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Hump Day Have Your Say: WTF Happend To Director M. Night Shyamalan?

hump day have your say

There was a time in the not so distant past when Director M. Night Shyamalan was more than just some director whose name no one could spell or pronounce with any degree of certainty.  He was the toast of Hollywood after the phenominal success of his third directed film The Sixth Sense (1999).  In addition to scaring the crap out of folks and having a great twist the film was nominated for six Oscars.  Hell folks were calling him the next Steven Spielberg.  I am talking about young Spielberg here too, not sappy old coot Spielberg.  Following the Success of The Sixth Sense, his next film Unbreakable (2000) created a whole new super hero/villain mythology and reunited the director with star Bruce Willis.  In addition the film starred everyone’s favorite MF twitter user Samuel L. Jackson.  Truth be told I actually enjoyed Unbreakable more than I did The Sixth Sense.  Then again I am a sucker for comics and super heroes.


M Night Shyamalan


His next film Signs (2002) was about crop circles and aliens and was very well received.  Personally, I was never a huge fan of this film but I know many folks were big fans.  M. Night was on a roll, he was Hollywood’s golden boy, his last 3 films had raked in over 900,000,000 combined.  Big name stars like Mel Gibson and Bruce Willis wanted Night to write and direct films for them to star in and his production budgets were going up based upon his success.  In 2004 The Village was released to a less than stellar reception.  Many critics and fans did not care for somber mood of the film and found his trade mark plot twist in this film to be the cinematic equivalent of “it was all a dream”.  I have defended The Village in the past and will continue to do so.  I consider a solid and creepy story with a bit of a lame ending, but still found the journey of the film intriguing.  However, not every critic was so kind.  The late great Ebert called this film “a colossal miscalculation, a movie based on a premise that cannot support it, a premise so transparent it would be laughable were the movie not so deadly solemn. It’s a flimsy excuse for a plot, with characters who move below the one-dimensional and enter Flatland.” and his review only got worse from there.  It seemed as if the luster had faded a bit from M. Night.  But most folks chocked this up to a swing and a miss and hey everyone makes a bad film now and again.




Unfortunately, for M. Night and movie goers his follow up films continued to get worse rather than better. The Lady in the Water (2006) has a RT score of 24%,  The Happening (2008) was even more poorly received with a RT score of 17%.  This is a film so ridiculous that the viewer was expected to believe that Mark Wahlberg is a teacher and the trees and plants were mad at us.  Surely things could not get worse from here.  But plot twist, things get even worse, for his next project he wrote and directed an adaptation of  popular anime comic  The Last Airbender (2010).  This may be one of the worst films ever to have a general release and boasts an astounding RT score of 6%.


m. night

This is the best thing M. Night has done in ten years.


This brings us to his latest film After Earth (2013).  The luster of M. Night had fallen so far that he was not even mentioned in the promotional materials for the film.  Instead we are treated to plenty of shots of Will & Jaden Smith.  While I have not had a chance nor the felt any inclination to waste money on seeing After Earth thus far, it has been getting hammered by critics and boasts an RT score of 12%.  Well in fairness that is twice as good as the last M. Night directed film.  Things have gotten so bad that for the first time M. Night simply directed the film rather than also writing the screenplay and apparently that did not help either.  Has M. Night  sunk so low that he will even direct a crappy Sci-fi film, that is a thinly veiled promotional video for Scientology?  Maybe he needs to hang out with Will Smith some more so he can see all the complex patterns and new math that we humans can’t comprehend.

“I’m a student of patterns. At heart, I’m a physicist. I look at everything in my life as trying to find the single equation, the theory of everything.”

“When you find things that are tried and true for millennia, you can bet that it’s going to happen tomorrow.”

“The forum of media that we’re in can’t really handle the complexity of things that we say all the time.”


Check out the full interview in Vulture as The Fresh Prince and his 15 year-old, Jar Jar Binks looking son drop some knowledge yo!


