The Rise and Fall of M. Night Shyamalan

Mr. M Night Shyamalan

What exactly happened to M. Night Shyamalan? It is a question audiences and critics have been asking for over a decade now. In the late 1990’s, Shyamalan erupted on screen with The Sixth Sense. This supernatural mystery was incredibly popular, most nobably due to the major twist at the conclusion of the film. His career seemed promising from that point. His next two films, Unbreakable and Signs, were critical commercial successes. Then came The Village, a film that most found rather frustrating, and the downward spiral had begun. From then on, it seems Shyamalan has been unable to recreate the success of his earlier work. Here, we shall explore each of the films and the decline of the quality of the director’s work.

Haley Joel Osment stars in Shyamalan’s first film, The Sixth Sense.

A Promising Start

It would be impossible to discuss Shyamalan and his career without mentioning the impact of The Sixth Sense starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment. The film follows a young boy with a mysterious power. He has the ability to see the undead and communicate with them. At first, the boy is frightened as many would be in a such a situation. However, he comes under the care of a renowned child psychologist. The two learn from one another what the purpose of this gift may be and how it could reveal shocking truths for each of them. The film has a gritty realism combined with a strange ghastly atmosphere. The performances were as haunting as the subject matter. This creates a creepy and memorable film with some genuinely powerful supernatural drama.

However, it is the twist towards the end of the film which is most remembered.  It is revealed that the child psychologist was one of the ghosts the boy could commune with. The man simply did not realize that he had passed on. As many ghosts do in fiction, he had unfinished business to attend to before he could move on to the next plane of existence. This twist in the narrative empowered Shyamalan would be what eventually lead to his downfall.

The second beloved film by this director.
The second beloved film by this director.

The next film Unbreakable proved to be as well written and original as the first. This film was produced at the beginning of the superhero craze of the 2000’s. However, it took a much more down-to-earth approach. Bruce Willis would return as the lead. He plays a normal man going through a difficult time in his marriage. Following a terrible train crash, he arises to find himself uninjured. Thus begins his path to discovering he may in fact be special and should then use his abilities to help others.

This film flows fluidly but one can easily see the comparison to The Sixth Sense. The two films share many of the same tropes and follow a similar narrative structure. Once again it features the same slow pace, grim themes and a major twist ending. Despite some obvious similarities, the success of the film is that is not trying to duplicate The Sixth Sense in terms of story. The twist isn’t the selling point of the film. It only serves to advance the themes of the narrative and the pivotal point for some well-written characters. Had this been implemented better, perhaps Shyamalan would not have become so overly dependent on the quirky gimmicks and the twists themselves.

The first time audiences found themselves divided on a Shyamalan film.
The first time audiences found themselves divided on a Shyamalan film.

Shyamalan Becomes Divisive

The shift to questionable storytelling began with the release of Signs. This was the first big budget thriller for the director, incorporating larger scale events with the more relatable human elements. A preacher has just lost his wife and is struggling with is faith and his ability to keep his family together. Meanwhile, mysterious crop circles are appearing all around the world, signifying an alien invasion. Naturally, this occurs and the family must fight to stay alive. This movie contains some decent moments of drama and genuine tension. Despite this, the hokey nature of the story seems be significantly heightened. The film was riddled with contradictions and weak plot points.  The twist itself bordered on parody. With odd performances and over-the-top music, the film seems to be at odds with itself. Is it a terrifying monster movie or a campy B picture? The film only partially succeeded at both and left critics and audiences doubting the director for the first time.

Audiences found themselves less than pleased with this entry.
Audiences found themselves less than pleased with this entry.

