Why Do People Hate M. Night Shymalan?


You ready for this? M. Night Shymalan..... Yep, about the response I expected. Most of you just kept reading, some shrugged, a couple raised your eyebrows, three guys nodded, and one guy in Connecticut dropped an F-bomb.

The message board frenzy about this guy totally fascinates me. There are few boards on IMDB with more heated debate than this guy’s. I don’t quite understand why people who claim to hate the guy are posting 200 times in one thread, but I’m no shrink.

The perfect situation for Night would be to be able to reverse time. The guy came out of nowhere with The Sixth Sense, and the collective mind of America was blown. (Of course we all had that friend who says he knew Bruce Willis was dead the whole time…but that guy is a liar and a tool.) While Night had made other films before, this was the one that rocketed him into the spotlight. Now, if he could reverse time, and be able to end on this note, he would ride away into the sunset as a hero and a saint. Unfortunately, the guy came out, and in the first nationally televised game, threw for 500 yards and 7 touchdowns, thus setting the bar ridiculously high for all his future efforts.

After The Sixth Sense came Unbreakable. While this film is actually looked at as superior by most of geek-dom, in terms of dollars and cents, it made a third the amount of its predecessor. Next came Signs with the not-yet anti-Semitic Mel Gibson. Signs put up an impressive $228 million domestically, but could never escape the shadow of the kid who saw dead people. A few years later The Village brought in half of what Signs did, then Lady in the Water brought in a laughable $42 million domestically. Most recently, Night’s first foray into R-rated territory netted an unimpressive $64 million at the end of its domestic run.

So clearly, the guy peaked number-wise right out of the gate. Since then, his twist endings have been scrutinized more than his supposed ego. But forget the numbers. I don’t care about drama between him and studio heads, or him reportedly being a spoiled brat. I’m not interested in the guy coming to work for me, I’m interested in the story he tells on the silver screen. And I’ve got to tell you, I love this guy. I am using the word ‘love’ here about another man. I LOVE him.

The Sixth Sense is in my top 3 of all time. I think it’s a taught, scary drama with great acting and a phenomenal story arc. The music is perfect, the production design with the use of the color red is perfect…the movie is damn near…well, perfect to me. Signs, however, isn’t far behind. I loved it, and I don’t care what people say. So the whole “aliens who can be killed by water wouldn’t come to a planet that’s 90% water” argument may make sense, but I don’t give a hoot. It was a movie. Maybe they came here by accident, who knows. But more importantly, WHO CARES? Scary, fun, funny, moving, beautiful.

And you know what? I loved The Village. There, I said it. I think everyone got so hung up on the twist ending that they forgot about the rest of the story. I didn’t mind the twist, in fact, I thought it was an interesting idea. Rewatching the film, knowing what the case is, I think it’s fascinating. Again solid acting, and the music is perfect. The greatest thing about The Village, however, is that it is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. Every frame of that movie looks like a professional photograph. I will give a lot of that credit to the amazing Roger Deakins, who was the Director of Photography. That man is brilliant.

As for Lady in the Water, I thought it was a fun little fairy tale, nothing more. Sure it was goofy and ridiculous, but aren’t most fairy tales? It wasn’t great, but also wasn’t as bad as people like to think. Not a total failure. But then we get to The Happening. This is that one fact that blows an entire prosecution apart. I thought it was, well, awful. It was a whole lot of nothing happening with bad acting and bad dialogue. I have no defense for this one. Why Mark Wahlberg was half-whispering throughout, and why they felt an R rating would help it is all beyond me.

But regardless, one point remains: Every time I see M. Night Shymalan’s name at the beginning of a film, I get excited. It’s not that I expect a new Sixth Sense; it’s that I know that the film I’m about to see is going to be unlike anything I’ve seen before. How many filmmakers can you say that about? How many people in Hollywood take the time to come up with their own completely original story that’s not based on a book, not a remake, not a sequel, not based on a true story…just new . In a time when we all rip on Hollywood for not being original, why do we throw stones at one of the few guys who’s trying to be just that?

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