Here's what's wrong with M. Night Shyamalan:

He’s a very good director and an inventive storyteller who ruins his own movies by insisting on writing them. He could be making great movies if he wrote the basic story, hired someone else to write the script, and then filmed it himself. Instead, he wastes his talent.

James Cameron is exactly the same way.

Am I right?

Yeah, he has a good eye, especially moreso when with a good Director of Photography.

Eh? James Cameron script writing isn’t terrible (hell, the Terminator movies are probably amongst the most quoted films of all time, granted that’s as much due to Ahnold’s delivery as the script). Most of his movies aren’t particularly dialogue intensive anyways. In anycase, his script writing his own movies seems to be working out pretty well for him, which is more then we can say for MNS, who I agree is a decent director, but really needs to stop trying to write his own movies.

ETA: and glancing at wikipedia, Cameron shares writing credit on most of his later films, so he apparently does get some help from others.

Cameron is not as bad a writer as Shyamalan, but to me the dialogue in his films has always seemed mediocre, not very interesting, and sometimes silly. I’m particularly thinking of Titanic and The Abyss here. And the famous lines from the Terminator movies would indeed have been dumb if Schwarzenegger hadn’t been saying them.

Outside of The Abyss, Cameron has never had a movie flop, and The Abyss had its funding cut mid-production.

Like his writing or not, it doesn’t appear to keep the viewers away (unlike with Shyamalan)

True. But I wasn’t talking about box office results in my OP. I was talking about the quality of the movies.

I retract the last post and I will now try to restate it less snottily:

I concede that James Cameron has had a lot of success with his movies and that lots of people like them. Personally, I still think they are hobbled by weak writing.

Terminator 2 is widely studied in screenwriting classes as one of the best Hollywood action scripts of all time. Yeah, the dialogue is a little bit hokey in places (it’s a Terminator movie, after all) but in terms of plot structure, it’s right up there with Die Hard in its ability to move the plot smoothly forward in every scene, with not a bit of extraneous information, distracting exposition or wasted time.

ETA: Compare Lady in the Water for the exact opposite experience.

Hmm. You have a point there. Screenwriting is not all about dialogue. M. Night Shyamalan is terrible at figuring out what parts of the story to dwell on and what parts to cut out; James Cameron does seem to be good at that.

But dialogue is very important to me. The Terminator movies don’t need to have good dialogue because they are so action-driven, but I spent the whole of Titanic waiting for someone to say something worth remembering, and it never happened. And that movie, while well-paced, had a major flaw in the plot structure: the framing device of the elderly Rose makes it obvious from the beginning that Jack is going to die, robbing the story of all suspense.

I’d have to credit the editor for some of that. The extended version of T2 has a lot of interesting stuff, but none of the additional scenes are necessary to the plot and greatly undermine the movie’s pacing.

I hated Titanic for the exact same reasons. That movie made me almost as mad as The English Patient in terms of its overwrought, far-too-long vapidity.

Screenwriting is 98% structure and 2% dialogue.

Titanic is an excellent screenplay with shitty dialogue. Anyone who understands how movies are made will recognize this.

I’d say the fact that it’s about the freaking Titanic is what ruined all the suspense.

Shymalan reminds me much, much more of George Lucas. At least Cameron makes films that are watchable. Lucas is another idea man who should have the sense to put the ideas in capable hands (writing and directing) while he fucks around with his special effects.

I have to admit that I did not exactly hate Titanic at first. I was frustrated by its dumbness, but being a lad of fourteen I was ultimately won over by the magical influence of Ms. Winslet’s breasts, and felt moved by the end of the movie. The next morning I said to myself, “What was that shit?”

I didn’t see The Abyss till years later, and cringed when I realized that Cameron had worked in the very same kind of “non-sexual” boob shot, only in a much more clumsy and amateurish way. I mean, everyone probably has a cheesy little fetish like that, but that’s the bit you’re supposed to cut out of the script when you’re about two-thirds of the way through writing it.

I couldn’t disagree more. The first Terminator? Absolutely. But T2 has a ton of bloat, with cutesy, kinder-gentler Arnie scenes and the whole hand-wringing Nuclear Anxieties that they harp on to the point of distraction. The first film is perfect in every way, but the sequel is muddled, overlong, and kneejerk (and that’s ignoring the monumentally stupid and obvious plothole at the end of the film).