It was the following film, The Village, that critics would give an all-out bashing. The Village would be the first true indicator that the fire may have been gone from this illustrious career. We see the first instance in which the tropes of Shyamalan seemed to suffocate his actual narratives. The Village follows a secluded group of people in the mid-19th century United States. The townspeople can never leave their town due to the possibility of a monster which prevents them from escaping. It is eventually revealed that this village exists in the present day as a type of advanced experiment. This film was heavily criticized for deadpan performances, extremely slow pacing and a completely unsupported twist. Worse still, this film shares many similarities with a young adult novel from a decade earlier. Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix had a set up and plot that followed many of the same patterns. This resulted in court case over copyright infringement. Though the case was dismissed, it brought real questions regarding Shyamalan’s ability to tell more original stories.

The most recent film doesn’t suggest a return to form for Shyamalan

A Star Fades

Sadly, the following decade would only reinforce the idea that Shyamalan’s streak had reached its end. Lady in the Water proved to have some elements of creativity. It contained an interesting mythology and some good performances, but was once again bogged down by ridiculous dialogue, pacing issues, and underdeveloped ideas. He followed these with The Happening, in which the protagonists literally flee from toxins in the air. This film does not even contain the twist which Shyamalan seems obligated to provide in each narrative. The plot is considered overly silly and the performances and dialogue reinforces this once again.

Perhaps the final nail in the coffin would be his adaptation of the beloved cartoon, Avatar: The Last Airbender. This film attempted to condense an entire season of television into a two hour film, with some very problematic casting issues regarding the race of each character. Plotlines were practically skipped over and the performances from virtually every actor were received less than enthusiastically. Fans of the franchise and newcomers attacked the film viciously. It seemed that Shyamalan’s reputation as a director became so frightening for studios that one his most recent projects, After Earth, contained no information of his direction in the advertising. It’s ironic to think that such a director was praised so highly in his early career, has been so stigmatized by his overall film career.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this director’s style is in his most recent film, The Visit. The narrative follows a brother and sister who travel to rural Pennsylvania to stay with their estranged grandparents. This film is a great example of a director who seems at war with himself. Implementing a found footage style of shooting, the narrative has elements of the best of Shyamalan’s early work. The performances from most of the actors were fairly impressive, the potential for human drama was there and the twist was actually made some of logical sense. However, this potential was squandered by the same cheesy dialogue and underdeveloped character arcs that had weakened many of his previous films. This makes it all the more frustrating for fans of his work. Though Shyamalan may have created some cinematic masterpieces early on, his best years may truly be behind him. At one time, Shyamalan was hailed as the next Spielberg. Sadly, that does not seem to be the case.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Being a director is certainly challenging. Especially when one starts with so much promise in one major outing. Shyamalan has had the highest standard to live up to right from the start. In a way, expectations from audiences would automatically be much higher. After all, even as his career has become something of a joke, many people still seem willing to give him a chance. In fact, it may not necessarily be Shyamalan’s directing which has caused his decline in quality. Rather, it may be a case of too much creative control. Many of these films have also been written by the director. Many of his standard tropes seem to be bringing down often well shot and edited films. Shyamalan certainly knows how to create atmosphere and obtain compelling performances from his actors. Perhaps this director take on the works of other script writers. After all, his recent direction of the television series Wayward Pines has been met with great praise. One thing is for certain, this director needs to go back to the drawing board.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Good Article! congrats!

  2. I think that what you are saying about maintaining a reputation being more difficult if you start off at the top. Where to go but back down, right?

    I also thought the Village was amazing and just as good as Signs, but I can also see how hard it is to live up to a style that can’t be recreated without it becoming boring (for some people).

    For me, this would be Nicholas Sparks and how everything he does is a version of The Notebook. Or the Notebook is another version of any previous texts. Either way, my mom seems to love everything he writes again and again without getting bored.

  3. I remember watching THE VILLAGE when it came out and I was fairly young. Scared the bajeezus out of me. The slow reveal of the wolf costume and the completely out of nowhere twist seemed to me at the time as one hell of a ride.
    Going back and watching with a more critical eye and I think maybe even more importantly, knowing what’s going to happen really bummed me out when I realized how bad I thought it was.
    This seems to be my reaction to all of his films. (I haven’t seen the Last Airbender) I’m entranced because he sets a nice mood, you have no idea what’s going to happen and it looks and sounds very nice. Then it’s over and you get to go back unburdened with the unknown to make some harsh judgement.
    It’s like every one of his films is a one hit wonder.

