What The Hell Happened To M Night Shyamalan?


He came on the scene from seemingly out of nowhere in the cinematic banner year that was 1999. The film that put him on the map became a cinematic event and received a Best Picture nomination. He was being regarded as “the next Spielberg”.

Last year he released a big-budget summer sci-fi movie. Upon release, the studio tried to hide his name in the promotional materials fearing it would be box office poison.

What the hell happened to M. Night Shyamalan?

Manoj Shyamalan was born in 1970 in Mahe Pondicherry India. After six weeks, his parents moved back to Pennsylvania.

After receiving a Super 8 camera at a young age, Shyamalan began focusing on film as his passion. By the time he reached the age of 17 he’d made forty-five home movies.

Following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee and Oliver Stone, Shyamalan went to New York University Film School. While there, he made his first feature film Praying With Anger.

shyamalan - praying with anger

Praying With Anger got a very limited release in 1992. Not many people saw it (myself included) and indeed I’d wager that most don’t even know it exists.

Shyamalan moved on. After Praying With Anger he went on to write and direct his second film Wide Awake. It was released in 1998.

shyamalan - wide awake

Wide Awake was about a ten-year-old boy who struggles with questions of life and death after he loses his grandfather played by Robert Loggia.  Dennis Leary and Dana Delany play the boy’s parents.  Rosie O’Donnell played a nun who teaches at his school

That trailer sells the movie as a heart-warming coming of age comedy.  Shyamalan has described Wide Awake as a comedy that he hoped would also make people cry.  To that end, he wrote and directed scenes like this one:

[Note from Lebeau: I hate to insert myself into someone else’s article, but I just can’t stop rolling my eyes.)

Wide Awake was filmed in 1995, but wasn’t released until 1998.  Even then, Miramax only gave it  a limited release. Reviews were mixed to negative.  Roger Ebert openly wondered “who the movie was made for.”  I got around to watching it a few years ago and found it to be not bad. It’s an anomaly of sorts in Shyamalan’s catalog. But it also proves that the painting into a corner that happened later on didn’t need to happen.

A year later, Shyamalan would release his next film and his life would change forever.

In 1999 Shyamalan co-wrote the script for Stuart Little. That film was a modest success at the box office. However, it was another film that would reveal itself as a cinematic game changer for both Shyamalan and Hollywood.  According to Shyamalan:

“I guess I would say that I manage it in the sense that I try to make it more accurate. For example, you’re saying the audience’s relationship started with me with The Sixth Sense. That same year I wrote Stuart Little. That combination is pretty accurate. The breadth of that and my interest in that, the family-oriented nature of that story — somewhere between there is where a lot of my movies fall, but if you don’t take that side of it into account, it’s probably more limiting than what my tastes are.

By the way, I ghost-wrote a movie that same year that would even add to the breadth of it all, but I don’t know if I want to tell you which movie I ghost-wrote.”

she's all that

Most audiences didn’t realize it at the time, but in 2013, Shyamalan revealed that he was a ghost-writer on the teen comedy, She’s All That.  She’s All That helped launch a wave of teen comedies in the late 90’s and earlier aughts.  It also featured perhaps the least-convincing nerd-to-babe transformation in the history of teen movies.

she's all that before and after

Clark Kent does more to hide his identity.

The extent of Shyamalan’s involvement is actually up for debate.  Some claim Shyamalan actually wrote the script while others claim he merely polished it.  Like taking a hot girl and saying, “hey, what if we loose the glasses and overalls?” to reveal a beautiful swan.  Reviews for She’s All That were mostly not “all that”.  But it was a hit with audiences.

shyamalan - the sixth sense

Buzz for The Sixth Sense was slow at first. Then it picked up steam. The movie was released in August. By October, it had become the year’s must-see movie.

Bruce Willis starred as a child psychologist who was dealing with marital problems.  Haley Joel Osment played a sensitive little boy who comes to Willis for help because he “sees dead people”.

I saw The Sixth Sense before the hype really took off and had mixed feelings about it. On one had, the story was genuinely entertaining and Bruce Willis proved he had more range as an actor than many of his action contemporaries (Schwarzenegger, Norris). On the other hand, it was too dependent on its much discussed final plot twist.


My father, who I went to see the film with, figured out the plot twist midway through. Recall the scene where Willis is talking to Haley Joel Osment in the kitchen. Osment’s mother is there too. But she never acknowledges Willis’s presence. That’s tip-off number one that Willis is dead people.


Anyway, The Sixth Sense went on to become a phenomenon of sorts. It was far from the best movie of the year. But it was entertaining enough, even if it didn’t totally live up to the hype.

The Sixth Sense was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. No win. But it did announce that a new filmmaking talent had arrived.

Next: Unbreakable and Signs


Posted on February 8, 2014, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Director and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 86 Comments.

  1. Good article. I was surprised you didn’t mention his recent claim to have written the script for ‘She’s All That.’ When that happened, I kept thinking, ‘Who would actually take the blame for that pile of crap?’


  2. Did you leave The Village out of this write up for a reason?


  3. Dang…the moody girl from She’s all That. Wasn’t she an ‘it’ girl..? or the ‘this is your brain on drugs’ <>? what happened to her? (Who cares…?!)


  4. They actually compared him to Rod Sterling. The “creepy story with the surprize twist” is what made the “Twilight Zone” so great. But M. Night was only able to pull it off once in “The Sixth Sence”


  5. I think Unbreakable is his best film. Sixth Sense doesn’t quite hold up post-hype. He unfortunately made himself into the twist guy. Lady in the Water is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Ever. So is Airbender. And I’m a huge fan of the show. And he botched it. Dropped every ball on that one. After Earth was even worse. It was an atrocity. Will Smith basically directed the film himself. M Knight was in charge of setting up shots, that’s it. Smith “coached” the terrible performance from his son, and put in his own equally terrible performance. Possibly his worst performance on screen.
    I don’t think there is any hope left for M Knight. He might be able to use his name to be a director for hire for a few more films like he was for After Earth. But that really exposed him as having no great eye in camera, or control over tone or pacing when he’s not doing the writing. This is one of the more interesting director flops, because it’s all of his own doing. He got to make exactly the movies he wanted, and got exposed.


    • Basically true. Airbender and After Earth proved he can’t put the same effort into other people’s material that he does into his own. In other words, Being a director-for-hire is never a real option for him. I suspect he’ll continue doing this until his movies start going direct to DVD. He more or less painted himself into a corner that it seems increasingly likely that he can’t get out of.


      • 11 Actors Who (Hopefully) Killed Their Careers In 2014:

        1. Nicola Peltz

        In fairness, it’s difficult to deny that Nicola Peltz blew up the box office this year (or rather, Michael Bay and Mark Wahlberg did) with the $1.08 billion Transformers: Age of Extinction, making it the highest-grossing film of 2014 worldwide. Still, the movie was widely panned by critics (18%), and while Age of Extinction had plenty more problems than its acting, her performance was criticised by a large quarter of critics, who didn’t just long for the days of Megan Fox, but considered Peltz’s flat and uninteresting work as Razzie-worthy. Note that Peltz already has one Worst Supporting Actress Razzie nod for her risible work on The Last Airbender.

        Peltz did at least try something a little different a few weeks later with intriguing indie drama Affluenza, but any financial prospects were largely crippled by a super-limited theatrical run ahead of a muted VOD release, and poor reviews (20%).


  6. So what the hell happened?

    …his ego did not help matters at all

    Why do I have a feeling that will become a running theme in this series? (See also; Coppola, Francis Ford and Cimino, Micheal)


    • I figure if you go into show biz without an ego, you are going to get eaten alive. You have to believe that you can make it against extremely long odds to keep at it long enough to succeed. So it’s only natural that all of these guys have egos. But then, when they do succeed, that ego is going to inflate. It’s just a matter of how they deal with it.