Will Smith, Physicist


Where did the magic go?  Will M. Night Shyamalan ever create a good movie again?  How did it all go so wrong so fast?  Should he convert to Scientology and give all praise to Xenu?   These questions and more will be answered on the next episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, or in your comments below, either way is cool with me.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tracy June 5, 2013, 2:14 pm

    I think he has gotten in his own way. Or at least his ego. I loved The Sixth Sense, hated Unbreakable, like Signs, was OK with The Village even though I pegged the twist about 20 min in, The Lady in the Lake owes me $7.50 and I can’t even talk about The Happening.

    I don’t mind when directors put themselves in their movies at all. All the power to them…but his role in LitL says it all I think. Here’s this guy, who writes this book that has the power to change the world….and he chose himself for that part. Really M. Knight?

    I think he needs to scale it back a bit. Clearly he has skills, but I think he’s gotten so wrapped up in the “epic” films that he’s lost his…ahem…sixth sense (I’m sorry…I couldn’t help it) about what constitutes a good film. Perhaps a low budget, indie film would help him out.

    • Tracy June 5, 2013, 2:16 pm

      Sorry….Lady in the Water….sheesh

    • Adam June 6, 2013, 7:19 am

      Tracy, it seems like he has run out of stories. I would not object to him directing someone else’s script but I think he needs to choose the right one. However, at this point who is going to give him that opportunity?

  • Chris June 5, 2013, 2:42 pm

    I personally still find M. Night to be a very intriguing director. The Sixth Sense was good and all, but didn’t leave much of an impact on me. Unbreakable is when I was really sold on him as a director, but he’s just had a bit of trouble really tapping into his potential ever since then. The Happening was actually a film that was so bad it was good, so I have a hard time hating on that one.

    And then there’s The Last Airbender, which, while it was certainly an abysmal movie, I oftentimes find myself still jumping to its defense when people start tearing into it, if only because I still feel like there was so much potential in there somewhere. I actually find that movie to be more frustrating than anything, since littered within the garbage are various shots and brief moments that show that, somewhere deep down inside, M. Night’s still got SOMETHING to prove to us. It’s just a matter of getting him to channel that potential that’s still in there. He just needs a good filter, like, someone to properly direct his direction or something, lol.

    As for After Earth, I personally feel it’s being unfairly trashed on for the most part, as it’s a solid film overall, and Shyamalan’s best since Unbreakable. I can’t help but feel that people are hating on it more due to his reputation than due to the material on screen, but if anything, while it’s not great, I think After Earth is definitely a step in the right direction for M. Night.

    • Adam June 6, 2013, 7:22 am

      While I have yet to see AE I would agree that folks seem to enjoy kicking this guy when he is down. It probably did not help his cause that he sounded like a bit of a pompous ass when he first became successful.

      I am with you with Unbreakable that is my favorite of his films and I still hold out hope for the often rumored sequel but I am not sure if he is up to the task.

  • Steven Flores June 5, 2013, 3:24 pm

    Here was someone who was once had promise and seemed to be the guy that was going to bring us entertaining films. Unfortunately, he never lived up to any of that. I did like “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable” though former doesn’t really hold up for me after a few re-watches. “Signs” was OK but the twist was kind of dumb. “The Village” had an interesting premise but then came that awful twist and it ruined everything. “Lady in the Water” was just dumb and “The Happening” was just extremely stupid. “The Last Airbender” was just extremely ridiculous as I knew his name was already fucked after seeing the trailer for “The Devil” that he produced and myself and the audience who saw that trailer groaned at his name. I don’t think “After Earth” is going to help him since it already flopped in the U.S. One more flop and I think he’s done.

    • Adam June 6, 2013, 7:24 am

      Maybe he will be heading to the Lifetime network next. It amazes me that one could lose the ability to tell compelling stories. It is not even that the direction is that bad it is that the screenplays are that bad.

  • cindybruchman June 5, 2013, 3:54 pm

    I was so impressed with MNS (not because of the People prediction) but after Sixth Sense and Signs, I was sold. Then the decline. For me, it’s a sure-thing marriage gone bad. I still like the guy and I can’t quite pinpoint his demise. Is it arrogant, self-absorption? He’s trying too hard to be original and it flops? He should just focus on directing and not on everything? In the end, I admire him. All he had to do was Sixth Sense. Unbreakable was cool. I enjoyed The Lady in the Water even though it was ridiculous. The Village had me curious, but then it turned sour. Now, I fear, he’s guilty until proven innocent.