Has Shyamalan ever made a movie where he didn’t create the basic story? I know he is doing the ***Avatar ***movies - is he writing the scripts for these?

Totally agree with the OP, and it’s something I was just talking about with my best friend a couple days ago. Except we’re both Cameron fans :stuck_out_tongue:


M. Night is notable for:
Twist endings that worked amazingly well once, but not so much after.
Good at creating a novel story conceit, but most of the time unsuccessful in the execution.
Aping The Twilight Zone.
Amazing directing skills.
Great with dialogue.
Terrible with plot.
Fantastic with actors, especially children.
Good and unfolding a story, but terrible at writing them.
Full of contrivances (re Signs, LITW, The Village…)
Top notch cinematography; great editing.
Subtle ambience, muted and understated.
Firm believer in “less is more” when it comes to effects and creating fear; sometimes to a fault.

Ultimately, what undoes him is his arrogance in thinking he’s a good writer, and not taking ANY constructive criticism. If he insists on writing his own stories, at least, get a good editor, or team up with a great writer. He can’t tell when his ideas are corny and overblown. I’d compare him more to Lucas here.

James Cameron is notable for:
Amazing visual effects.
Pushing technology in the film industry.
Interesting science fiction concepts, most really good, some kinda bad.
Epic screenwriting.
Mixed bag on dialogue.
Well thought out plots.
Great scores.
His passion for awe and the unexplored is usually very apparent in his films.
Fucking cyborgs.
Not all that great with actors (Eddie Furlong), but thankfully, he’s been able to just let the good actors he does cast to do their thing (Sigourney, Ed Harris, et al). Not sure where Arnold fits in here?
Over-the-top action and set pieces, for better or worse.
Decent writing, and some novel ideas.
Superb art direction/visuals (and a lot of it has come from him, and his paintings).
Iconic characters.
The catchphrases seem to write themselves.
Bombastic atmosphere, highly polished and glossy.
Bold, unafraid, and risky filmmaker in all the right places.

I believe Cameron is in a completely different league as a filmmaker than M. Night. Cameron has more muscle, overall talent and is a collaborator. He’s got unique vision, and makes movies from his passions in life. And it shows. If there’s something unprecedented he wants to achieve, then he invents it. He makes a lot of pop-corn fare, to be sure, but most often the pop-corn goes down much deeper than you think. His movies have re-watch value; M. Night’s – not so much. Every filmmaker takes some missteps, and even Cameron’s perceived missteps aren’t all that bad compared to M. Night’s. I’d take The Abyss or True Lies over Signs or Lady in the Water (haven’t seen The Happening :rolleyes: yet) any day.

On the contrary, I contend that it is 97% structure and 3% dialogue! :slight_smile:

Seriously, though, do you mean that the structure is actually on the order of forty-nine times more important to the effectiveness of the film than the dialogue? I strongly disagree. Shitty dialogue can seriously weaken a movie. Think how much cooler The Matrix could have been if they’d just cut out that ridiculous nonsense “explanation” of why the machines were imprisoning the humans, or that painfully stupid line that referenced The Wizard of Oz.

M. Night, I’m sure, also thinks of himself as a modern day Hitchcock.

Having somebody else write the script wouldn’t help if Shyamalan still wrote the story. In fact, I like his scripts. I think he’s a helluva director, who builds mood wonderfully, sets up his shots well, and unfolds a story with interesting characters. It’s just that, since The Sixth Sense (or maybe Unbreakable, to cut him some slack), his stories end in some stupid “twist” that make me want to throw something at the screen.

It’s terrible for me to invest that much interest (and him that much effort) in something with an incredibly stupid payoff.

It’s NOT because Twists Are Bad, or because I Expect A Twist From HIm, or something equaly brainless. There are oplenty of writers who made a damed living out of Stories With Twists. O. Henry. Fredric Brown. Frederick Forsyth’s early stuff. I never felt cheated because there was a twist, or because i guessed the twist, or anything like that. It’s that Shyamalan writes STUPID twists.

He should use someone else’s story as a basis. He can then write his own script and everything. Just as long as it isn’t another Signs or The Village.