      In Shyamalan’s case, he didn’t handle it well. The man seemed to be completely consumed by his own ego. I will give him some credit. He clearly has some talent. But he is far from the creative genius he was hyped to be. He “borrowed” most of his famous twists from other works. And without the twists, he’s really just the guy who made Wide Awake.

      But Shyamalan so believed in his own image that he bristled at any and all criticism. He started casting himself in central roles in his own movies. Tarantino sometimes gives himself too big of a cameo. But it’s nothing compared to Shyamalan. The guy just radiates arrogance. Like I said, I expect that from a director. Especially a director as successful as Shyamalan was. But few directors manage to have such an over-inflated sense of their own self-importance as Shyamalan. And that says something given the sense of self-importance most directors have.


  7. The Sixth Sense ending was mind blowing to me, and that´s why I still can´t get over the fact that that movie came before The Others, because Alejandro Amenabar movie is vastly superior.


    If only I had watched The Others first…


    • I will admit to having had my mind blown by The Sixth Sense.

      I remember seeing it pre-hype. I was running late to the show and the person who sold me my ticket was in a hurry to get me into the theater. If I had stopped at the concession stand, I think they would have had a heart attack. Apparently, they were worried I would miss Willis getting shot. Which, if I had, would have lessened the entire experience.

      What I liked about The Sixth Sense was that it played pretty fair. The clues were there. Some people figured it out. That’s not a bad thing. That means the movie wasn’t cheating. I, like most people, was too involved in the story of this sad little boy to put two and two together. But afterwards, it all made sense. Mind blown.

      When it was in theaters, I used to have access to pop in and watch audiences reacting to movies. So if I was in a theater and Sixth Sense was showing, I always hopped in to watch the reaction to the big reveal. You could hear people gasping. Then there would always be at least one guy who didn’t know what was going on and had to turn to their significant other to have it explained to them. Weeks after the movie was released, it was still getting the same reaction. That’s why it became a cultural phenomenon.

      I do agree that The Others was a better movie that suffered because it followed in the footsteps of The Sixth Sense. On the other hand, if The Others had come out first, The Sixth Sense probably never would have been successful. Because they were released in this order, both movies enjoyed some success.


  8. I stumbled into the After Earth after party in Philly. It was at a bar I go to in a private room. Shyamalan films most of his films in the area. I remember asking a friend of mine- “Hey is THAT M.Night…??”

    I liked Unbreakable- too bad most of the audience was expecting the 7th Sense. Note that water was a weakness in that movie as well- M Night likes his water metaphors as much as Shakespeare in Anthony and Cleopatra.


  9. For what it’s worth, I do consider The Sixth Sense a brilliant film. I actually just watched it again recently for the first time in several years, and I was impressed how the film still holds up after all these years. Lebeau is right in that the film doesn’t cheat to get to the surprise twist, the clues were planted there all along, though subtly. Unbreakable was a strong though flawed follow-up. After that, it was all downhill. Signs was a huge success, yet I walked out disappointed. Water? Really? And why are these aliens who are trying to kill us getting out of their spaceships and going house-to-house? Silly stuff. I consider myself lucky, because that’s where I stopped watching his films. From all that I’ve read about The Village, The Happening, After Earth, etc., I got out while the getting was good. Though I will admit, just for one minute, after The Sixth Sense, I did think just maybe he could be the next Spielberg. Turns out, not so much.


  10. 10 Directors Who Should Never Be Trusted With Giant Budgets:

    M. Night Shyamalan

    It’s hard to think of a high-profile filmmaker that has suffered a fall from grace quite like M. Night Shyamalan in recent times. A mere fifteen years after The Sixth Sense was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay and saw the writer/director lauded as the most promising talent of his generation, his last four movies were widely panned and have been racking up nominations at the Razzies instead: a return to smaller-scale film-making is well overdue.

    Made for $40m, The Sixth Sense would go on to earn $672.8m at the box office and infiltrate popular culture in the process. His next two movies, Unbreakable and Signs, would each cost around $75m and bring in a combined total of over $650m, along with positive critical responses. From here, things would go downhill as Shyamalan’s penchant for over-indulgence would often get the better of him. The Village did solid business despite middling reviews, but the pretentious Lady In The Water would earn only $72.7m worldwide before the unintentionally hilarious killer plants of The Happening would see his stock plummet even further.

    The $150m Last Airbender is undoubtedly one of the worst blockbusters in recent memory, which nonetheless did decent business at the box office before Shyamalan swept up at the Razzies. After Earth was almost as expensive and just as dull, a relentlessly po-faced sci-fi that placed charisma-free Jaden Smith at the forefront in a show of Hollywood nepotism at its worst. Shyamalan is a talented director, but as a writer he just can’t reign in his self-indulgence. Hopefully his currently shooting micro-budget effort Sundowning will refresh his creativity because the man has proven he is not to be trusted with a blockbuster budget.


    • 10 Terrible Films That The Wrong Person Got Blamed For:

      M. Night Shyamalan – After Earth

      Who Else Was To Blame: Will Smith

      Figuring out who took the brunt of the blame for After Earth is a tricky task. The film, a hodgepodge of poorly thought out ideas presented in an illogical manner, all brought to life by rote acting, had two key players who were equally as culpable for bringing it to the screen. But as we’ve discovered, people want one person at fault, so was it M. Night Shyamalan’s direction or Will Smith’s general managing of the project that sunk the film?

      Ultimately, it was M. Night who got it worse of it. In decline to the point where his career is more of a joke than Nicolas frickin’ Cage, Columbia Pictures were smart enough to keep him completely absent from the marketing; after The Last Airbender his name was marked by even the most forgiving cinema-goer. When you’ve got that sort of form, it’s not hard to imagine that he’d produce another dud.

      But if you trace the big problems with the film back through the production, it’s Smith, not Shyamalan who is at fault. Turning a nice, low-budget idea into overblown sci-fi? Smith. All that pseudo-science mumbo-jumbo? Smith (and writer Gary Whitta). Casting his untalented son as the lead? Smith. Heck, even hiring Shyamalan was Smith’s idea.

      Thankfully, even though the extent of his involvement isn’t as widespread knowledge as it should, the whole After Earth ordeal has a dint on both Smith’s popularity and ego, so he didn’t get away scott free.


    • The Last Airbender – Nostalgia Critic


      • Nostalgia Critic: Real Thoughts on The Last Airbender:


        • M. Night Shyamalan Stupidly Explains Why No One Liked THE LAST AIRBENDER:

          To this day, I haven’t watched M. Night Shaymalan’s The Last Airbender all the way through. I walked out of the film when it was released in theaters, and I’ve had no desire to ever finish it. It was just one of those movies that I wasn’t going to waste my time on. The movie was bashed by critics, and I have yet to met a single person who has actually liked the movie.

          Talking to IGN, the director attempted to explain why people didn’t like the movie. Of course, he wouldn’t come out and say that he did a piss-poor job. Instead he says it was made for 9 and 10-year-olds, and thats why most audiences didn’t get it. Here’s what he said:

          “My child was nine-years-old. So you could make it one of two ways. You could make it for that same audience, which is what I did — for nine and 10-year-olds — or you could do the Transformers version and have Megan Fox. I didn’t do that. That would have felt like, ‘Well, I’m going to make a movie about a kids show that my 10-year-old is watching and not make it for her. I make it for my guy friends.’ That felt like a betrayal of the innocence of the piece. In retrospect, is it too young to go out — it’s like what your intention is versus what they want it to be. Clearly, 10-year-olds — I go out and 10-year-olds are like, ‘That’s my favorite show! I love that movie!’ Parents come up to me and go, ‘They’ve watched The Last Airbender 74 times!’ Those kids, it’s for them. It was for them, to talk about mysticism and Eastern philosophies through a 10-year-old’s vernacular. So, you know, these are business propositions, which have very little interest to me, of like, ‘Hey, the business proposition is to get Megan Fox to be…’ You know, ‘You should age it ’til it’s that.’ That wasn’t the source material, you know what I mean? Whereas, also, like a Transformers, it’s really fascinating, because it’s valid for Transformers. You know why it’s valid? Because it’s the little boys that were playing with them are grown up now. They’re the ones who wanted to see Megan Fox. That’s absolutely appropriate, you know what I mean?”