    • Adam June 6, 2013, 7:26 am

      Cindy I find him fascinating for the reasons you mentioned. He created some really memorable films and seems to have lost the magic. Where did it go? How does that happen? Did he simply become complacent and lose the hunger that drove him in the first place? How long do we have to wait for the HBO biopic?

  • David Baruffi June 5, 2013, 3:59 pm

    I was just discussing M. Night, in a roundabout way on my blog recently too. Actually, to correct you, “The Sixth Sense” was actually his third feature film, not his second. His first was “Praying with Anger” in ’92, and his second was, “Wide Awake” is ’98. I haven’t seen either of those films, as I imagine most haven’t. As for me, I thought “The Sixth Sense” was overrated, although it was a good film. (Couldn’t believe it when it made AFI’s latest 100 Films list though). I enjoyed “Unbreakable” a lot, and yeah, I think it’s fairly clear that “Signs” is his best film; it’s the only one I an enjoy on multiple viewings, in fact I like it more every viewing, but after that…. I saw “The Village,” but the copy of the DVD I had was so bad, that I actually wasn’t able to finish it until years later, and frankly I didn’t care or like it enough at the time, and even before I found out about it, it was long-ruined for me, so that didn’t help, and after that, his films never got good enough reviews for me to even bother. I somehow, did end up watching “The Happening,” and your right, it was dreadful. (Although I thought Mark Wahlberg was good in it, and I bought him as a teacher fine, but you could’ve had “The Godfather” cast in that film, and it wouldn’t have been good.) I’m not 100% sure what’s wrong with him, but he’s just not making anything good. I haven’t seen “After Earth,” and doesn’t seem like a lot of people have either, but I think he’s hasn’t come up with a good film or script in a while, and I also think that he got caught up in this thriller/horror genre, when that wasn’t how he originally began, and he got pegged as the next Hitchcock, when I think he just wasn’t that. Not quite anyway, but he tried to be.

    • Adam June 6, 2013, 7:30 am

      Thanks for the heads up on the filmography Dave, I will adjust that. I need to re-watch signs I picked up a dual Signs/The Village disk recently. I really enjoyed the set up of the village but it seemed to me that he did not know how to end the picture.

      • David Baruffi June 6, 2013, 10:43 am

        Yeah, take a second look at “Signs”, and I’m not sure why there’s such mixed opinion on it, actually. After Orson Welles’s radio broadcast, I think that’s the best version of “War of the Worlds” ever made. Maybe people didn’t catch that, but it’s the same story, just told from a different perspective, but on top of that, it’s the one without a twist ending, so it remains good on multiple viewings, since it doesn’t rely on the shock moment at the end, it’s legitimately creepy and scary, there’s no trick, it’s aliens attacking, but it’s not about that either, it’s actually, eh-truly about the main character. The priest, regaining his faith, after losing it when he lost his wife. There’s a lot more in “Signs” then the rest of films I’d say. That’s one, where I think, Shyamaln’s image’s was one thing, after “TSS” and “Unbreakable”, and I think they were caught offguard when, it was even slightly different than those two films, structurally, but take another look it, it holds up better than the rest of his films.

        • Adam June 6, 2013, 10:54 am

          I will try and watch that today and scare the crap out of my boy.

        • Adam June 7, 2013, 4:05 pm

          David, re-watched it yesterday, it was actually much more suspenseful and enjoyable than I recalled from originally viewing it about ten years ago. Not sure I would put it above 6th or Unbreakable but thats just me.

  • Morgan R. Lewis June 5, 2013, 8:02 pm

    I’m not entirely sure anything “happened” to him, so much as we-the-audience just woke up to his basic nature. I gave up on Shyamalan after Signs; it wasn’t terrible, but it was bad enough to make me wary of anything he did after, and the general reception of what came after was enough to confirm my wariness. But even though I think The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable are good films… I’m not convinced they were the works of a great director, even one who later became lousy. They’re not without their flaws, and the flaws they have are often what people complain about in his later films: the reliance on a twist, the pretentiousness, the meandering plots… those are all present in his two hits. They just have other things going for them as well.

