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Why does M. Night Shyamalan get to keep making movies?

M. Night ShyamalanTrey Parker once sang, “Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?” and after seeing The Happening on DVD, I’m beginning to think the same thing about M. Night Shyamalan.

Once the brilliant young newcomer, Shyamalan’s talent seems to have completely dissipated, leaving only ego and self-importance. Like the Kanye West of cinema, he seems to believe that every film he’s made since 1999′s The Sixth Sense is the greatest thing ever to grace the screen and those who criticize or question his work are simply unworthy of his genius.

Shyamalan, once among the highest paid screenwriters in the business, seemed to have genuine talent. Unbreakable, despite it’s mixed reviews, was an interesting new take on a superhero story which focused on character rather than action. In a time before Christopher Nolan took the helm of the Batman franchise, this kind of well-acted, slowed-down comic book film wasn’t exactly commonplace.

Signs, which was a major box office success, kept things interesting with plot twists and callbacks that became trademark Shyamalan. Not only was it the film debut of Little Miss Sunshine‘s Abigail Breslin, but Joaquin Phoenix was great and I didn’t even mind crazy ass Mel Gibson as the lead character. Like an updated version of a 1950s movie about invasion from outer space, the film had a few fun suspenseful jumps and avoided showing too much of the aliens. Sure, the aliens could be killed by water, which makes no sense at all, but the overall film experience was still fun.

The Village marked the beginning of the end with it’s overly drawn-out shots and a twist that could have been spotted from a mile away. The usually clever Shyamalan seemed to have fallen victim to his own self-importance. Didn’t like the artistic style? Thought the story could have been written by a 15-year-old? Well then you just weren’t smart enough to understand how fantastically talented the young director really was.

All this was illustrated in the “unauthorized documentary” The Buried Secrets of M. Night Shyamalan. When it aired on the Sci-Fi Channel, the special was billed as a tell-all about a mysterious and secretive director. Everyone seemed to have a tale about Shyamalan’s hidden past and the director himself was shrouded in mystery, refusing to complete interviews and reveal details about his “true” background. Of course, the whole thing was later revealed to be a fake promitional piece for The Village. I’m guessing the decision to announce that the whole thing was just a “mocumentary” only occurred after viewers easily spotted how contrived it was. Still, it reaked of arrogance.

Shyamalan believed he was so fascinating that he was worthy of being the subject of an investigation. Everyone was talking about him, right? Everyone wanted to know how he became so awesome and how he was so talented, right? So he concocted a gimick like a bad William Castle to try to draw people to the theaters for his latest “masterpiece” by making himself the central draw.

This arrogant attitude was echoed and amplified by The Happening, a film that is high on my list of worst movies of 2008.

For those who haven’t seen it–and it must be a lot of you since the grosses were less than stellar–the central concept of the film is that a mysterious wave of mass suicides have swept the globe. Did I say globe? I meant, only a few small areas of the North East because apparently nothing happens outside of New York or Pennsylvania. Soon, high school science teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) seems to be the only person who can solve the mystery. After fleeing the city with his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) and best friend Julian, a math teacher played by John Leguizamo, Elliot concludes that the reason for the bizarre behavior is a toxin emitted by plants as a defense mechanism because humans are destroying the earth.

In one particularly lame sequence, Elliot makes an attempt to reason with a plant telling it he means it no harm and begging it not to kill him and his group of refugees. While (hopefully) played for comedy, the scene is so unthinkably bad that I can only imagine poor Wahlberg reading the script and thinking “Really? An entire conversation with a fake ficus?!”

The film gets even worse as Elliot and company try to flee from the toxin by freaking out and running away anytime the wind blows, literally. All the while, they spout ridiculous dialogue about problems in their marriage like some kind of eco-conscious soap opera.

After reading the reviews, I expected The Happening to be bad, just not this bad.

So I ask: why does M. Night Shyamalan get to keep making movies? Clearly his talent and ego are not in proportion as he seems to think he’s more awesome with each increasingly terrible film he makes. What happened to the promising young director I used to really like? Perhaps that’s the real mystery of his films.


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Alexis Gentry is the creator and editor of Trashwire.com. She has been called a “dynamic, talented and unique voice in pop culture” by Ben Lyons of E! and, with her strong fascination with entertainment and penchant for writing, it’s not hard to see why.

