Devil a chance. That was my mistake. The basic premise of the film is that there are five people with questionable backgrounds who are all trapped in a lift (elevator for my American readers) and they are slowly killed off one by one. The reason? Why, the Devil’s in the lift as well of course! Why? Well, apparently it’s just something he does from time to time for no discernable reason.

Meanwhile there’s a couple of cops and security guards on the outside watching them through the CCTV cameras in the lift and trying to find out who each person is because, whilst the people in the lift can hear them, they can‘t hear the people in the lift so they can‘t just tell them who they are. Their time may be better spent trying to focus on just getting the people the hell out of their because the efforts of the emergency services to do just that are pretty fucking poor. Like one guy with a saw. How about you get two guys with saws, cutting from both sides and meeting in the middle? Seriously. Whilst this piss poor rescue attempt is going on and the cops are running around trying to find out who each person is, more and more people are getting killed. Killed to death!

Oh, also one of the cops has a back story wherein his family wife and son were killed in a hit and run accident with the driver of the other vehicle leaving a note behind at the scene simply saying “I’m so sorry”. I wonder if that will play any part in this film later on? In the interest of full disclosure I didn’t wonder if that would play any part in the film later. I don’t know why. It was such an obvious twist looking back on it and this is an M. Night film so a twist should always be at least kinda expected. The only thing I can think is that I was so bored watching this film that I honestly didn’t want to think too deeply about it. Still, I feel stupid at not figuring out. On the other hand I did work out the other twist in the film pretty early on, that being who the Devil actually was so I guess I win at that. Go Team!

So yeah, that’s pretty much the plot. Some people are trapped in a lift. Other people aren’t. Sometimes the people in the lift die. The main problem with the film was just how insanely boring it was. Imagine watching five people trapped in a lift and occasionally sometimes watching other people watching five people trapped in a lift. It would be far more interesting than this film because at least that wouldn’t try to build up faux tension without any kind of pay off. Seriously, anytime it seems like something is about to happen in this film, the lights go out, the screen goes dark, you hear a few weird noises and bam! The lights go on and there’s a corpse! It’s like fucking someone right up until you’re close to the point of climaxing and then just stopping. What’s the fucking point?

To top it all off, there’s no sense of mystery to the film. The film’s advertising and even the title give away exactly what the plot is. There are five people trapped in a lift and one of them is the Devil. Well, thanks very much. Hell, you could tell who the Devil was from watching the trailer alone so the only thing you’re left with is the hope that there will be some interesting death scenes. I’m not talking about bullshit Saw/Hostel torture scenes but something. I mean, this is the motherfucking Devil we’re talking about. He should be able to pull something interesting off. But no, what we’re treated to is darkness and an increasing body count. Well, whoop-de-fuck. Maybe I’m jaded or desensitized to violence to such an extent that I need to see something but come on, who isn’t in this day and age?

it would have also been nice if maybe, just maybe there was an element that hinted that maybe it wasn’t the Devil, at least until the big reveal at the end. Maybe it was someone who was just going mad and had based their killing spree on old tales of what the Devil supposedly did but no. It’s pretty much shown that there’s no way that anyone in that lift could have pulled off the killings without being some ancient malevolent force so that’s lame also.

I suppose the acting wasn’t bad but it wasn’t particularly great either. I didn’t really care about any of the characters because they never really developed to any kind of stage where you could. Perhaps the oddest thing about the film is that the opening five minutes is just a weird shot flying through the city but upside down. It made me feel physically sick. Thanks movie.

So yeah at the end of the day, the film was just boring beyond belief and whilst the film was apparently just M. Night’s idea I have a hard time believing that was his only input. It just felt too much like a film that he would have made otherwise. I don’t know the exact level of his involvement but I think it was probably a little more than advertised. I still feel the need to give Shyamalan one last chance, something I feel every time I’m burned by him, because I do think there’s still a good film maker in there somewhere but I’m starting to think that it may have died, suffocated beneath the layers of whatever the hell he has become. Still, I do love ‘The Happening’. Sure it fails on every level of being a good film but it is fucking hilarious. Sadly Devil is not The Happening and so it gets one pint out of five. Satan deserved so much better. Laterz.

Review: The Last Airbender by Jamie

Some spoilers for the cartoon and the movie are ahead. Not really that much though.

Also if you’re a child who has somehow stumbled upon this review to find out about what is, to be fair, a film aimed at children, you might want to look elsewhere. Things might get curse wordy.

I had never watched ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ until this past weekend managing to get through all three series in about three days. The reason was so that I could properly compare the series to the M. Night Shyamalan ‘The Last Airbender’ which is based on said series. What did I think of the series? Well, I fucking loved it. There is so much greatness within a show that it would be impossible to explain just how awesome it is and why in this opening paragraph. Let’s just say that if you haven’t seen it, you should watch it at your next possible opportunity.