  4. I agree completely. He should start directing movies with other writers than himself, ’cause it’s true, Signs in retrospective have a weird and silly plot, but when it needed to be scary or touching, it was. However, i don’t see a good comeback in the near future, if they didn’t want to put his name on the adversiting for Arter Earth i can’t imagine someone handing him a genius script so he can destroy it, since his problems go beyond some stupid plot twist or premise.

  5. Shamalyan dug himself into a deep hole of being a one-trick pony. Perhaps the hype over the surprise ending of The Sixth Sense put too much pressure on him to give the audience that degree of payoff in every film…at least, in the ones I’ve seen (I gave up after The Village).

    Perhaps his foray into television directing can buy him some time to find his own creative direction again. He certainly needs to reinvent himself; nothing would be more of a surprise ending than Shamalyan making a comeback.

  6. averywilliams

    I find it interesting that Shamalyan really fell of the tracks with The Village, which seems to be the first movie he directed whose protagonist wasn’t a guy with some family problems mixed in with some supernatural (or alien) elements. Perhaps that was his niche; he was able to create a tragic story for his protagonist to come to grips with while navigating another mystery presented in his world, all coming to a big plot twist at the end that explains everything. It’s satisfying to watch, but it only works for so long – and the moment he stepped out of that pattern, he fell completely from grace, and this article clearly demonstrated that.

    All in all, very informative and well done. I hope there’s still some hope for Shamalyan, although I’m doubtful.

  7. Shouldn’t he change his name to M ‘Twilight Zone’ Night Shyamalan?

  8. Cherly Lau

    I know why he stays employed. He’s a good story teller. He makes better films when he has a lower budget. He’s not the big “block buster” film maker people wanted him to be so he’s going back to his roots and it’s working.

  9. This was an enjoyable read! Weirdly, I enjoyed “The Village,” as a kid.

  10. This was fun to read, thanks for writing. I personally think Lady in the Water is what did him in. I love Sixth Sense, Signs, and The Village. They all have the same level of suspense, but Sixth Sense and The Village have that incredible twist at the end. While Lady in the Water was too ridiculous for its own good.

  11. blautoothdmand

    I honestly couldn’t care less about Shamalyan at this point. Maybe if he dropped the writing I would give him a new chance, because as you said he does know how to pull off some pretty decent directing, but other than that I’m staying away from his movies.

  12. I never know where I land when it comes to The Village. I think I need to give it another close look

  13. Unfortunately it’s all been down for his career since ‘Unbreakable’

  14. OfficeEd

    Probably the perfect example of a career trajectory that literally gets a little worse with each film made.

  15. Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs were very good films. The Village was a good premise but wasn`t very well executed. It`s such a shame the way his career has gone but he`s the only one to blame. He became predictable.

    • Barb Overton

      Signs was a good film? The one whose big twist was that the aliens invading a planet whose surface consists mainly of water were allergic to water? The dumbest twist in the history of dumb twists, which he made me wait almost two hours for?

      If he were in the room with me that time, only one of us would have gotten out with his neck unwrung.

      • I didn’t see it as much of a twist, but more of a reveal, for the lack of a better term. I agree that the ending was a little anti-climactic, but besides that, to me, Signs was his last good film. The Village is up for debate, but we can all agree (hopefully) that Signs was better than the former.

  16. I’d like to know how he gets the money to make films. Whatever the current state of his talent, it’s clearly still bankable.

  17. Everyone knocks him because it’s fashionable to do so, even if the evidence says otherwise.

    • In my case the evidence (films of his I’ve seen) includes Unbreakable in the plus column; sixth sense -middling but I suppose pretty fresh at the time; the others, signs, the village, the happening – hours of my life I’ll never get back.