    Of course, at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me overmuch to find out that Bruce Willis ghost-directed the two good films. :D

    • Adam June 6, 2013, 7:32 am

      Morgan, how awesome would that be to find out that Bruce Willis ghost-directed those two films. ;-)

      In both those roles he is much more reserved than the way he is usually portrayed on screen.

  • Gary Schwind June 5, 2013, 9:14 pm

    I absolutely gave up on Shyamalan after Signs. My reaction to that film was basically like Lisa Simpson in the episode where she becomes a vegetarian. “You can’t honestly expect us to swallow that tripe!” That decision has saved me from even thinking about Lady in the Water or The Happening.

    • Adam June 6, 2013, 7:33 am

      Gary, I know a lot of folks like Signs but it just didn’t do it for me either. That being said I only saw the film once. If you want to borrow The Village, let me know.

  • Erik - Movie140 June 6, 2013, 12:12 am

    Well…I have never been a fan of his movies. The Sixth Sense is absolutely superb, one of my favourite movies but the rest… People had big hopes for him after the success of it (so did I) but clearly we were wrong. It has been 14 years since The Sixth Sense without him doing anything great so I can’t be bothered by him.

    • Adam June 6, 2013, 7:34 am

      Erik, some folks just have one good story in them and perhaps that is the case here. Although for me anyway Unbreakable was really entertaining and The Village was 3/4 of a good film.

  • Mark Walker June 6, 2013, 3:21 am

    I struggle to see where Shymal-amalam-a-ding dong. Can go in the future. His haven’t just been poor. They have been absolutely awful. I’ve never seen a once promising director plummet so quickly. I think he’s over with.

    • Adam June 6, 2013, 7:36 am

      Mark, Michael Bay keeps getting work and he is terrible but he brings in the coin. That is when Hollywood pulls the plug for sure. No box office = no career, if you can make some money they don’t care what crap you put up on the screen.

  • Chris June 6, 2013, 6:25 am

    The Sixth Sense and Signs were good, everything else was horrible in my opinion. He’s a one trick pony in a stable full of Stallions.

    • Adam June 6, 2013, 7:37 am

      I like that saying Chris, I hope you don’t mind when I steal that in the future. :-)

  • Tim The Film Guy June 6, 2013, 6:37 am

    Early success made him big headed and that always causes over confidence resulting utter crap! And I am sure you know my review of the last airbender on Isaac’s Shitfest blogathon :D

  • Fogs' Movie Reviews June 6, 2013, 7:26 am

    I wish I knew what happened to him, man. I’d love to have him making movies the caliber of his early stuff again. :( His ego got to him a bit, that’s for sure. Lady in the Water is obviously a case of an ego run amok, and a director with too much say over a project (his studio dumped him over that one, but his name allowed him to find distribution quickly).

  • Adam June 6, 2013, 7:45 am

    Fogs, I saw where you actually did not hate AE as much as most. Was his direction not that bad in this one?

    I hope that doesn’t happen to you and your website after all you Lammy success. Don’t go getting all power drunk and arrogant, riding around in limos, stop taking our calls, and start hanging out at the Ritz doing coke off a hookers ass with those Hollywood bigwig types. ;-)

  • BrikHaus June 6, 2013, 7:56 am

    I think Unbreakable was Night’s best film. Sixth Sense was also pretty good, though. But two good films out of so many stinkers is not a good sign (pun intended). I think the reason Night wasn’t seen in promotional material was that the studio knew people wouldn’t willingly pay money to see this movie if his name was attached. I can’t imagine how he keeps getting work. Maybe he and Damon Lindelof should team up and make the world’s worst movie some day?

    • Adam June 6, 2013, 8:05 am

      I like that line of thinking Brik…. Written by the man that brought you Cowboys and Aliens and directed by that dude who brought you The Happening is Unbreakable 2.