But no, this review isn’t about the show. It’s about the movie. Let’s start of with some of the good things. Well, the special effects were pretty good and the settings did look like the places that were in the show, so yeah, that was OK. Also the costumes seemed pretty accurate too. Still if I had one complaint with the special effects it’s that the elements being bended didn’t seem to flow as well with the people doing the bending as they did in the show.

Well, that’s pretty much the good stuff out of the way, now onto the rest of the film. The show had spirit, heart and an engaging story. The movie has none of these things. Seriously, it’s like they got a bunch of cosplayers together and got them to play out short vignettes of things that sort of happened in the cartoon. Cosplayers that weren’t particularly good actors. Scenes skip by as characters move from place to place with no journey in between with just the occasional bit of narration to fill us in with things that happened in the cartoon that they just didn’t have time to put into the film.

It’s almost like M. Night watched the series, noted down a few scenes he considered to be important, changed them slightly so they’d fit within an hour and a half and then ignored everything that came between those scenes which is a massive, massive shame because it’s in those journeying scenes between that you often got proper character development within the series. What I’m basically saying is that this is a film about an epic quest with most of the quest removed. You don’t even get the sense that Sokka and Katara have become friends with Aang. It just seems like they view him as a super weapon that they have to stop from getting into the wrong hands.

Whole plot points which become massively important later on in the story are excised completely such as the Kyoshi warriors and the city of Omashu. Of course the characters involved in those parts of the story are lucky that they’ve been left out because, fucking hell, the characters that have been left in are pretty much just cardboard cutouts of the characters from the show, their personalities barely recognisable or even apparent during most of the film.

Aang (pronounced rhyming with sung here rather than sang for… some reason) isn’t the goofy and plucky young boy who seems good natured despite what he has experienced and what he has to overcome. No, now he’s all dark and depressed and serious because… well everything has to be dark and serious these days, doesn’t it? Nothing can be fun anymore. Well you know what, M. Night? Some things work when you make them dark like Batman and some things don’t like Avatar: The Last Airbender! Aang is a likeable character because of his fun-loving nature and the occasional times when he did get upset only furthered to flesh out his character not become his defining character trait. Damn it. Fuck you M. Night. Fuck you.

And thanks to the protracted nature of the story, certain moments of character development go by and seem completely pointless. For example in this film when Kuzo dresses up as the Blue Spirit and recovers Aang from Zhao’s custody, it’s pretty much just a way to get the story from point A to point B because it didn’t seem like Kuzo had been pursuing them for any time at all. In the show it had emotional resonance because they actually share a moment in the forest after the rescue where Aang offers his would be kidnapper the opportunity for friendship. No, honestly, fuck you M. Night.

Oh and the dialogue! Fuck the dialogue. It’s pretty much all exposition. Literally, I don’t think there’s a line in here that isn’t just explaining something which could have just been shown. You could probably watch this without actually looking at the screen and still be able to tell what the basic gist of the story is because it’s all helpfully explained to you because hey, you’re a moron. A moron who needs everything spelled out for you because you’re too stupid to figure things out if actual plot points or character development is shown to you. They don’t even show Sokka falling in love with Princess Yuwe. It’s simply explained away in a piece of narration in which Katara explains that they have become “fast friends’. Fucking fuck you M. Night. Fuck!

As for the acting, well, it’s kinda hard to describe really. Even Dev Patel, playing Zuko, is pretty much wasted here. I honestly can’t blame the actors for their wooden performances here because I get the feeling that it suffers from the poor direction, poor writing and having to work with CGI that the Star Wars prequels suffered from. To be fair, Aasif Mandvi as general Zhao was probably the best actor on screen but even he was playing such a stock, cardboard cutout villain that it’s hard to get excited about it.

Gah! Thinking about this film is making me feel angry and just a little bit sickly. The worst part is if you’ve seen and enjoyed the series, then this film will piss you off. If you haven’t seen the show I don’t know if you’ll be able to figure out what’s going on at all. It’s a lose-lose situation. I would say that this will probably be the worst film of the year but we still have an outing from Friedberg and Seltzer to come in the form of Vampires Suck so yeah, it’s still up in the air at the moment. Fuck. I think I know how Dragonball fans felt when Dragonball Evolution came out.

At the end of the day there is just no fun in this film and that’s the biggest crime of all. The show managed to take these children characters and put them in dangerous situations with serious consequences but it always managed to be fun. This is just a soulless interpretation of the source material and it sucks hard. I’ll end with a quote from episode 17 of the third series. The characters have just left a play which has been based on their adventures. It applies pretty damn well to this film adaptation of their journey as well…

Zuko: That… Wasn’t a good play.
Aang: I’ll say.
Katara: No kidding.
Suki: Horrible.
Toph: You said it.
Sokka: But the effects were decent.
Aang: Fucking fuck you to hell, M. Night. Fuck you to hell.

OK, that last line wasn’t in the episode but I think you gt the idea. The Last Air Bender get’s a half a pint out of five. Laterz.

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