      I think that the fun of his films lies in knowing that there is going to be a twist and trying to work out what it’s going to be. The problem I had with The Others, and the village, was that the twists were essentially the same as Sixth sense, at least thematically, and signs didn’t really have any kind of twist at all, just a ham-fisted analogy about faith. Unbreakable’s twist was so obvious that it perhaps doesn’t qualify either, but it was an interesting take on the usual super-hero stuff and didn’t really rely on any gimickry.

  18. Interesting article. I hadn’t given much thought to Shamalyan’s work since The Sixth Sense as nothing of his since that film has really impressed me. It is difficult for a director to start out with a hit right out of the gate, just as it is for an author or musician, because the bar has been set and everything from that point on will always be compared to it. Any future work will never really stand on its own but always be compared to the previous big hit.

  19. NurseManhattan

    Great article! Shyamalan is an interesting dude. I still think Signs is amazing (though I wasn’t a fan of killing both of the dogs off)

  20. DClarke

    Nice article. You definitely give him a fair shake and explain why it is difficult for a director to maintain critical success after starting off at the top. It is a shame that the interesting concepts he has in his movies tend to just become stagnant and childish under his control.

  21. Amanda Jarrell

    Lady in the Water is one of my favorite movies that he has directed. However, I can definitely see where it failed to engage the audience. If you are not immediately invested in the movie then the extremely slow pace of the film will lose you. The movie as a whole is pretty uneventful up until towards the end of the film, and it could be argued that the ending was rather anticlimactic. The movie built up to what could be expected quite a good scuffle but instead only had a few moments of action and then the plot essentially concluded. It was a movie that would probably only be interesting to a person if they were focused mostly on the lore that the movie was creating.

  22. I followed along with this article all the way till the end..solid research, valid points..but I have to say, I just saw The Visit last week and I loved it. I thought it was a terrific blend of horror and humor, and as you said, it had a refreshingly logical twist. I think the key to enjoying the movie was locked in the essential reason so many of us were thrilled by The Sixth Sense so many years ago: we went in the theater with zero expectations. As is the case with so many creatives, the moment we discover their methods, we start beating them over the head with them. I suggest taking a break from the analytic gymnastics from time to time. Grab a bucket of popcorn, kick back, and enjoy the flick. My inner child apparently still digs the Shamalyan.

  23. What an excellent article on a director I have always admired. Contrary to the opinions of critics, The Village is in my top five favorite films of all time. It was actually the first work of his that I saw. Before your article, I hadn’t even known that it was so poorly received. I personally think that the setting he created (or perhaps didn’t create, but at least chose), the melodramatic score, and the strange characters are what made me love The Village. The characters of Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Adrien Brody are exceptionally convincing, I think–very odd, yes, but this lends to the eccentricity that the film embodies.

    Honestly, I think that The Lady in the Water was the real indicator that Shamalyan’s creative success was dwindling. It began so well: a dreary, perfectly mundane setting with a perfectly mundane lead character, and something impossible stirring the pool. A fractured fairy tale with promise, it seemed, but then the plot began twisting and turning so much, and introducing one bewildering idea after the next, that it left me with multiple unmet expectations.

    Maybe we just need to remember that Shamalyan loves the bizarre, and that does not always fit well in a box.

  24. Eric Trenkamp

    This is a decent first draft. However, I would love to see you revisit it with the following editorial notes:

    1. You’ve misspelled his name in the title and throughout the article. It’s “Shyamalan” not “Shamalan.”

    2. There’s no mention of his first two films, ‘Praying with Anger’ and ‘Wide Awake’. ‘Praying with Anger’ was self-financed, barely released and a financial failure. ‘Wide Awake’ was so terrible it was shelved for three years and when it was finally released only made $250K on its $7M budget.

    3. You don’t mention that he was nominated for two Academy Awards for ‘Sixth Sense.’ This is the best indicator of the success of the film and the expectations of his career trajectory. 10 years later he would win two Razzies for ‘After Earth’. This perfectly contrasts his fall from grace.

