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Point/Counterpoint: Should M. Night Shyamalan Stop Making Films?

July 11th, 2008 9:52am EDT
M. Night ShyamalanWhen somebody mentions the name M. Night Shyamalan it evokes an immediate reaction. For some it's, "He's the guy who did The Sixth Sense, which was great," and for others it's, "Yeah, but his last few films sucked."

Two Starpulse writers have their own opinions about Shyamalan and whether he is just gearing up for further success or whether it's time for him to call it quits:

POINT



Alright, people need to lay off M. Night Shyamalan. Sure he is a little cocky (He stated that The village was one of the greatest ideas ever) and his films have seemed to have dipped in quality, but people, come on! This is the same man that created "The Sixth Sense," one of the greatest suspense thrillers of all time. There are not many directors out there that can say the same thing about a genre film.

One of the things that hurts M. Night is that he basically did it in his first time out with that genre. His first two films really were not seen by anyone, so "The Sixth Sense" was essentially his first time at the plate. It created a monstrous amount of hype, had all the critics foaming at the mouth, and was even nominated for Best Picture. It put him on the map. "The Sixth Sense" has one of the greatest twist endings of all-time, up there with The Usual Suspects, Fight Club, Memento, etc.

So to some extent, M. Night has experienced the Orson Welles effect, where in his first time out, he created a groundbreaking masterpiece and has yet to match that quality five films and nearly 10 years later (Orson Welles created Citizen Kane, which to many is the greatest film ever made. He never topped it throughout his entire career).

Unbreakable and Signs are both excellent films, and both earned positive reviews from critics. Both were also successful at the box office. M Night's first three films earned $1.3 billion world wide. Not too shabby. How many directors can boast about that feat? The man clearly has talent telling a story with a supernatural element to them.

Signs



However, "The Village," Lady in the Water, and The Happening were all trashed by critics. I thought "The Village" was ok, absolutely hated "Lady in the Water," and thought "The Happening" was decent. At this point, it is safe to say that the latter half of M. Night's career has definitely been a disappointment. But why is there all this hate? There were some excerpts from reviews of "The Happening" that said it was a sign of the end of his career. What a stupid ass thing to say.

M. Night has showed promise in his quality films in that he has what it takes to pin the audience to their seats and move them with engrossing stories and nail biting suspense. He has wonderful aesthetic, and even with his poor films, they at least have interesting premises. How many other relatively new writer/directors out there within the last 10 years has made a film up there with "The Sixth Sense?" Not many. Hell, every film of his has had pretty damn good trailers too.

So why is there all this hate? Is it because of the well publicized and very ugly split with Disney? I sort of compare it to a rookie quarterback who in his first season takes his team to the Superbowl, breaks all types of records, wins the MVP, and wins the Superbowl. People would be going crazy for this kid and expectations would skyrocket. But over the course of the next few seasons, his stats start to dwindle, and what once were crazy excited fans, have now turned somewhat bitter and angry. Unlike football however, M. Night can make quite a few movies over the next 20 years, and who is to say he can't recreate that magic? His films are better than most suspense/thrillers and the tons of crap that plague the horror genre (Hostel, Rob Zombie's Halloween, stupid teen horror movies, etc.)

As far as genuine suspense, M. Night is the most recent director that seems to have the potential to reach Alfred Hitchcock's skill of terrorizing the audience. Sure, M. Night has many, many, many miles to go before he can sit at the same table with Hitchock, but he does seem to possess the talent to get him there. All of his films are original stories, and he isn't afraid to take risks in his story-telling. Some have worked out for the better, and others for the worse. So stop drinking the hateorade people!

Anthony Liccardello
By Anthony Liccardello
Starpulse contributing writer





COUNTERPOINT



I have this friend who likes to tell jokes. Most of the time his jokes aren't really funny so we just ignore him, but his determination doesn't falter. He'll keep telling the joke, which he believes is the cleverest pun, or one-liner, or limerick uttered in the past 634 years. So why am I telling you this? Because "filmmaker" M. Night Shyamalan is this friend, who almost 10 years ago told a joke, got a few laughs, and now fancies himself a comedian even though the rest of us have moved on to a different subject. I think it is time for M. to bow out of the party gracefully, because nobody wants to sit next to him on the couch anymore.

