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Sunday, August 01, 2004

Movie Review: The Village 

I've seen a lot of really bad movies in 2004, as well as a few good ones. M. Night Shyamalan's The Village falls somewhere in between, though considering the vast mediocrity of films during the past few years, it's hard to say how good this movie really is.

First off, I had low expectations. The Sixth Sense was a great movie, deserving of its Best Picture nomination. But MNS's two follow-ups failed to come even close to his rookie debut. Unbreakable was unwatchable, and Signs might have been the most unfulfilling two hours I spent in a theater since Mission to Mars.

So, with reservations I thought I'd see if Shyamalan could raise his average back to .500. He did put the bat on the ball, but like a lazy pop fly, The Village was a routine out.

Now there were parts of it that I enjoyed. Its twists were entertaining, and I found myself buying into more than a few of the suspenseful scenes. Then I remembered that every MNS film has a well-placed twist that makes you realize that the previous 90 minutes were all a sham.

Shyamalan basicaly ripped himself off for two hours. The Village is nothing more than a formulaic attempt to clone his previous endeavors, putting just a little something new into a tale that has never lived up to its original apex.

I did like the characters. Joaquin Phoenix's soft-spoken hero, Lucious Hunt, though just a reimagination of the same role he played in Signs, made a better impression this time around. And Bryce Howard's heroine, the blind-yet-determined Ivy Walker, stole the show. I just wish she had had more to steal. The rest of the cast, including William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver and Brendan Gleason, delivered solid performances as well, they just couldn't overcome a story that just can't meet its expectations.

Without spoiling any of the main plot points, The Village's village serves as a transparent metaphor. The inhabitants seek shelter from the evil creatures that lurk beyond their safe borders. They remain safe so long as they don't cross into the creatures' realm, and thus, their perfect society is always clouded in fear of the unknown.

Eventually you see how unfounded and ironic those fears are, and by that time, The Village has spiraled into too much absurdity to recover. To top it off, Shyamalan leaves you with a pedestrian, open-ended final scene. He invites you to ponder the village's future, but I seriously doubt that anyone except the most ardent Shyamalan fans will even care by that point.



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