    4. You barely mention ‘Lady in the Water’ and the drama behind its making. This film was the big turning point in his career as he destroyed his relationship with Disney, who he had a personal relationship with and had released each of Shyalaman’s films with the exception of ‘Praying with Anger,’ over objection to them giving him script notes. He went to WB, whom he didn’t have a personal relationship with and his career never recovered.

    5. You don’t mention his deal with MRC & Universal to produce three films for a series called ‘Night Chronicles’. The first of these was ‘Devil’. When the first trailers were released people nationwide would laugh at his name when it appeared on screen. Subsequently, Universal removed his name from all marketing materials. No further “Night Chronicles” films have been made.

    Your thesis, that Shyamalan began his career on top of the world and then slowly sank to mediocrity, may need revision. The artistic, critical and financial failures of his first two films and the dwindling critical and financial returns on all his films after ‘Sixth Sense’ seems to suggest that he is more of a one hit wonder who scored big with ‘Sixth Sense’ than someone who was genuinely talented from the beginning.

    I would love to read a revised version of this article. Keep up the good work!

  25. You know, being a Pennsylvania native, it bothers me that he can’t seem to get it right the last decade or so (all of his films are based in Pa). To be completely honest, I was a fan of his work until The Happening. I respected what he was trying to get at with The Village and Lady in the Water. I do agree with you that the performances have been consistent in almost all of his films (Except Airbender and The Happening). I am eager to see The Visit. Nice article.

  26. Interesting and insightful take on the sad and complicated decline of Shyamalan’s career. I agree with what you say about his eventual lack of originality and cliche’d, predictable ‘big twist’ endings – however I have always disagreed with critics who dislike The Village.

    It will be interesting to match up your analysis to his recent film The Visit, as I have yet to see it. I doubt I’ll hold out much hope. A great article!

  27. Thankfully, I’ve only seen his first three films and therefore, to me, he is still a good director.

  28. M Night Shyamalan and Michael Bay shouldn’t be allowed near a camera

  29. Lets not forget The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and The Village are good films.

  30. It’s too early to say whether Lady in the Water or The Happening can ever be forgiven but I wouldn’t begrudge M Night a comeback.

    • I didn’t mind The Happening. I don’t know why, maybe because it wouldn’t look out of place as a really bad 70s B film. But there was something that I dug about its insular stupidity.

    • I prefer both of those to Signs. Maybe I’m just too fond of a cosy catastrophe but like mspbv3010 says, there’s something very old fashioned about The Happening. With better execution it could easily have had something of a John Wyndham or Bodysnatchers vibe about it.

  31. It’s safe to say that his ego got the best of him. With the whole “The Next Spielberg” praise, only then did he believe it. I’ve heard somewhere that he once met an executive who came up to him about problems with his film The Lady in the Water and Shyamalan basically felt attacked, exclaiming things like “I’m M.Night Shyamalan!” So, with his collaboration at Blumhouse and Jason Blum, with The Visit, he could be getting his groove back. He seems to have let go of his ego and become a collaborative artist again. Only time will tell if he at least finds a safe spot for making good films again.

  32. I haven’t seen The Visit yet but I haven’t to admit that with each movie he releases, it’s always enticing to go see them because of the possibility of being a brilliant, surprising film or an absolute disaster of a film, which, like a car wreck, is hard to turn away from. He’s had a lot more of the latter for the majority of his career.

  33. I love Unbreakable. A very clever riff on the superhero myth.

  34. Paredes

    M Night is the Piers Morgan of cinema: he keeps getting employed but everyone knows not why.

  35. I’m not exactly sure if it’s a step up or down, making The Visit an intentional horror-comedy after years of making unintentional ones.

  36. Slaidey

    I haven’t watch many of his movies, just The Sixth Sense because I knew I’d be pleased from what people said. It most certainly must be stressful to have such high expectations!

