Yes, M. Night Shyamalan directed "The Sixth Sense," one of the greatest twist-ending movies ever made, and at the time of its release was one of the most promising young directors in Hollywood. Somewhere, though, something went terribly wrong and Shyamalan's reputation has done a 180. His live action remake of the "The Last Airbender" flopped at the box office. His latest drivel, "After Earth," a sci-fi dystopian starring father-son duo Will and Jaden Smith released this month, has an astonishing 12% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It's high time Shyamalan give it up before things get any worse, and there is a whole list of reasons to help him on his way.
I really hope if you haven't already been made to suffer through the 'suspense' of the 2008 movie "The Happening," then you never will. Somehow, someone approved a storyline in which the creepy villain is a tree. Yes, in "The Happening," scenes of bushes and leaves rippling in an ominous breeze are set to tense background music, and audiences are expected to be terrified. Somehow, the plants are supposed to be spreading a deadly infected virus around the globe, but who can pay attention to the plot when you're too busy laughing?
It's doubtful whether anyone could have done worse than M. Night Shyamalan at adapting the massively popular "Avatar: The Last Airbender" cartoon series into a blockbuster movie. The cartoon is a member of the rare breed that manage to have cross-generational appeal, and Shyamalan took everything that fans loved about the show and miraculously managed to ruin them all. The live action movie was blasted for poor characterization, too many pseudo-inspirational speeches and not enough focus on critical plots points from the original series. The movie should have been a tent pole summer release for Paramount Studios due to the huge fan base it had coming in, but it tanked commercially and critically. It was pulled quietly from theatres and never spoken of again.
It all started as a little quirk that his movies viewers thought was a cute homage. Shyamalan has always had an affinity for appearing in small cameo roles in his films. It is a clear nod to the renowned director Alfred Hitchcock who always liked to drop himself into his movies for a couple of seconds as a nod to attentive fans. Following suit, Shyamalan played a bit part doctor in "The Sixth Sense" and a nameless security guard in "The Village". His cameos remained manageable, for a time. Then "Lady in the Water" happened. Shyamalan gave himself a significant role, playing novelist Vick Ran. His poor acting and line delivery somehow made the movie worse than the movie already was. Critics immediately noticed this overstretch from homage to self-serving egotism. Which brings us on to our next point:
Despite all the criticism Shyamalan has received over the past decade of his career (grumblings started after the 2002 release of "Signs"), it seems he hasn't been eager to change much. It points to a larger problem that many have with Shyamalan: his humungous ego. Case in point, his 2006 flick "Lady in the Water." Not only, as previously mentioned, did he give himself a huge role to play, but the role was that of a novelist whose writings would influence the future of the entire world. These writings would be so sensational that he would be assassinated for them. Really, Shyamalan? Trying to portray yourself as an artist whose life-changing art is just misunderstood? Not only that, but "Lady in the Water" also contained a character named Faber, a bumbling and hapless movie critic who misinterprets everything and gets himself killed — another hint that us audiences simply can't understand the complex art unfolding in front of us. Subtlety is certainly not Mr. Shyamalan's forte.
Yes, Shyamalan, you received endless shock and praise for the infamous twist ending of "The Sixth Sense." But just like his affinity for cameos, the director got a little bit overexcited. After his first twist worked so well for him, it was impossible to stop him on insane path to self-destruction. It got to a point where people expected a Shyamalan movie to have a shocking ending, and it would have been more of a twist if there were none. The syndrome peaked at his 2004 release "The Village," a suspenseful thriller about a blind woman leaving a closed community to find help for her dying fiance. From about ten minutes in, the majority of audiences had predicted the massive shocker that would close the film, and Shyamalan's ultimate signature move had failed him.
Alien species travels millions of light years to Earth but can't escape when trapped in a pantry? Entire movie plots based on the scientific knowledge of crazy people on the streets? M. Night Shyamalan laughs in the face of plot holes - they are no match for his need for suspense and surprising story twists. Gaping problems in narratives are explained away in the blink of an eye by expendable characters. Basically, to Shyamalan, as long as audiences get where they need to be, it doesn't matter to him how they got there. In "The Village," the evil creatures start invading the village for no explainable reason, but it does spark the event that drives the story of the rest of the movie. When plot holes become valid narrative devices, that's when you know something has to be done.
You probably weren't aware that recent movie release "After Earth" was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Remember the day's when every movie directed by Shyamalan had his name prominently featured on the poster: promising audiences the twisting and turning ride of their lives? Those days are long gone: you'd be hard pressed to find anyone at Sony (the company distributing "After Earth") jumping up and down to tell you that the movie was made by one of the most disappointing members of the film industry's recent past. Dear M. Night Shyamalan, even the people who hired you are embarrassed about it. It's time to stop.
Sometimes kids grow up encouraged to follow their passions and pursue whatever dreams their heart desires. M. Night Shyamalan was one of those kids. As a kid, his parents gave him a Super 8 camera, and the rest, as they say, is history. An excruciatingly painful history littered with bad movies. What started out as a promising career that produced feature films like "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable" has now run dry. It's time that Shyamalan recognize defeat before there are even more points to add to this list, but with the latest release of "After Earth," something says he won't.