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.
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%.
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.