  37. I really don’t think he’s lost his creativity in any way. I think the general audience has just moved onto mindless films, like the Paranormal Activity series. M. Night always delivers with his storylines; he’s never going to give you something usual. What I’m trying to say is, he mixes it up a lot, perhaps too much for people to follow along. They write him off as that guy with the weird name that makes weird movies, but that’s his trademark. The Village wasn’t ever a bad movie; it was just different, and that seems to be the source of his decrease in popularity.

  38. He hit his peak with Unbreakable, and I believe that was supposed to launch a series, and it never happened. Shame. It’s hard to judge creativity, but this guy really has gone off the rails.

    Hopefully he will be back

  39. Aaron Hatch

    Very good article. A lot of people give him crap for ruining The Last Airbender, and rightfully so. The original show had so much life to it, that it seemed like Shyamalan went out of his way to suck out all the fun out of what made the show great. However, I feel the project was doomed from the start. I say that because trying to squeeze a whole season into one movie is problematic, and I don’t think any director could savage it.

  40. I think a really good point was made about creative control. While we do see a lot of great directors take on the challenge of being both Director and Writer, such as Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, I think it is hard for general audiences to step back and remind themselves of the huge responsibility that is placed on both crucial roles in film making. Shyamalan did write and direct a couple of great films, but how many of us can whip out 10 consecutive scripts that excel in both character development and original story plot.

  41. He was once a true talent.

  42. very intereesting stuff

  43. very interesting stuff

  44. Very interesting article to read, especially just a couple days after having seen The Visit myself. What I find interesting about that film is that, although I would not call it “good” by any stretch of the imagination, the plot twist within its third act is not what I find fault with. To try and discuss it as best as I can without spoiling anything, the twist at the end of the film would not have worked if it had not been for specific elements of setup that occurred at the very beginning. It’s conditional, and the conditions are met. My hope is that this indicates a new trend for Shamalyan going forward, where his movies, even if bad, have entertaining twists, enough so to rank them in the “good-bad” category alongside stuff like The Room and Birdemic.

  45. Thanks for the article, M. Night’s career is so interesting to me as a film-lover. I think everyone can agree that his second batch of films of Lady in the Water, The Happening and Airbender are awful, but the The Village is and always will be the most interesting point of his career for me. Coming off of the triple-threat that was Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, M. Night was at the top of Hollywood when it came to storytelling, direction and those mind-bending twists. To this day, the shots and framing from Unbreakable remain my favorite of any movie.

    Then there was The Village. I remember it being marketed as this terrifying 18th Century horror period piece, and everything about it seemed frightening going in. Even the first thirty minutes or so back this up, as the tension and creepiness are evident. The problem was, this wasn’t a period piece horror. It was a love story between Bryce Dallas Howard and Joaquin Phoenix. It had a twist that was intriguing, but given away far too early in the film. And it had M. Night, once again putting himself in the movie, as an out-of-nowhere character whose sole purpose is explaining the plot to the audience through random dialogue. I don’t necessarily think The Village is a bad movie–it really isn’t–but its a case of a writer/director establishing himself with a certain flare and genre then falling victim to his own previous projects. He wanted there to be a big twist and scary scenes but they were chosen in exchange for actual story projection, a flaw that became more and more evident in his subsequent films.

    I have not seen The Visit yet, but I am optimistic. Hopefully a long stretch of being dragged through the Hollywood mud and relegated to low-budget films will allow M. Night to do what he did so well earlier in his career: Tell a good, engaging story from start to finish.

  46. Dug the analysis and your conclusions – your plot twist of suggesting “too much creative control” sounds grounded. If ones artistic piece is centered around themselves there’s every chance of an inward spiral leading to self parody as you said…

    A good example of why, though challenging, art is broader when done collaboratively.

    Thanks for sharing.

  47. Nas’s first album, “illmatic” is considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. He set the bar high for himself with his first release – maybe too high.

    M. Night Shamalyan did the same thing. His first film achieved greatness. “The Sixth Sense” is one of the best horror/thriller films of the 90’s (maybe one of the best horror/thriller films in the last 20 years). How difficult it is to top greatness – even more so, I imagine, when that greatness is your own.