I'll be the first guy to admit that I loved "The Sixth Sense." I saw it when I was a lad of 16 and was given chills the entire length of the movie. The now famous twist ending caught me off guard, and my friends and I discussed the genius of this filmmaker the entire car ride home. We also almost got into a car accident and boy what a twist that would have been. When "Unbreakable" was released I skipped work to go and see it. I mean, we were talking the new Shyamalan masterpiece that had to do with real comic book heroes. My awkward comic-geek butt was firmly planted in that movie seat. Then it got bored, very very bored, so bored I wished I was at work. Oh, the movie was brilliant, no really it was. See Bruce Willis was invulnerable to everything, except water. When he is plopped in water he sinks like a witch, wait, witch's float. Well the movie proved he wasn't a witch. Throw in a performance by Samuel L. Jackson that set him on the path of "Really Mr. Jackson, are you able to actually play a character anymore?" and what you get is one hell of a sophomore slump.

The Sixth Sense



Surely "Signs" was going to put everything right. We all know how well that turned out. Aliens can't break into cupboards, and their navigator had one hell of a grudge against his own kind. "No really my alien brothers, this planet Earth will be the perfect home for us aliens, who are violently allergic to water. Why they have an atmosphere made up of...not water and the planet itself is covered by...not water. Oh, and the humans would make a tasty snack, for they are made up of mostly...not water." Now that is a movie I would have gladly paid to see. At least he chose Mel Gibson to play a father who was questioning his faith, which was inspired casting.

"The Village" was the last Shyamalan film I would actually see of my own free will. When I saw the trailer I turned to my friend and said "I bet they're living in modern times." Who was right? I was! Now I know what some of you are thinking, you're angry because Shyamalan isn't just a hack filmmaker who needs to make every movie have a twist ending. To that I agree with you, because as we learned from a Sci Fi "documentary" on our favorite movie maker, Shyamalan is an attention whore and a hack filmmaker. For those of you unaware of the little incident this is what happened: Shyamalan (I am getting so good at spelling his name) related a story about being trapped under water and dead for a few minutes as a little boy. This near death experience led him to be fascinated by the supernatural and probably explains his use of water as the most unholy weapon ever manufactured by the Illuminati. When documentary people probed deeper into the incident Shyamalan became all angry and uncooperative and threatened legal action. Oh, wait - Shyamalan pulled a fast one on us. The documentary was a hoax that Shya Le Tool perpetrated to drum up support for "The Village." The film was a disappointment; Shyamalan blamed it on the marketing people and not his inability to actually craft an entertaining film.

"Lady in the Water" was a bomb that Bryce Dallas Howard escaped unscathed and would wisely move away from Shyamalan and become the only redeeming quality in Spider-Man 3. At this point, the Hack Knight was a joke to most people, and not a very funny one at that. Choosing to cast himself as one of the most important characters in the film left a sour taste in many moviegoers. Think of it as if Alfred Hitchcock cast himself as Norman Bates in Psycho, how much stroking does one's ego need?

Now "The Happening" is in theaters, or it was last week, it's probably not anymore unless you have those really cheap shows in your town where everything is a dollar and you can feel things moving around your feet. I'm not going to see it on the big screen, or the small screen, and I may just avoid any plane flights where the movie is going to be shown. This is really a bummer because I like Zooey Deschanel, even if she always looks bewildered in every role she's cast in.

So my advice for M. Knight Shyamalan is this: I'd tell you to quit while you're ahead, but that was nearly a decade ago. Just stop making movies, maybe you can become an investment banker, or take people on ghost tours. If there are no hard feelings between us you can join my Brady Bunch cover band, what do you say? We need a Jan.

Dan Chruscinski
Counterpoint by Dan Chruscinski
Starpulse contributing writer


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