          I’m sorry, but that’s complete bullshit. Look at all the great kids films that have been made over the years that even adults enjoy watching. Studios like Pixar, Disney, and even Marvel are constantly pumping out films for audiences of all ages. On top of that, the original Avatar cartoon that the film was based on was better than the movie, it was something adults also enjoyed watching, and it had a more diverse reach. Making a movie strictly for 9 and 10-year-olds probably isn’t the best business plan for any filmmaker.

          Why can’t the guy just come out and admit that he screwed up and made a crappy film, instead of putting the blame on other things? This is just such a ridiculous excuse. A talented director could have made an awesome Avatar movie that everyone could have enjoyed, Shyamalan obviously wasn’t that guy.


        • The Last Airbender – what went wrong?

          We look back at M Night Shyamalan’s much-vilified fantasy movie, and ask if anything could have saved it…

          “The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented.”

          So began Roger Ebert’s review of The Last Airbender. It sounds harsh, but Ebert’s half-star verdict was fairly representative of the tidal wave of criticism that engulfed director M. Night Shyamalan’s most expensive and, ultimately, most derided film yet.

          But unlike other misfires from Shyamalan, this wasn’t based on his own original idea. It was the first of a planned trilogy based on the beloved Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender, which was hugely acclaimed for its visual sense, engrossing storytelling and lively, vibrant characters. What went wrong? It’s almost harder to try and figure out what, if anything, went right.

          The series, created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, takes place in a world torn by war, in which gifted people can control each of the four elements – Air, Water, Earth and Fire. The Fire Nation rules with an iron fist, using their powers and technological mastery to keep the others down. At the start of the series, two siblings from the Northern Water Tribe, Katara and Sokka, discover a boy encased beneath their icy homeland.

          This is Aang, the reincarnated Avatar who can control all four elements and usually keeps the order. But the century since he shrugged off the responsibilities of his role has allowed the Fire Nation to take a foothold and the three youngsters must travel the world so that the Avatar may master the other elements, in addition to his native airbending, in order to bring peace.

          Shyamalan discovered the show when his daughter dressed up as Katara for Halloween and was also attracted to the spiritual and martial arts influences in the story. Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies committed to spend $250 million over the course of a trilogy of films, one for each season, styled after successful fantasy franchises like The Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter.

          Of course, the obvious challenge in translating the story for film is condensing 20 episodes of a series into a feature length version of the same beats, but the film ran into many more difficulties along the way.

          3D-bending and racebending

          Over the course of development and production, the budget of this first of three planned films ballooned to $150 million, including a $5-10m bump when Paramount announced they would convert the film into 3D, three months before its July 2010 release.

          The film ditched the prefix of the animated series to avoid confusion with James Cameron’s Avatar, which broke box office records in the early months of 2010, and also led to many of that year’s live-action tentpole movies being converted into 3D in post-production to ride the wave of audience interest, including Clash Of The Titans, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1 and, of course, The Last Airbender.

          Aside from adding to the budget, this reportedly led to half an hour being cut from the movie so that they could convert it in time for its US release date, before the lucrative Independence Day weekend.

          We don’t know if James Cameron has ever seen The Last Airbender, or if he was out to get this production in any way, but it just so happened that on the very same day as Paramount announced the conversion, he gave an interview to The Toronto Star, slating such post-3D jobs.

          Talking specifically about the seven week turnaround on the notoriously bad post-conversion job on Clash Of The Titans, he said: “You can slap a 3-D label on it and call it 3-D, but there’s no possible way that it can be done up to a standard that anybody would consider high enough.”

          Perhaps Cameron really was the Big Bad of this project, but it seems more likely that the filmmakers and studio bosses played the largest part in the film’s failure with critics and fans alike.

          There was also the controversial decision to cast white actors as Asian characters from the series, while casting Indian and Iranian actors as the antagonistic Fire Nation characters, which turned some fans against the film before it had even come out. A site called led the calls to boycott the movie, which was then backed by the Media Action Network for Asian Americans.

          Both the studio and Shyamalan were ardent that the film would still be very culturally diverse, with the latter going so far as to call the prospective trilogy “the most culturally diverse tentpole movies ever released, period.”

          Aside from all of this negative hype, the film didn’t do too badly at the box office. Unlike The Golden Compass, this isn’t one of those movies where poor box office returns fettled the trilogy as a whole. So, what was wrong with the film itself?

          As you know…

          It may well be that the studio wasn’t convinced that anybody would be fooled again, looking at how bad the first one turned out. It’s not just that they took liberties in adapting the story, or that the characters were the wrong race, or even that the 3D looked crummy – it’s just a trainwreck of a movie.

          For starters, it is absolutely deadpan. There’s not a bit of intentional humour in the whole thing. Yes, the characters are funny in the series, so that’s an example of something going bad in the adaptation, but then most films need a sense of humour of some kind. The style of this one should be all too familiar to those who endured Shyamalan’s previous work of unintentional hilarity, 2008’s The Happening, which would be a legitimate modern masterpiece of schlock if only anybody involved with it had been in on the joke.

          The unintentional hyuks are sparser in this one though, because they’re embedded in a film that leans on voiceover exposition from Katara (Nicole Peltz) for at least 50% of its story, filling in huge gaps in the narrative rather than trying to work around the limited feature running time. For instance, the first line from Aang (Noah Ringer) in the movie is to say that he’s not as upset as he was in some previous, unseen (presumably deleted, cos 3D) exchange.

          By ten minutes in, this approach probably leaves anyone who hasn’t already followed the series feeling utterly perplexed, and the script just keeps dropping dialogue bombs, clanger after clanger. A notable lowlight comes in this early sequence with the first acknowledgement of Appa, a flying magical creature who hibernated with Aang in the ice, who Katara introduces by explaining “His bison creature thing floats!”

          Much of this could be explained by the way the studio apparently cut the movie to get it ready for 3D in time, with ADR covering any resultant plotholes, except that it’s far too prevalent in the film to be just an unfortunate accident of post-production.

          Plus, aside from Katara’s ceaseless narration, Shyamalan’s script puts much of the pressure on The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi, who here plays the role of Senior Fire Nation Correspondent as Commander Zhao. Miscast as the arch-villain, Mandvi barely has a single line in the whole movie that isn’t explaining motivation or tactlessly dropping backstory bombs for the benefit of the audience.

          The film settles a little after the first hour, but whole subplots based around Sokka falling in love with a princess are still glossed over in narration while still playing a huge part in the finale. Of all of Shyamalan’s movies – nay, in all of cinema – this might be the definitive example of how not to do exposition.

          Against the elements

          The dialogue and storytelling hiccups in this script hardly make this unique amongst Shyamalan’s filmography, but it’s also clearly his most expensive and visually complex work to date, which brings its own challenges. Although the director had a very clear vision for the style of the film, it was Industrial Light and Magic who had to bring his storyboard book to life.

          This involved designing many new effects, or further developing relatively new visual tricks, like the film’s fire-bending, which was inspired by the effects in Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince. This also required Shyamalan to direct up to sixty takes of some shots to ensure full coverage in scenes with moving elements and a moving camera.