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  • dave

    ok I can’t help but comment..
    If you mistook the scene where Marky Mark was begging the plant not to hurt his friends as anything but comic relief.. then you, my friend, are a dumbass.
    Now I won’t say that ‘The Happening’ is great.. but I will say it isn’t nearly as bad as some of you guys are making it out to be. I enjoyed it as a fresh idea for a suspense movie and I appreciated the fact that he’s moving away from his trademark ‘surprise twist’ endings.
    And actually, just to clarify, no one ever runs away when the wind starts blowing.. They run away because people in close proximity start killing themselves due to exposure to the toxin. The wind blowing is an original effort to build suspense in that scene as they leave (think.. similar to a chase scene). Again it wasn’t great, but it was ORIGINAL. Unlike your criticism. Free thought is liberating.. give it a try

  • http://trashwire.com Alexis Gentry

    1. Yes, I understood that the fake plant scene was played for comedy. I just think it was horribly done and I actually felt bad for Marky Mark that he had to be in the scene and the movie as a whole.

    2. If you think this is not one of the worst movies ever, or at least of the year, then you must have an unusually high tolerance for garbage and are probably a fan of crap like Battlefield Earth or Exit to Eden.

    3. People do, in fact, start running when the wind blows… but it seems like you’ve actually sat through this piece of crap film more than once, so maybe you know better than me.

    4. I like that you call this film original when it was clearly ripped-off of classic B sci-fi films and eco-conscious disaster movies like The Day After Tomorrow. The only thing original about it was how poorly written it was.

    5. Are you some weird devoted fan who still clings to The Sixth Sense and credits M. Night Shyamalan with being the filmmaker of this decade of this generation? I guess all of us who can see how little talent he has left are just squid brains.

    Unless….

    Night, is that you?

  • Ryan

    I just saw the trailer for The Last Airbender on TV and literally went to my PC to google “Why does M. Night Shyamalan get to keep making movies?” and this came up. I read and enjoyed this, and I truly feel everyone and anyone considering going into a career in film or something parallel, should have a picture of M.Night hung in their homes somewhere, as motivation that “if this guy can do it…….”

  • Jordan

    I completely agree with this, since after seeing the commercial for Devil for about the hundreth time i finnaly decided to search “Why does M. Nigh keep making movies”

    I love Avatar: The Last Airbender…the TV show, basically for being a cavalcade of many different themes into one cartoon. Yes its a cartoon, but a very well told cartoon that doesn’t put stress on any one idea. Bit of action, bit of love themes, bit of humour, bit of good storytelling, loveable as well as despicably evil characters, etc.

    I’ve read reviews for The Last Airbender movie and am completely disgusted that some idiot whould even make a movie about it. And the fact that he might possibly make it part of a trilogy like the show is absolutely horrific. Why does this sorry excuse for a filmaker continue to create movies? Saying he is the Kanye West of cinema is an insult to Kanye West. And in case you haven’t noticed my IQ isn’t below the threshold of retardation so not like i like Kanye West either.

    Im sorry if this post sounds like a hater thread, but its completely true, i hate M. Night for ruining a show he probably hasnt seen more than once. I also apologize for any future responses to this post that oppose my opinion, but its an opinion, and last time i checked i was entitled to it.

    Here’s hoping the guys that made Quarantine (The guys that wrote Devil allegedly) will make Devil somewhat decent, and if it turns out horrible, hopefully thats is is the straw that breaks the mediocore, pathetic, and stubbornly arrogant camel’s back.

  • Marcus Lopez

    Why does M. Night Shyamalan keep making movies? I’ll answer your question since no one else has.

    1) His movies make MILLIONS:

    Signs: budget = $72 million, gross = $408 million.
    The Village: budget = $60 million, gross = $256 million.
    The Happening, budget = $48 million, gross = $163 million.
    The Last Airbender, budget = $150 million, gross = $319 million.

    Got the idea? And if you did your research you would know he did not direct “Devil” he just wrote it, but if you want to go there, it’s budget was $10 million, and made $62 million.

    2) He has an audience, a rather large group of fans who enjoy his movies
    and like his work. The studios know this, which is why they finance his
    movies. Same with Tarantino. Not everyone likes his movies, but he has a
    huge audience and he makes millions. If it’s not your cup of tea, don’t
    drink it. I’m not into Monty Python, but that doesn’t mean I hate it,
    nor do I hate the writers. Instead I respect it because it has an
    audience and it makes people laugh.

    3) What else can I say, except haters gonna hate!

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