  • Brittani June 6, 2013, 10:43 am

    I’m at the point where I’m wondering if he was ever a good director to begin with? Yes, Sixth Sense was great, Unbreakable was good, but the rest of his features were terrible. (IMO) It makes me wonder if he just had the stuidos/producers/other people breathing down his neck the first few times around, then when they gave him full control, he blew it.

    • Adam June 6, 2013, 10:53 am

      Brittani, that could very well be the case. I also like Morgan’s suggestion above that Bruce Willis ghost directed those two films

  • Rodney June 6, 2013, 7:10 pm

    Part of me wonders if half the problem is that the audience expecation of M Night couldn’t ever match the giddy heights of Sixth Sense. I mean, after that one, the only way to go was down. Every other film would inevitably suffer by comparison – I dare say most other directors would love to have a film as sweet as Signs and Unbreakable on their resume, it’s only that Night had them AFTER Sixth Sense.

    I agree, The Village, Happening and Airbender were all films of a below average quality (I didn’t mind Airbender from a purely visual standpoint, but the characters and story were underdeveloped) and it’s little wonder Night’s fallen from grace. It’s been a spectacular fall too. Words such as “ego” are bantered about when folks talk about him, and if there’s ever been a more prescient example of this affecting his work, it’s having the balls to cast himself in a prominent role in Signs – you could see audiences bristle at this idea.

    I always think it was a tad unfair of people to label him “the next Speilberg”, because it gave everyone unrealistic expectations. I would hate to have been the poor composer back in the day who was labelled “the next Mozart”, that would have sucked ass! That being said, M Night needs to go back to the drawing board and try something different for his next project: perhaps a romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston, or action-free dramatic work starring Meryl Streep? Some may have seen the quite creepy film he produced, Devil, a few years ago – it’s a cool concept film that is directed by somebody else, and it works well enough for what it is. Perhaps Night needs to simply produce for a bit, nurture some new talent and guide them in the film-making classroom.

    Who knows, but I’d lay good money on Unbreakable 2 being the nadir of Night’s career, when it finally comes out.

    • Adam June 7, 2013, 4:59 pm

      Rodney I wonder if he can direct something well that he himself has not written?

      Yeah that is a lot of pressure to be tabbed the next Spielberg, but it did not seem like he was exactly down playing the comparison either.

      Don’t jinx my Unbreakable 2 dreams ;-)

  • Dan June 7, 2013, 7:59 am

    Great article. I wasn’t aware M. Night’s RT scores had gotten so low. I hated The Village but did find something to enjoy in Lady In The Water. That said, everything since Signs has been beyond disappointing. I have no interest in this new film.

    • Adam June 7, 2013, 5:01 pm

      Those are some pretty terrible Scores Dan, however as a few people mentioned at this point it is sort of fun to hate on his films and that probably does not help the scores. I am with you, I am not watching his new film till its streaming for free and there is nothing else on Netflix.

  • lauren June 8, 2013, 9:58 am

    I prefered Unbreakable to The Sixth Sense as well. There’s always rumours he’s going to make a sequel to Unbreakable which leads me to mixed feelings. I would love a return to the film and expand on the wider world. But given how M. Night’s latest films have been going I’m afraid he’ll ruin one of his few films I still have affection for.

    • Adam June 8, 2013, 10:45 am

      Lauren lets get a kickstarter campaign going for Unbreakable 2. Of course with the stipulation that M. Night is not involved. ;-)

  • Nostra June 20, 2013, 4:23 am

    I quite liked The Village as well. Have not seen Lady in the Water and didn’t completely understand all the negativity about The Last Airbender (haven’t seen the cartoon). The Happening was ridiculous indeed. After Earth I’ll check out once it is out on DVD.
    I do think the guy has talent and hope he’ll be able to make amazing movies again. Sometimes I feel it’s just popular to hate his movies and I never liked joining that choir.

    • Adam June 20, 2013, 7:33 am

      Nostra, I certainly agree that to at least some extent folks like hating on Shyamalan. I am sure it did not help that he came across as pretty arrogant initially.

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