          The effects house did a great job and the visuals are amongst the few redeeming features here, but as with so much of the film, it’s baffling how they could be integrated so atrociously. If a fireball hits anything or anyone in this movie, it doesn’t set it on fire. If a chorus line of villagers from the Earth kingdom perform an elaborate version of the haka, it only summons one piffling boulder to slowly hover towards their adversaries.

          And we hate to keep banging on about the first ten minutes, but the first time we see Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), he’s supposedly been sloshed with a ball of water that Katara was trying to bend, and complains “I always end up wet when you do that.” Rathbone has a hard job with the de-humoured Sokka anyway, made harder by the fact that he’s completely dry when he makes this statement.

          The net result is that the film has hugely impressive visual effects that have no weight in the story whatsoever. The same goes for the superb cinematography by the late great Andrew Lesnie, who brings a real thrill to seeing certain visuals from the series realised in live-action, but as mentioned, had his work converted into 3D after the fact. Even when it should be stunning to look at, it’s a let down.

          What went right?

          You can’t have many doubts left about what we think of this movie, but is it entirely irredeemable? Surely not – we hold that ILM and Lesnie each did a terrific job on the visuals, even if there was little grounding to do them full justice, but there are other minor highlights too.

          We’d also contend that actors Dev Patel and Shaun Toub come out of this with their heads held high. As recurring antagonists through the first season, Fire Nation exiles Prince Zuko and General Iroh are amongst the most interesting characters in the series as they try to capture the Avatar. As with other characters, much of Iroh’s beloved humour is gone in the adaptation, but that process leaves the more anti-heroic Zuko pretty much intact.

          The script still doesn’t give the actors much to work with – their one major dialogue scene ends with Zuko delivering the clanger “We will catch him soon, Uncle, then we can think about the pretty girls.” Nevertheless, Patel brings physicality and internal anguish to the young prince’s brooding personality and Toub, while playing a character who is now only required to lend some gravitas, delivers as this version of the character for all it’s worth.

          We’d also say that James Newton Howard’s score deserves the praise it got at the time, with reviews that were almost completely opposite of the film attached to it. In particular, the score that plays over the final battle between the Fire Nation and the Northern Water Tribe, called Flow Like Water on the soundtrack release, brings startling life into a film that’s otherwise dead on arrival.


          As mentioned, despite the all but universal negative response to the film, it made $319 million worldwide. Factoring in the $130m advertising spend, it made more than its $280m negative cost back and although we couldn’t call that a mega-hit, there have been franchises have been built on shakier box office returns at the outset.

          The final sequel hook scene of the movie laid out all of the remaining loose ends and introduced the next big antagonist, Zuko’s sister Azula, but discussion of the sequels never seemed to go beyond the press junkets for the first one. Shyamalan evidently planned to make them and was as far along as a first draft for the second instalment, but it seems like someone got cold feet and it seems entirely possible that toxic word of mouth on the first film killed off any plans for a franchise.

          Five years down the line, on the publicity trail for his new TV series Wayward Pines, Shyamalan is still defending the film as it stands. In an interview with IGN, he stood by the way in which he resisted the urge to take the film above a PG rating and make it more mature.

          “My child was nine-years-old,” he explained. “So you could make it one of two ways. You could make it for that same audience, which is what I did — for nine and 10-year-olds — or you could do the Transformers version and have Megan Fox. I didn’t do that.”

          This could also be seen as a jab at Nickelodeon Movies’ subsequent success, last year’s PG-13 reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, starring – you guessed it – Megan Fox, but with all we’ve covered, it should be clear that the “it was for kids” excuse won’t cut it here.

          Certainly, Avatar: The Last Airbender is for kids. It’s bright and colourful and funny, with an involving storyline and a devoted fanbase that carried it over to a whole sequel series, The Legend Of Korra. At the same time, we’d recommend checking out the series to anybody, because in all that it holds for kids, it’s hugely endearing for older viewers too. None of that is true of the film version.

          To give credit where it’s due, at least Shyamalan is standing by the film rather than throwing a previous disappointment under the bus to sell his next project as better, as so many filmmakers do on the press circuit. But for all of the myriad reasons listed above, The Last Airbender went alarmingly and hilariously wrong on its way to the big screen. If there’s a great two hour movie to be made out of a season’s worth of story, maybe the reboot clock will eventually tick around to it again.


    • M. Night Shyamalan was literally called the next Steven Spielberg. But, unlike Spielberg, he insisted on writing all his own material and that was his undoing.


  11. I liked Sixth Sense and was genuinely moved by it, but then it resonated strongly with what was going on in my own life at the time.

    And, I have to admit this in public so everybody can rag on me, I liked Signs. I liked that little family hunkered down against the terrifying unknown.

    Initial filming on Signs was interrupted by 9/11. The plane that went down in Shanksville, PA, was about 50 miles from where the cast and crew were assembled. Anyone who was alive and aware on that day will recognize the traces of it in Signs (the horrifically unthinkable rebroadcast 24/7 by the TV news networks; the sick feeling that life as we once knew it might be over forever).

    I also liked Unbreakable, but not as much as either of these.

    Other this trio it’s all unmitigated sludge. Maybe Shayamalan had only three good ideas and he’s used them up. How sad for us, but how much sadder for him.

    PS: Thanks for the Good Vibrations ear worm. Can’t get it out of my head.


    • I enjoyed Signs quite a bit the first time through. But I have a hard time sitting through it now knowing how it is going to end. Plus, I have soured on Shyamalan and his style. So even the aspects of the movie that charmed me the first time aren’t as enticing now.

      If it makes you feel any better, you have put the Good Vibrations ear worm back in my ear. Thanks!


  12. The aliens who hate water invading a water planet doesn’t bother me and I’m not sure why it bothers other people. What choice do they have? They’re probably scavengers who were running out of resources and attacked the first planet they came across that had food they could eat.

    And I don’t think Sixth Sense, Unbreakable or Signs relied on their twist endings at all. You could remove the twists from those movies and you’d be none the wiser. That was not true of The Village at all though. And only Sixth Sense and The Village had that Twilight Zone twist ending anyway.


    • Regarding the aliens in Signs, we have no idea what their motivations are. I don’t recall anything in the movie that would support or negate your food theory. The aliens are just there. Clearly, they are not friendly. Beyond that, we don’t know much. They are sophisticated enough to travel through space. But apparently don’t wear clothes, can be easily trapped in a pantry and chose to invade a planet that is mostly covered with a substance that is lethal to them. Knowing that, they have not taken any precautions to protect themselves from liquid. Seems kind of dumb to me.

      I could not disagree with you more about The Sixth Sense. You take away the twist and the movie is empty. It is all about the twist. Unbreakable, less so. The twist almost feels forced on because Shyamalan felt the need for a twist ending. Signs isn’t exactly a twist ending. And I totally get that Shyamalan is ripping off/paying homage to War of the Worlds. But the ending doesn’t work for me at all.

      Totally agree about The Village though.


      • While I liked “Signs,” it was “plagued” by REALLY DUMB aliens (or lazy writing). “Hey, let’s invade a planet that’s AT LEAST 2/3 a substance that’s fatal if it touches us! What’s the worst that could happen?!?”


  13. Craig Hansen

    You would think the aliens in Signs would have better results from just scorching the Earth, or dropping their equivalent of a nuclear bomb on us to eliminate us, rather than getting out of their spaceships and going house-to-house to kill us. Travelling a hundred zillion miles and then going door-to-door to stab-murder-kill seemed kinda dumb for such intellectually superior aliens. I couldn’t help but think that when I saw the movie at the movie theatre back then.


    • jeffthewildman

      Good point. Then again, the aliens in many movies are often stupid. For instance, the ones in Independence Day have no idea what a computer virus is or how to stop one.


