Some of our readers have wondered how M. Night Shyamlan's After Earth failed to secure a spot (or "honorable mention") on our Worst Movies of 2013 countdown, and the answer is simple: as flawed as the film arguably is (read our review), there are traces of complex storytelling and Shymalan's auteurial touch that make the sci-fi/father-son drama worthwhile - well, okay, more worthwhile than other 2013 films like, say, the shoddy B-movie Getaway or bland horror sequel Last Exorcism Part II.
Those same elements have kept alive our hopes that maybe, maybe one day Shymalan can escape the sinkhole of ineptitude that he's been circling in recent years, with movies like The Happening, The Last Airbender and After Earth. Could his upcoming limited TV series Wayward Pines be such a project?
Wayward Pines - both Shyamalan's mini-series and the Blake Crouch novel that inspired it - have long drawn comparisons to Mark Frost and David Lynch's cult series Twin Peaks, and Shyamalan did as much in a recent interview with EW:
“When I read [Chad Hodge's script for 'Wayward Pines'] I immediately thought: Gosh, I know how to do this. It struck me as having a Twin Peaks-y vibe. David Lynch’s achievement with that show — especially in the pilot — was some super audacious filming. It’s the kind of thing where you have these quirky over-the-top performances that are still resonant. He balanced that line in a way only he could to. So when I read Wayward Pines, I found that same mix of humor I’ve been dying to do.”
Both Twin Peaks and Wayward Pines use neo-Noir traditions and offbeat deadpan humor to explore the seedy (and trippy) tale of a law enforcement agent, who travels to a small town to investigate a crime that exposes hidden (and bizarre) truths about many of the people who live there.
Matt Dillion stars in the Wayward Pines TV mini-series as Secret Service agent Ethan Burke, a father and officer who has his quirks (though they don't includes a fondness for "damn good coffee and pie") but soon discovers that the eponymous town is another beast altogether. Rounding out the supporting cast are such recognizable and talented character actors as Terrance Howard (The Butler), Melissa Leo (Prisoners) and Juliette Lewis (August: Osage County).
Check out Shyamalan and Dillon on the Wayward Pines set in the following image:
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One of the benefits of the television medium is that storytellers aren't restricted to having one major narrative twist or revelation, and the various zig-zags in the story can play out over entire seasons and/or from episode to episode (see Orphan Black, for a good recent example) - something that should appeal to Shymalan the director, who is known for liking his surprises.
Shyamalan also broke down the additional benefits of realizing Wayward Pines on TV, during his talk with EW:
"Everyone’s been telling me that I’d like the way the medium is going, how it’s character-based and darker in tone. There’s been this shift towards the things I love: atmosphere and not black-and-white characters. Unresolved, open-ended stuff. It’s the same reason why I like smaller movies. It’s proving that leaning on characters and tone makes things resonant.”
For clarification, Shaymalan is an executive producer on Wayward Pines and is directing the pilot episode based on a script by Chad Hodge - creator of another Noir-influenced mystery TV series, in the form of the short-lived The Playboy Club. Other directors who are confirmed to helm at least a couple of the other 10 episodes ordered thus far include Zal Batmanglij (The East) and Charlotte Sieling (The Bridge).
There's certainly an intriguing collection of filmmaking and acting talent involved with Wayward Pines, and for sure it's encouraging to see Shyamalan in a more collaborative mode. Question is, could this become a cult success in the post-Millennial age of television entertainment - or will it end up ignored and quickly forgotten, like other Twin Peaks imitators (a la Happy Town)?
Wayward Pines will debut on Fox later in 2014.