    That being said, I’m a fan of “Signs.” I thought it was interesting. Unlike a lot of alien invasion films, “Signs” didn’t use a lot of over the top special effects. The aliens didn’t come charging onto Earth destroying major monuments but came subtly. That the film was told from a mid-American rural family as opposed to someone in NYC or LA was refreshing and gave the film a sense of realism. Mel Gibson and Jaoquin Phoenix’s characters only enhanced this realism. I invested in Graham and Merrill.

    Oh, and the scene when Merrill (Jaoquin Pheonix) sees an alien for the first time while watching the news in a closet? One of my favorite scenes of any film.

  48. Have you seen Devil? That’s brilliant. He wrote and produced it. I was surprised at how good it was.

  49. Lexzie

    “Signs” is one of my favourite movies of all time. The scene with seeing the Alien for the first time while watching the news gives me goosebumps to this day.
    Also, I’m probably in the minority here, but I didn’t mind “The Village”. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t the worst. I enjoyed it for what it was.

    I wonder if the high expectations also led to his downfall? Starting with too big of an ego? I also wonder if his personal life played a role in his weakening films? Let’s be honest, there is nothing good about “The Happening” and the idea itself was just a mess. What made him want to tell that story?

    I think he can redeem himself, you can only stay down for so long.

    Good article.

  50. Diego Santoyo

    I saw his new film a few weeks ago! It was called The Visit and it was really good. It was scary, yet it was also hilarious and I enjoyed the combination. Go watch it, it was great…at least for me it was great.

  51. I find the disparity between critical reception and box office returns to be the most interesting thing about Shyamalan’s career. His three most poorly received films (according to Rotten Tomatoes) are The Last Airbender, The Happening and After Earth, but the first two film raked in more than double their budgets, with After Earth narrowly missing the mark. Every other film after The Sixth Sense has never been a box office loss either. I think he’ll have plenty of opportunities to woo the crowds over again with a track record like that.

  52. To me, Sham Man is more of a pop culture character, as opposed to a quality director. The Sixth Sense was an amazing movie, I’ll never deny that. However, his proceeding movies, like the article so succinctly points out, are trash. They are all dependent on his famous “plot twist” near the end of the film. That applies to many of his earlier films, but then he made Avatar.

    I will never forgive him for that gross misrepresentation of my favorite cartoon series. That was the first movie where I had to leave the theater before the credits rolled. It’s things like this that make people laugh when they talk about your work as a director.

    The bar was set way too high for him. Emphasis on “way too.”

  53. I still believe in Shaymalan! He’s still young and working constantly, and I want to believe that he will come across a great story very soon to make a giant come-back.

  54. Very true! I applaud this article because it’s particularly so relevant and candid about the issue with M. Night Shamalyan’s work, which is such a disheartening truth to face. Gone are the days of Signs and The Sixth Sense, and what treasured gems they were. The Happening, Lady in the Water, and The Village, have all left a bad taste in my mouth-none of them seemed to result in any satisfaction for the viewer in any case. Projects turned bad, or in The Happening’s case, a horrible plot from start to finish.

  55. It’s always sad to see a loss of potential. But maybe this isn’t even a loss of potential…maybe it’s just him losing steam?

  56. Marcie Waters

    M. Night Shyamalan has had such highs and lows in his career. Whenever I hear of a new film of his, I am so tempted to go see it, but also afraid I will be wasting my time.

  57. Shyamalan was once one of my favorite directors so it was unfortunate to see his fall. Unbreakable may well be my favorite from his work. I saw the Visit with my father, also an ex-Shyamalan fan and we were surprised and minorly impressed. It was not a return to his formula that had won him acclaim, and indeed the audience was laughing quite a lot. However, despite this, the second that the (even predictable) twist was revealed – I felt as if almost all the laughter left the room in a collective “oh, s***”. It was predictable, and despite the somewhat cliched dialogue, it succeeded in drawing you into the story – which I believe is the consensus of critics in considering this movie against his past work and failures.