    • Yeah. I was able to suspend a lot of disbelief on the first viewing. But they traveled further than mankind can even see. You would think they would at least have weapons. Or clothes.


      • Clothes! Ha ha. You’re right. For some reason that immediately made me think of the aliens in Close Encounters. No clothes. Then again, there’s also E.T. He’s walking around naked too the whole time, no clothes. Those aliens in Independence Day. Also naked, no clothes. Those aliens in The Arrival, yep, naked as the day they were born. I’m sure there’s plenty more examples. What is it with highly evolved aliens traversing the galaxy buck naked???


        • I guess if I were going to annihilate a species ala the aliens in Independence Day, I’d be freeballin’. But getting locked in a kitchen pantry in the buff is just embarrassing. It’s something your drunk uncle does, not an alien menace.


  14. Where Jason Reitman Went Wrong:

    Once a critical darling, the Men, Women & Children director appears to be on the disastrous M. Night Shyamalan trajectory. The problem? Hubris.

    Five years ago, Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air was released to rave reviews, a slew of Oscar nominations, and box-office success. Critics praised it as a timely, heartfelt work that tapped into anxiety about the ongoing recession and the wave of unemployment beleaguering the nation. Now, though, he’s released his sixth film, Men, Women & Children, and it looks to be his worst-received yet, which is saying something after the critical drubbing his last effort, romantic melodrama Labor Day, got in 2013.

    Pretty much every filmmaker has to contend with bad reviews at some point, but the distressing implication in this case is that Reitman has lost whatever human touch he used to possess. Men, Women & Children is “obvious and mundane, ‘Chopsticks’ pounded on the piano,” writes Amy Nicholson in The Village Voice. “And it doesn’t feel like the work of Jason Reitman, who made a sterling debut with a string of smart comedies.” The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr calls it “a near-total misfire, by turns sour, preachy, facile, and pretentious.” Where Thank You for Smoking and especially Juno and Up in the Air broadly connected with audiences and critics, Men, Women & Children is being lambasted as a tone-deaf piece of cultural commentary, hysterically decrying addictions to screens and social networking as an existential crisis for middle-class America.

    Would Reitman be under fire if Men, Women & Children wasn’t so needlessly hectoring? Or is there an unavoidable target on his back that comes with being an acclaimed young filmmaker? Reitman was Oscar-nominated for directing two of his first three films (Juno and Up in the Air), a nearly unheard-of achievement, and largely skated by any charge of being “overrated” (Juno took some flak for its smart-aleck dialogue, but that fell at the feet of screenwriter Diablo Cody). His fourth film, Young Adult, also written by Cody, was an acidic story that was well-reviewed and found a niche audience. On its own, Labor Day (a disastrously campy escaped-convict-meets-repressed-housewife yarn) could simply be dismissed as a blip. But with Men, Women & Children, Reitman’s career seems to be developing a worrying trend. He’s taking his material far too seriously and has lost sight of the humor and humanity of his earlier works.

    The most obvious comparison for “wunderkind gone sour” in recent memory is M. Night Shyamalan, who was Oscar-nominated at 29 for making The Sixth Sense (the second highest-grossing movie of 1999) but hasn’t directed a remotely well-received film since 2002’s Signs. In retrospect, that film hinted at the hubris that would befoul his later efforts. He inexplicably cast himself in a crucial role and his famed skill for endings suddenly vanished (alien invaders of a watery planet have a critical weakness against water). Two films later, The Lady in the Water saw Shyamalan casting himself as a writer destined to create great works of literature; that and every subsequent effort have been laughed out of theaters by critics.

    Shyamalan now appears to be attempting a “return to his roots” with a low-budget horror movie. The problem for Reitman is that he can’t attempt the same. His model has been remarkably consistent—when he’s not directing Cody’s screenplays, he’s adapting a contemporary novel and injecting some visual verve and a carefully curated soundtrack. The problem can’t entirely be chalked up to the source material, since Up in the Air could have taken an equally dour tack (it’s about a lonely man whose job is firing people) but managed to find warmth for its characters even as George Clooney told angry, sobbing employees they were losing their jobs. Men, Women & Children lacks that humanity—most of its big ensemble come off as storytelling cyphers to essay some blindingly obvious point, like “middle-aged married couples can get sexually restless” or “young people sometimes use video games to escape real life.”

    The other thing that separates Reitman from Shyamalan is his self-awareness. He was candid in a recent interview with ScreenCrush’s Mike Ryan about the failure of Labor Day, saying he was well-aware of his golden streak with critics being broken. “It’s shitty as hell. It’s totally shitty,” he said. “I mean, I was proud of my Tomato Rating and, yeah, it sucked … I’ve done more work on that movie than I’ve ever done on a movie. I’m proud of it. And then it doesn’t land and then you realize, oh, this was a misguided effort, for whatever reason.”

    Reitman could figure things out and rise again; Hollywood is littered with just as many surprise comebacks as it is with stories of faded superstars. But his is still a fascinating cautionary tale. Even when sticking close to his personal brand (he says in that interview that Men, Women & Children is “more in my natural voice”) he seems to have lost the finesse that distinguished his earlier films. Consider Bennett Miller, another classic wunderkind (although one who got started at a later age—his debut fiction film Capote came out when he was 39). He has so far followed a very specific formula, making somewhat chilly biopics that semi-fictionally expound upon the internal lives of real-life figures—Truman Capote and, in Moneyball, Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane. This year he has Foxcatcher, which is about the crazy-but-true John du Pont saga, and it’s getting raves consistent with his previous work.

    Would things change drastically if Miller left his comfort zone, as Reitman did with Labor Day? Maybe. But in Men, Women & Children, I would argue Reitman committed the more fundamental hubristic error of thinking himself a great social commentator. Only Up in the Air really felt like it had something sweeping to say about the state of our nation, and it did it by telling a personal story. By contrast, Men, Women & Children explicitly criticizes people for having their heads in their phones, but forgets to ground the story in anything relatable. Reitman is largely sticking to his formula, but would be well-served to narrow his focus next time on to characters anyone can actually care about.


  15. And the Worst Director in Hollywood Is…:

    What it comes to M. Night Shyamalan, the biggest question is, “What happened?” A career that started out with Sixth Sense, Signs, and Unbreakable has delved into a last gasp to get funding. Perhaps his “Endings With a Twist” hurt him. Maybe he was a one-trick pony and he peaked early. No matter, he’s has a string of failures and things don’t look like they’re going to get any better for him.


  16. I can’t sleep so I find myself catching up on some of LeBeau’s articles I didn’t have time to read…

    M. Night Shyamalan seems to be a guy who forgot the basics. Somehow his ability to present a rational concept that could be believable was transformed over time, into irrationality. My ability to “suspend my disbelief” which was freely given in the early movies, was gradually transformed into “impossible to believe” to the point where I felt personally disrespected. My expectations were high because I thought this guy had a special talent for telling great stories, but for whatever reason those expectations were gradually beat down until this Airbender movie, that was so bad, so poorly presented as to destroy any respect I had for his story telling abilities. Trust, once destroyed, is hard to rebuild.

    Brad Deal


  17. Is There Another Good Shyamalan Movie? – Nostalgia Critic


  18. Heard that Fox will air M. Night’s Wayward Pines May 14th!!!!!


    • Looking forward to it. Even if I expect it to be terrible.

      M Night’s Twin Peaks knock off is a lot less appealing now that we know David Lynch is bringing back the real thing in 2016!


  19. 10 Great Directors Who Haven’t Made Anything Good For Years:

    M Night. Shyamalan

    A few months after the release of Signs in 2002, M. Night Shyamalan was being talked about as one of the hottest new talents in filmmaking. His first film The Sixth Sense, though widely parodied, was considered something of a modern classic, and when his followup Unbreakable drew similar praise his next move was entirely his own to make.

