What Went Wrong With… M. Night Shyamalan?

A caricature of M. Night Shyamalan by What Went Wrong Or Right With...?

M. Night Shyamalan is a one hit wonder, and if you’ve watched his last few films, you’ll be left wondering how he made even one hit. Back in 1999, Shyamalan surprised everybody by creating the low-budget brooding mystery The Sixth Sense. This was the year when Hollywood became obsessed with making dark movies such as The Matrix, End Of Days, 8mm, Sleepy Hollow, and Fight Club (to name but a few). In this gloomy year, Shyamalan judged the filmic zeitgeist perfectly. The timing of the film’s release was also perfect; pitted against The Blair Witch Project and Stir Of Echoes, The Sixth Sense was by far superior, with it’s slow pace, suspenseful direction, and twist ending; it felt like a fresh take on the horror genre. Shyamalan was touted as the next Speilberg, and people couldn’t wait for his next movie.

From this point onward, M. Night Shyamalan like some kind of Tinseltown Slinky, began falling further down the heights of greatness with each film he made. Unbreakable and Signs were not bad movies per se, but because Shyamalan insisted on adding twists to each of these films; we the audience became tired and expectant of the conclusions. With Unbreakable and later, The Village, you could predict the twist just by watching the first quarter of the film. With Unbreakable, you could even guess the ending from watching the trailer alone. Shyamalan had become a film maker with a gimmick.

Half a decade later and way too late in the game, Night finally put an end to his twists with Lady In The Water but by now the audience had become weary of his repetitiveness. By this point, Shyamalan had also become narcissistic and preachy, with his writing hinting at holier-than-thou ideas. His Hitchcockish cameos which were once small and sometimes unnoticeable, were now being elevated to lead character. You would think that somebody whose success stemmed from talented direction, would focus on improving their craft, but instead Night cast himself as a central (and most important character) in Lady In The Water in some kind of masturbatory and sanctimonious attempt at an allegory. Even more unbelievable than the drug-dealer he played in Unbreakable, Night’s acting was the most impassive in this film. If not for Shyamalan’s spiritless acting, Lady In The Water may not have been so lacklustre, but this average film was nothing compared to his next trilogy of terribleness.

For some strange reason, Shyamalan has been moving further away from what made him great. He has abandoned small, low-budget movies and of late has been involved in some big-budget blandness. His last three films have been some of the crappiest ever made. We’d all have been completely dumbfounded if any of these movies were a follow-up to The Sixth Sense.

The Happening was one of the weirdest attempts at selling the public a “Green” agenda, with its crappy plot and crappy acting. Then there was The Last Airbender, a spectacular movie, in the sense that it was spectacularly dire. The Last Airbender was one of the worst movies in the history of bad movies, complete with a bad plot, bad acting, bad dialogue, and bad direction. Not to mention the racial inaccuracy of the casting. And If the Last Airbender was not an example of Shyamalan’s ineptness at blockbusters, then his latest film (which I have only just watched) proves that throwing money at Night these days, is more like throwing your money away.

After Earth was yet another “let’s not pollute the earth, or we’ll have to move away” moralising movie. This wannabe pro-Green, pro-Earth, and pro-nature crapfest is not dissimilar to The Happening with its overbearing sententiousness. With lines like “Earth was a paradise until we destroyed it” and issues of whale-slaughter being rammed down our throats, Night’s latest film is one of his most preachy. This however is the least of its problems when you consider the other strange aspects of the movie. There is the weird British-American-South-African accents which all the characters sporadically speak, there is the inaudible narration by Jaden Smith, and there is also the cheap looking sets which appear to have been designed by IKEA and H.R. Giger. The amount of BPA poisoning on the set of After Earth must have been lethal.

For something which cost $130,000,000, you wonder why the effects in After Earth were almost as fake as the aliens in Signs. More importantly, for somebody so concerned with green-living, you might ask yourself why Shyamalan wasted so much of the Earth’s energy on this pro-eco-movie. With all the natural resources wasted in filming, marketing, promoting, and distributing this film; the carbon footprint of After Earth must be the size of Godzilla’s.

