Where Did it All Go Wrong for M. Night Shyamalan?

Last week we wrote about M. Night Shyamalan and the surprisingly good reviews of his new movie, The Visit. It seem like audiences paid attention to the reviews and felt encouraged enough to go see the movie for themselves. The Visit took in over $25 million over the weekend, good enough for a second place finish at the box office. That is a huge haul for a movie made for only $5 million. The Visit is a legitimate hit for Shyamalan but as we detailed last week, it’s not Shyamalan’s first hit.

We left you last week with with Shyamalan as one of the true stars behind the camera. But Shyamalan’s star started to fade with 2004’s The Village.

The Village was no flop. It made $257 million at the box office on a $60 million budget. Financially, it was a disappointment but not a failure. The critic’s reviews were mixed, which is much more than you can say for Shyamalan’s next few movies. Some liked it but many hated the film, including Roger Ebert who said in his one star review, “It’s so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don’t know the secret anymore.”. People were growing tired of Shyamalan’s signature twists.

I really don’t know what went wrong with The Village. It had an amazing cast that included newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and a young Jesse Eisenberg. That cast has twelve Oscar nominations between them. I think I only saw the movie once a while back but I don’t remember it being bad. Maybe that’s the problem with it. I’ve never felt the need to go back and watch it again. I already know the twist ending.

After his first hiccup, Shyamalan returned with Lady in the Water two years later. Shyamalan would win every one back with his newest film and prove that The Village was just a one time fault. No, Shyamalan failed miserably as Lady in the Water was universally reviled. I couldn’t even tell you my thoughts on it as I never bothered watching it.

Next up for Shyamalan was his first R Rated film, The Happening starring Mark Wahlberg. Wahlberg couldn’t save the movie for Shyamalan though. He later admitted that he only took the role because he wanted to play a teacher rather than the cop or criminal roles he was usually offered.

The Village did make a good amount of money and has lived on as a “so bad its good” movie. However, Shyamalan now had made three poorly reviewed films in a row. He would start to lose some defenders.

It would only get worse for Shyamalan. He decide to take a break from original stories and took on making his first adaptation of existing material, the Nickelodeon animated series The Last Airbender. The change did not work out for Shyamalan, in fact The Last Airbender got even worse reviews than The Happening. The film even took home the Razzie for Worst Picture in 2010. For some reason, audiences still had some faith in Shyamalan. Even with the horrid reviews, the movie made $319 million worldwide.

A lot of people went to see The Last Airbender but that doesn’t mean they liked it. Shyamalan was now a joke. It seemed he had undone all the good he had achieved with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. If anyone mentioned Shyamalan, it was likely making fun of one of his movies or making a joke about twist endings. Could Shyamalan win us back?

After a few years away, Shyamalan’s next film was a collaboration with one of the industry’s biggest stars. Shyamalan wrote the screenplay for After Earth based on idea from Will Smith. Having a huge star like Smith attached to his next project looked good for Shyamalan.

The problem was that Smith conceived of the idea as a starring role for his son Jaden. If you didn’t know, Jaden Smith sucks. I’m not talking about his acting. He just seems like a shitty person. He did nothing to earn a starring role in a big budget movie. Predictably, the movie was no good. The days of giving Shyamalan a big budget to work with was over.

Maybe all this failure was a signal to Shyamalan to return to the basics. You don’t need a ton of money to make a good movie. Shyamalan has talent as a director; he has three films that prove that. Hopefully The Visit wasn’t a fluke and a humbled M. Night Shyamalan will continue to make solid movies.

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