    Instead of upping the ante or going off in a new direction to showcase his range, he tried to make another suspenseful and atmospheric thriller in The Village that served only to expose how reliant on plot-twists his entire style was. The Village was as dreary as it was ridiculous, and his career since has lurched from the ludicrous The Happening to the unbearably formulaic After Earth. So toxic had his name become that nowhere in the After Earth posters, trailers, TV spots or website was there a mention of him.

    Shyamalan’s already proved that he’s neither able to recreate his early success or step up to bigger productions, but with his next outing set to be a modestly budgeted and humbly cast horror-comedy called The Visit, there’s still scope for him to pull it back.


  20. Top 10 Good Movies by Bad Directors:


  21. 10 Directors Suffering From George Lucas Syndrome:

    M. Night Shyamalan

    His Success: M. Night Shyamalan’s career exploded at the mere age of 29 when he directed his third movie, The Sixth Sense, earning him two Oscar nominations (for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay) alongside critical acclaim and a huge box office haul. His other hits include Unbreakable and Signs, while The Village, The Happening and The Last Airbender all made significant profits despite being destroyed by critics.

    His Failures: His abject, unambiguous failures began to abound around the time of The Village, where audiences began to realize that Shyamalan was pretty much just a one-trick pony who relied too heavily on improbable plot twists. His follow-up The Lady in the Water bombed, The Happening and The Last Airbender were trashed despite commercial success, and the Will Smith-starring action adventure flick After Earth was a bust in every way a movie can be.

    Shyamalan suffers from dual “diseases”: he not only had too much money thrown at him while audiences simply expected more of the same brilliance that came before (Lucas Syndrome), but he also peaked far too early and was never able to live up to that early success (popularly known as Orson Welles Syndrome). With his last five movies being flops in one way, another or both, it seems like he just doesn’t care anymore, and given how studios are even downplaying his involvement in their movies, it’s really not looking good for him at all.

    How He Can Save His Career: Ditch the big budgets and try something more down to Earth. To Shyamalan’s credit, his upcoming comedy horror film The Visit sounds like his most interesting movie in years: it cost just $5 million to make, features no A-list stars, and if it’s remotely decent, then it could be the director’s most unexpected success in quite some time. If this one can’t score better reviews than his excessive blockbuster films, then he’ll probably end up on the straight-to-video s***-list before you know it.


  22. Playlist of The Immediate Rise and Slow Fall of M. Night Shyamalan


      • Some of his early movies were new and unexpected to patrons (The Sixth Sense being a prime example). However he kept using the same “something unexpected” so often that people grew tired of it. The Sixth Sense made him famous for plot twists, and it was pretty much cemented as his thing after Unbreakable. Problem is, plot twists really work best when you aren’t expecting them.

        Along the same time the quality of the writing went down hill. The Last Airbender was just the final straw. The hate for The Last Airbender definitely put a target on his back, but it’s not like the people upset with that movie hate his other movies like the Happening just for the sake of it.

        The Happening brought out the worst of Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschane. Awkward dialogue and a terrible plot that couldn’t carry the movie. The Last Airbender meanwhile, took a beloved cartoon, one regarded in quality similar to Game of Thrones, and destroyed everything that made the cartoon great. He disregarded the source material in order to create the mess that was The Last Airbender movie.


  23. Screen Junkies: Worst M. Night Shyamalan Movie?? (this video was made the week After Earth came out)


  24. Here is the trailer to Shyamalan’s new film, The Visit, which is coming out this September.


  25. 10 Hollywood Stars That Let Instant Success Go To Their Heads:

    M. Night Shyamalan

    Early Success: It’s a familiar story by now. Feted by the media to become the next big thing in Hollywood, Shyamalan first few films certainly lived up to expectations. The Sixth Sense was a revelation on release, with its twist ending immediately becoming an iconic cinematic moment, resulting in six Oscar nominations (though no wins). His follow-up, Unbreakable, was low-key by comparison, but inarguably another fine film, deviating from the standard superhero format and branching out into something entirely different – again turning the twist ending into an art form in itself.

    What Happened Next? Signs was a decent movie, though perhaps not as well executed as what went before it. Since then, Shyamalan has been on a firmly downward trajectory, as each release associated with his name seems to claw the title of ‘worst Shyamalan film’ from the previous movies’ hands. The Village and The Lady In The Water are both poor but the mix of astonishingly bad acting, writing, and, well, everything in The Last Airbender and After Earth takes the biscuit. Much of this decline in standards can be attributed to Shyamalan’s tendency to believe his own hype.

    Around the time of The Village a documentary of Shyamalan appeared titled The Buried Secret Of M. Night Shymalan. The film claimed to uncover the director’s dark past, and featured the man himself storming of screen and withdrawing his consent from filming. Ultimately it was revealed Shyamalan had authorised the documentary as a publicity stunt in order to cultivate the ‘Shyamalan Brand’. It wasn’t easy to take him seriously again after this.


    • Lady in the Water is unreal. He writes himself into the movie as a writer whose work is so great it will be the salvation of mankind. It cannot be overstated how pretentious that is. It may very well be the most pretentious thing to ever happen in the history of film.

      Lady in the Water solidified the growing sense that Shayamalan was losing touch with the “common ground” of filmmaking with his filmmaker character as a visionary against a sea of critics, appearing self-congratulatory and deliberately separate from the narrative. Both of these films were derided by the critics, but not as severely by audiences who could enjoy the bizarre events with a sense of fun, like watching an Ed Wood movie rather than an objectively good film.


  26. How ‘Fantastic Four’s’ Josh Trank Can Get Out of Directors Jail:

    by Stephen Galloway 8/20/2015 10:00am PDT

    The filmmaker’s debacle could make him unhirable, but Hollywood history has shown there’s a proven path to career recovery (just ask David O. Russell).

    Early this year, Tony Kaye — the director who had gone to war with Edward Norton and New Line Cinema on 1998’s American History X — sent Daniel Day-Lewis a letter asking him to consider a screenplay he wanted to shoot. Kaye, 62, who hasn’t made a studio movie since X, never heard back. “I am — excuse my French — f—ed,” he tells THR. “I am in jail. I am totally in jail.”

    Kaye isn’t alone. In the wake of the disastrous Fantastic Four, Josh Trank might join him. Trank, 31, helped blow up his own movie on the day it debuted, tweeting Aug. 6 that he made a “fantastic” version that “you’ll probably never see.” Now, says a rival studio production staffer, “No executive will go near him. I might take a meeting with him, just to give him advice, but I wouldn’t give him a job.”

    So is Trank stuck in directors jail forever? Not necessarily. Hollywood has a long tradition of deep-freezing some of its best, refusing them work or giving them minor material. Silent-era master D.W. Griffith became nearly penniless when sound came along. Oscar winner Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter) turned into a byword for profligacy following the debacle of 1980’s Heaven’s Gate (he went on to make 1985’s Year of the Dragon and 1987’s The Sicilian). Victor Salva was incarcerated for child molestation and served 15 months of a three-year sentence before he was given the job directing Disney’s Powder (1995). But when word of his past surfaced, his career took a serious hit. Die Hard director John McTiernan has had trouble finding work since he served time for his role in the Anthony Pellicano wiretap scandal.

    Other directors have been metaphorically jailed — usually for not making money but also for everything from arrogance and high-profile flops (M. Night Shyamalan) to battling a studio (Mark Romanek, who was replaced on both Wolfman and Cinderella) to being considered “difficult” (Catherine Hardwicke, who was dropped by Summit after the first Twilight).