A dark toned film, is now an outdated concept. A decade and a half of watching a morose Bruce Willis, a morose Bruce Willis and morose Samuel L. Jackson, a morose Mel Gibson and morose Joaquin Phoenix, a morose Joaquin Phoenix and morose Bryce Dallas Howard, a morose Bryce Dallas Howard and morose Paul Giamatti, a morose wooden effeminate Mark Wahlberg, and finally a morose and ageing Will Smith; has become as annoyingly repetitive as Night’s twist endings and this sentence. Shyamalan and Hollywood need to realise the noughties are over. We no longer want to see a dull and depressing movie, and we’re all sick of big-budget green-screen sci-fi films. To combine the two is like merging garbage with trash, and Shyamalan needs to realise that by creating cinematic-landfill; he is littering the Earth with more rubbish than all the movie-goers in the world could ever create.

It is ironic that Mr. Shyamalan chose to play a writer in Lady In The Water. A writer who will one day write something so powerful it will change the world as we know it and will also get him killed. In reality, aside from his first few movies, nothing Shyamalan has written will ever be remembered, nothing he’s made will ever change the world, and he will never create anything worthy of assassination.

It’s No Longer Night Time.

10 replies »

  1. The Sixth Sense is one of the most overrated movies of all time. Except for that kid’s acting, there was nothing great about it. The Sixth Sense is a run of the mill movie that wishes it was interesting. A thriller is supposed to scare me or even put me on the edge of my seat, but this film bored me. I nearly fell asleep by the time it was finished.

  2. Actually I quite liked the Visit. It had some genuinely scary moments, much better than AfterEarth and more true to form. It wasn’t as good as the Sixth Sense but it was pretty good. 😉

    • I wrote this before The Visit was released and yes, that film was at least scary (in parts) and not some big-budget blockbuster. Although you could predict the ending somewhere during the middle, it was still better than After Earth and The Last Airbender. I would also say that the ending should have been when the Police and the children’s mother arrived, and maybe less shitty rapping. That would have been better.

  3. I agree that he has talent, which has considerably waned over the years. It’s such a shame that a once great director has fallen on such hard times. I disagree that Unbreakable wasn’t a good movie however, as that’s my favourite of his films by quite a wide margin.

    • I didn’t say that I didn’t like Unbreakable, I just said that I guessed the ending from watching the trailer, plus it set a precedent for adding plot twists to his other/later films. The two things that have led to Night’s downfall are predictability and twists and that started with his second twist-ending film which was Unbreakable. It’s still a watchable film I just would have preferred that his follow-up to The Sixth Sense wasn’t another film with a twist.

    • Yes I’ve watched ‘SPLIT’ – and I thought it was an embarrassing and derivative load of BILGE.

      This tried and tested formula has been done to death already over the years-ever since the release of Alfred Hitchcock ‘s Psycho in 1960- this subject genre has infiltrated all kinds of different personality/character traits in many different movies-and done far better.
      From Batman’s ‘The Joker’ to Francis ‘The tooth fairy’ Dollarhyde and ‘Hannibal Lecter’.
      Gunnar Hansen’s ‘Leatherface ‘ , Stephen ‘The party crasher’ Lang, and ‘Jack Torrance’ in
      The Shining (quite an overrated movie by the way- but not bad) , to name but a few.

      But in as much as those movies derived inspiration from Psycho- at least they were quite enjoyable.

      ‘SPLIT’ was a laugh out loud witless and perfunctory piece of contrived trash.

      Mind bendingly dull.

  4. You diss Joaqin Phoenix in this article by calling him morose and comparing him to other actors who are also morose… yet you praise his acting in Joker…A bit contradictory don’t you think?

    • No since it’s a completely different performance. Take someone like Al Pacino or Nicolas Cage: sometimes they’ve given great performances, sometimes they’re average, sometimes they’re utterly shit. Being good in one film doesn’t stop another from being crap and vice versa.

      Actually, I remember writing that (almost) all roles in Shyamalan films are morose, so it’s not necessarily the fault of the actor but the writing and directing of said actor.

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