  58. Ah, the tragedy of Shyamalan. I’ll go ahead and say he’s still a talented director, I seriously don’t believe his early films were flukes. The Visit–his most recent release–was decent which is a welcomed break from the string of atrocities. I really do think that what contributed to his fall from grace was his increasing self-infatuation with his own work, inevitably leading to arrogance in which he surrounded himself with yes men. Anyone remember that Time cover photo depicting Shyamalan as the next Spielberg? Yeah, I just think all that early success got to his head at one point. Now, I think he’s making good career decisions by sticking to low-budget films; Blumhouse is on fire right now, despite the varying degrees of quality of their films. They’e pushing out films with minute budgets, making a huge profit as a consequence, in an age where Hollywood is constantly churning out 100 million + films.

  59. Is Shyamalan an anagram for Christopher Nolan? So much promise with Nolan and then he creates Interstellar. Granted he had one hand tied behind his back with the choice of the very limited Anne Hathaway. However, Shyamalan, just as with Nolan, doesn’t seem to have had enough time to indulge in a little self-critique.

  60. I personally have always found Shyamaln to be grossly overrated, although his first two films were rather good. He had a serious problem riding on his own coattails. Signs and Lady in the Water were overwrought and bordered on absurd, and ATLA’s adaption was simply an affront to both the fans and the creators. I can’t judge The Visit due to not having seen it, but when I watched a preview all I saw was a twist on your run of the mill Paranormal Activity based horror film. Overall its safe to say he killed whatever genius he had.

  61. JLaurenceCohen

    I actually think The Village is a great movie, but everything Shyamalan has made since then has been awful. I think when directors get too famous they stop getting honest feedback on their work, unless they intentional seek it out from people they trust. Shyamalan may have too much of a genius complex to see critical feedback on his projects.

  62. It appears I have enjoyed all of his movies except the 3 I did not see: “Lady in the Water”, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “The Visit” (and I will still get to them).

    The problems you have with “Signs” is that this movie is melting a form of science with spirituality/religion. It wasn’t written to be a hard-core, fear-driven story. Hence the comedic relief in a number of the scenes, because that is what many humans tend to do in a time of extreme stress: made bad punchlines and puns.

    “The Village” was only a bad movie if you didn’t recognize the theme as being relevant and applicable to our modern society of humans as sheeple just because we are told to believe something without question. That applies to religion, science, politics/govt, etc.

    If you are going to see a movie, then either suspend all disbelief or pay attention to every facet and walk out ready to think deeper about what was being said or not said in the story instead just looking for plot-holes. As a screenwriter, I can tell you many of us write from multiple levels of humor and knowledge geared to keep a wider demographic of audience entertained instead of a narrow-sighted demographic. We want butts in seats and that’s a way to accomplish that goal.

  63. The film Unbreakable was a great contribution to M. Night Shyamalan’s talent. As with the movie The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable has a lot of unexpected turns in the story that add flavor to the film. For some creative reason, M. Night loses that visual experience in the films that followed. However, I really enjoy The Village and the movie Signs and was not effected by the bad reviews. I do not think M. Night Shyamalan is washed up or lost his mo-jo. He is a very talented and creative director. He will continue to explore creative ideas that some will love while other will hate.

  64. I will never forgive M Night Shyamalan for rining Avatar: The Last Airbender in its movie adaptation. Avatar: The Last Airbender may just be the best
    animated series ever created. It has an amazingly intricate plot, good representation of diversity and brilliant character development. If he is struggling as a filmmaker, he deserves it. He was given a beautiful script on a silver platter. All he had to do was create a live-action adaptation faithful to the characters and the plot. If he can’t even do that, I don; see how he can do well with original screenplays.

  65. I think what happened to Shyamalan is this: he had three good films (his first three). He took what people liked about those films, honed in on them and amplified them to the point where he forgot everything else, including the substance. Thus, why Shyamalan is where he is today.

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