    Trank should take the following advice — though his agent, WME’s Robert Newman, might need El Chapo-like skills to free him.

    Eat humble pie.

    If David O. Russell could do it, so can Trank. Following much-publicized battles with George Clooney (Three Kings) and Lily Tomlin (I Heart Huckabees) and a host of financing problems on the unfinished Nailed, Russell bounced back thanks to the support of his friend Mark Wahlberg and a series of public mea culpas, returning to glory with 2010’s The Fighter.

    Go back to your roots.

    Gore Verbinski became persona non grata at Disney following 2013’s The Lone Ranger, which forced the studio to take a huge write-down and cost film chief Rich Ross his job. Since then, Verbinski has gone to work for New Regency on the modestly budgeted drama A Cure for Wellness, due out in September 2016. Hardwicke has opted for a similar strategy, with the Drew Barrymore starrer Miss You Already out later this year. And Marc Forster, who was blamed for many missteps on Paramount’s World War Z (2013), segued to the modest All I See Is You, now filming. Trank also could learn a lesson from Darren Aronofsky, who was a studio outcast after the big-budget failure of The Fountain (2006) but came back on the indies The Wrestler (2008) and Black Swan (2010) before being handed Paramount’s Noah (2014).

    Write a great script.

    That’s what Salva did on the 2001 horror flick Jeepers Creepers, which he also directed. “If you write a great script, you can always find actors who want to do it and a producer who’ll find the money,” argues one former executive turned producer.

    Try television.

    After a series of disappointments and two outright bombs (2010’s The Last Airbender and 2013’s After Earth), Shyamalan turned to TV and now is enjoying modest ratings success with Fox’s Wayward Pines. Ed Burns, who has complained about being stuck in jail, created Public Morals, landing Aug. 25 on TNT. Romanek has taken a similar path, directing an episode of the upcoming Martin Scorsese-Terence Winter series Vinyl for HBO, and he may yet come back to film with Warner Bros.’ The Overlook Hotel.

    None of this guarantees success, as Kaye knows too well. The British filmmaker still is bedeviled by his mercurial image. “I have this crazy reputation, which I nurtured,” says Kaye. “I thought you had to be arrogant and awful. But I have learned a lot over the years about process, and how to conduct myself with collaborators within the collective of making a movie, and how to be caring about the pain of others, and not to live in a realm of desire for the self alone.” Now, he says, “I’m hoping I can turn all of my mistakes into the best third act ever.”


  27. Man, “The Visit” looks so stupid…:

    Post by Jessica Tenjeres on 22 hours ago
    Seriously, the entire premise (from what I’ve gathered) is “grandparents are made of concentrated evil!”, and… no. That’s just… no. I mean, c’mon… “Get in the oven to clean it!”? Really? How dumb would you have to be to think that would work, let alone DO IT?

    You know what? I want it to completely throw everyone off, and have the kids be goddamn crazy. Reveal that the grandparents are super sweet and awesome, but the kids have been corrupted by the rock music, and the Tumblrs, and haven’t been taking their damn medication… or something. I dunno. I am easily annoyed!

    “Get in the oven!” Jesus…


  28. 10 Directors Who Are Locked In Movie Jail

    M. Night Shymalan

    The Director: Once upon time people were talking about M. Night Shymalan in the same breath as Spielberg and Hitchcock. He managed to craft thrillers with great characters, taut suspense and he created one of the best movie twists of all time with The Sixth Sense, so he looked like he would become one of the greats.

    The Crime: He officially landed in director’s jail for After Earth, but it was a long time coming. Ever since Lady In The Water he’s been behind a string of critically reviled failures like The Happening and The Last Airbender. Things even got so bad for him that his name was booed when it appeared on the trailer for Devil.

    After Earth was his last chance, where he took a great adventure premise and instead made a two-hour movie of Jaden Smith walking around a lot. He whines occasionally and gets attacked by bad CGI from the early nineties.

    The Sentence: Shymalan put a happy face on his exile; he made low-budget horror movie The Visit that earned him his best reviews in years. He also worked on the well received TV series Wayward Pines, so he’s slowly earning back some credibility.

    It will be a long time until he’s offered another blockbuster to helm though.


  29. Why Do Good Directors Go Bad? – Nostalgia Critic

    From M. Night to George Lucas, it’s time to find out how darling directors turn in dismal disasters. Why do good director’s go bad?


    • Signs is a movie about aliens whose weakness is water, when the atmosphere is almost nothing but water. The movie is fraught with stupid. Signs also marks the downturn for Shayamalan as he becomes immersed in the idea of himself as a brilliant director and studio darling, having produced nothing but hits. The Village shows signs of this transition with the village and themes of society, the outside world and isolation from the truth, but also reveals many of his crutches. One famous one is the twist ending, exemplified in Sixth Sense and The Village, each fitting into the narrative structures and themes of the films. However he became permanently associated with twist endings and began to lose the tight focus which made them work. Feeling constrained by audience expectations and isolated from the more independent sources of ideas, Shayamalan shifted from making good movies to movies that reflect his interests.

      For his next several films the story’s events and the characters seemed odd and ill-thought out, seeming incongruous with the events on screen. The Happening seems to be simultaneously poking fun at the concept of plants killing people and taking it seriously, making the film seem disjointed and failing to achieve anything memorable or noteworthy. Lady in the Water solidified the growing sense that Shayamalan was losing touch with the “common ground” of filmmaking with his filmmaker character as a visionary against a sea of critics, appearing self-congratulatory and deliberately separate from the narrative. Both of these films were derided by the critics, but not as severely by audiences who could enjoy the bizarre events with a sense of fun, like watching an Ed Wood movie rather than an objectively good film.

      That audience good-will disappeared with a combination of bad films, making Shayamalan appear aloof and uncaring about what other people thought of his work. The Last Airbender was heavily-hyped prior to release as a faithful adaption of the series’ first book to the silver screen, with Shayamalan himself stating several times how much of a fan he was of the series. That illusion disappeared immediately into the film as the errors piled up: character names were changed, incorrectly pronounced, many significant events from the first book were missing, the bending was ironically far less impressive than what was seen in the series, and events were changed for seemingly no reason. One example of the latter is seen with the Earth Nation prisoners: rather than being held on a metal prison in the sea to deny a source of material to bend as weapons, the film prisoners are held in a quarry on land for no good reason.

      Even as complaints about the film piled up Shayamalan defended the film, stating that it was accurate and suggesting the fans were wrong in their complaints and about how the film showed events. The controversy painted him as being very out of touch and sensitive about his artistic vision, while attracting the attention of the Internet and more conventional media outlets, giving widespread attention to the events and bringing the quality of Shayamalan’s films into the mainstream.

      After The Last Airbender failed Shayamalan fell out of favor with many of Hollywood’s major studios, having made a series of unsuccessful films that drew a large amount of negative ire, making him undesirable. After Earth drew a large amount of attention for starring Will Smith and his son Jayden, but did not feature Shayamalan as director in the advertisements, ostensibly to downplay his role to promote the Smiths. Savaged by critics and audiences upon release the film seemed deliberately opposed to what someone going to see the movies would want in favor of its leads; it deliberately nullified Will Smith’s charisma into a dull character who has no emotions, leaving him a blank state. Jayden’s poor acting was also blamed on Shayamalan, with the film’s failure seemingly dooming his career.

      Shayamalan began with a very promising series of movies that showcased talent and passion, but those qualities disappeared with rising fame. Larger narrative focus and ideas disappeared for apparent obligations (the twist ending) and his own interests rather than working to create quality films. Alienation of critics and the general public cemented the idea that Shayamalan best day were behind him, a joke that grew with the controversy and poor quality of The Last Airbender and After Earth. After his “fall” Shayamalan has been working on a much smaller scale and is much closer to beginning of career Shayamalan, but it will take a lot of time and good films to put the his “joke” self to rest.

      He directs and writes in the style of R.L Stein’s Goosebumps series. It’s fine for kids but for adults, it’s a bit bland and annoying for a director to do that when they make things for adults.


  30. Fanboy Flicks: Lady in the Water (2006)


  31. 10 Underrated Movies Everyone Loved At First (But Now Dislikes)

    The Sixth Sense

    The Awesome Movie: A tight, atmospheric chiller so popular on release it was the closest we got to a movie toppling the box office juggernaut of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (disappointment it may be remembered as, but people still flocked to see it), The Sixth Sense had an enticing hook – Bruce Willis teams up with a kid who can see ghosts – that slowly expands into a story of redemption and acceptance. M. Night Shyamalan is the mastermind, and his trademark style – long, sweeping takes and pseudo-heavy dialogue – grounds the film.

    Oh, and at the end you find out that Bruce Willis was a ghost all along. Which is great on so many levels.

    What Happened? Bruce Willis is a ghost. One of the most commonly accepted spoilers of all time, everybody paraphrased The Sixth Sense down to this one beat, rendering the previous 100 minutes almost moot. It wasn’t just the audience who did that though – the director himself seemed to take this one aspect as the center of his genius.

    And that’s the big thing that happened; M. Night Shyamalan went on to have a spiraling car-crash of a career, built around the idea that he was a narrative genius who could turn anything he touched to gold. His movies boasted alternatively obvious or ridiculous twists that bogged down everything he subsequently produced; he’s not made an out-and-out great film since Unbreakable (although The Visit was a major step up). As such, his reputation is no longer of being “The Next Spielberg”, and all of his movies, even his assuredly great ones, have been tarred.


  32. Directors who can’t act who cast themselves in roles that are larger than an Alfred Hitchcock-style cameo usually take their lumps. Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino have been criticized quite a bit. I don’t think they got a free pass. With Lady in the Water, Shyamalan’s part wasn’t just significant. He was the most talented and important writer in history! The sense was that the guy believed his own press and let his ego rage out of control. So he got a little more heat than others. Especially since the movie in which he basically crowned himself savior of mankind was completely nonsensical.


  33. Ranking the Films of M. Night Shyamalan

    As the Shyamalanaissance continues, we look back at the director’s best and worst films to date…


  34. The Surprising Parallels of Christopher Nolan and M. Night Shyamalan

    Small Start

    In 1997, Nolan made a short film called Doodlebug. The following year, he released the aptly titled Following on a budget of just $7,000. The film earned back several times more than its cost, but it didn’t turn many heads. Shyamalan’s first film was 1992’s Praying with Anger, followed by 1998’s Wide Awake. Neither of these films made much of a dent in the box office.

    Sleeper Hit

    The Sixth Sense propelled writer/director M. Night Shyamalan to instant stardom.The third film these filmmakers made was the one that really got them noticed. Nolan’s Memento put a whole new spin on psychological thrillers in 2000. The film earned a modest $25 million in the U.S., but it turned a good profit. Shyamalan’s best-known film, The Sixth Sense, amazed audiences with its now-classic twist ending. It became his biggest hit so far and launched his career as the next Rod Serling.

    Someone Else’s Work

    The only film Christopher Nolan directed that he didn’t also write (so far) is 2002’s Insomnia. I’ve heard the film is excellent, though I haven’t seen it yet. The one film that Shyamalan has made based on anything other than an original story is The Last Airbender. This film suffered from several problems: It couldn’t be called Avatar: The Last Airbender because James Cameron borrowed the name Avatar for his film, which came out shortly before this one. Also, the story and character changes turned off fans of the cartoon show the film is based on. It was a big blow for Shyamalan.

    Superhero Reconstruction

    The future is bright for Nolan as a filmmaker.Five years after the success of Memento, Nolan directed the big-budget reboot of the popular Batman franchise, Batman Begins. The film was generally liked, but it didn’t really break any records at the box office. The same can be said of Shyamalan’s 2000 film, Unbreakable. It basically rethought the entire structure of a superhero movie and took some bold moves in the process.

    It’s rumored that Shyamalan had planned a trilogy of Unbreakable films, but the first film underperformed so he scrapped the idea. Who knows, maybe it would have rivaled Nolan’s amazing Dark Knight Trilogy.

    What a Twist

    Nolan tried his hand at making a movie with a twist ending with The Prestige in 2006. Personally, I love that film, and I think the nonlinear way in which the story is told heightens the tension to a fever point until the big reveal is made at the end. It’s a perfect magic show.

    Signs is Shyamalan’s last fairly undisputed great movie. It, too, employs a nonlinear storytelling technique by flashing back to a pivotal moment in the main character’s life. At the end, everything finally comes together in a surprising and effective way.

    Fooled You

    The Dark Knight launched Nolan into the same tier as other greats like James Cameron and Steven Spielberg.The Dark Knight is Nolan’s Sixth Sense. It became a runaway success and garnered numerous awards and praise, launching him into the same tier as other greats like Steven Spielberg and James Cameron. The film has an incredible ending in which Batman and Commissioner Gordon agree to withhold the truth from the citizens of Gotham City in order to preserve the peace.

    The Village is a challenging film that I find quite good, though I understand why others may not agree. Its ending involves a group of leaders agreeing to continue withholding the true nature of their village from their fellow villagers to preserve their peace. Both of these films come to the same morally ambiguous conclusion, giving viewers something to think about.

    Bedtime Story

    Inception cemented Christopher Nolan’s reputation as a visionary director.Nolan’s Inception came out at just the right time in 2010. It was guaranteed to do well as the follow-up to his phenomenal Dark Knight, and it was such a mind-bending film that it prevented him from being pigeonholed as just a comic-book movie director. He has many more ideas and worlds to explore. The film centers on people who invade dreams.

    Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water puts people to sleep. The 2006 film was a step backward for the talented filmmaker. Inspired by a bedtime story Shyamalan told his children, the film is uneven and off-putting. The worst part of the movie is the writer/director’s decision to insert himself in the film as a visionary writer whose work is destined to change the world. Nolan, on the other hand, was too busy creating visionary films to bother labeling himself thus.

    Things Fall Apart

    Nolan completed his Dark Knight Trilogy in 2012 with The Dark Knight Rises. It shows how an entire city falls apart when a group of terrorists take over and spread anarchy in their wake. I’ve heard some people call it an allegory about the dangers of the Occupy Wall Street movement. If that’s the case then it’s Nolan’s most political movie.

    In 2008, Shyamalan released The Happening, a cautionary tale about the deadly consequences of destroying the environment. Unfortunately, the movie was laughably bad so its environmental message was about as effective as the one in The Day After Tomorrow.

    Looking to the Stars

    M. Night Shyamalan is a gifted writer director who has many similarities to Christopher Nolan.Nolan is currently working on his next film, called Interstellar. This is his first science-fiction film. No one knows anything about its plot or if it will be as great as his other films, so I’ll reserve judgment for now.

    Shyamalan came out with his first sci-fi film this year. It’s called After Earth and I’ve heard mixed things about it. Apparently, it’s better than critics gave it credit for, but it’s not as good as his earlier work. He aimed for the stars but still managed to crash and burn.


  35. Nostalgia Critic Real Thoughts On: Devil (2010)

    Was “Jelly Side Down” really as funny as they made out in the review?


  36. the visit was a hit so m night is back


  37. split already made over 40 mill on a tiny 10 mill budget so its a great start


  38. I think the problem with m night same thing with sam mendes.. early in his career he had a huge hit like sixth sense and people expect every film to be as good as that. similar to sam mendes he had success post American beauty but people expected every film he make to have same vibe as American beauty


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