Everyone believes Shyamalan to be a Horror/ Thriller director with supernatural themed stories and that one final twist. And everyone focusses on that final twist more than the rest of the movie. Everyone expects the movie to be a build-up towards that one final twist and when it is not to their liking, they brand him a one trick pony.
I am somewhat fed up with the amount and kind of hate spewed against Shyamalan all over the net. You dislike a movie, fine. Voice your opinion but don't make that a personal vendetta against the person who made it. The following are my thoughts on his movies and why I still believe he's up for a twist in his tale
- THE SIXTH SENSE
Yes it was a wonderful movie. And not everyone can claim that the twist ending was apparent much before the end itself. I believe everyone gives too much importance to the ending. It is essentially a tale about being comfortable with one's thoughts and perceptions told in a spooky manner and ultimately not repeating one's mistakes thereby becoming free of the guilt. Had Malcolm acted upon his instincts in the first case, he might not have been shot in the beginning. He feels that there's something he failed to do earlier and would not repeat the same mistake with Cole. This belief in himself and his instincts help him to overcome his own problems.
I do not believe people who watch the movie now and claim to uncover the twist much earlier than the end. They are lying. This movie held up as much it did because internet was not as active in 1999 as now. Spoilers always ruin a movie like this. I watched it about 3-4 years after it had been released and by that time everyone around had psyched me up so much about this movie that I found the 'shock' scenes a bit underwhelming. So anyone who claims to have unearthed the twist while watching the movie is lying or happens to have some Sherlocky brain activity.
Every mystery movie loses some steam as time goes by particularly one whose final twist has been publicised as much as this. There are loads of Hitchcock movies hailed as great by critics but watch them and they'll be underwhelming. By personal experience North By Northwest hailed by many top critics as a great suspense thriller bored me no end.
This is arguably MNS's best movie till date. I find it to be so at least. People did not like it at the time due to the slow pacing and it not being marketed as the comic-book blockbuster that it actually is. Also, after the Sixth Sense every marketing gimmick led one to believe that it was similar which it was most definitely not.
This movie is also not about the final twist though it does play a major part. It is about the characterisation of a superhero and a super-villain. About how the hero will give up things important to himself while the villain will not care about the chaos/ mayhem/ sadness he spreads for a mere whim. That is what separates heroes from villains. The movie takes a much deeper meaning once this is realised.
This is not a movie about aliens as it usually is made out to be. It is about one person whose faith is broken because of an event. About a family trying to come to terms with their loss. About believing that whatever happens, happens for good. It might be co-incidence. It might be providence. But instead of debating what is what, would it not be better to assimilate the good things and move on?
It gave the message that everything that happens is not under our control and that it is not necessarily a bad thing. The good will always come with the bad but it is up to us to accept it and do what we must to try and make things better.
Would anything have been possible if Merill did not bat the way he did? If Morgan did not suffer from his disease? If Bo hadn't always been fussy about what she drinks?
I still find myself disturbed at times when I watch certain parts of the movie.
- THE VILLAGE
This is where things apparently began going downhill. But this was still a very good movie. Genuinely spooky at places (not scary). It was not meant to be scary. MNS did challenge a few ideas about good and evil in this one which perhaps did not sit too well with everyone.
The mentally challenged person is the villain who is responsible for the climactic events when he acts out of jealousy. It basically turned Forrest Gump on its head. It is not illogical. It has always been known that mentally challenged peopple do feel all the emotions and act on them more than an average person who controls them. They do know how to manipulate things for their own gain. Not necessarily to a degree that normal people usually do but they do understand why they're happy or unhappy and what they want to do at one particular time. They may not understand all the far reaching consequences of their actions but they definitely understand the immediate ones.
It also posed the question "How far are we ready to go to protect the apparent innocence that is our basic nature?" Of course as it turns out, the uninhibited basic nature is one of violence as evidenced by the main antagonist.
However, I cannot help but observe that perhaps this movie might have been tighter if the climactic twist was only hinted at and then the movie closed focussing on the still of all the elders with the same voice over. The last sentence before or just after blackout being "I am a teacher of History."
- LADY IN THE WATER
I loved Lady In The Water. I believe it did what I look for in a movie like this. It kept me guessing. You are not alone. This is one of the very few positive reviews that I have read about this movie. I really liked it for the way it kept me guessing till the end. I don't know if I was too dumb to realise it or the prestidigitation was too good with its ending. I believe four things affected LITW apart from the fact that everyone was expecting a scare-a minute fest with a simplistic twist at the end.
- Disney pulled out---msg to people it is so bad that no one wants to finance it
- No big stars. It works well for indie movies. And here (I believe) it worked because the audience can never be sure which character will turn out to be what. That being said, lack of a clear heroic STAR in the movie had some effect on people's interest.
- Shyamalan casting himself as the novelist who'll be responsible for changing the world but not live to see it. This was a little bit too much of self-indulgence. But if we were to forget for a moment that it is a character and not Shyamalan in that scene, it is a little spooky especially when she tells him about his sister's children. The critics made too much of it and tabloids started to pick this as evidence that Shyamalan was an egomaniacal entity who took himself more seriously than anyone should. And therefore by extension is not a credible person. It did not help that The Village was promoted with a fake documentary which involved trying to portray Shyamalan as a mystical character.
- The movie critic character. I believe that this character was more of a distraction for the true sleight of hand. However, all the critics took it to be a personal insult (which it might have been) but then, why can the critics not digest the fact that they've been made fun of. The character is a self-congratulatory pompous arse and the critics'reaction is to act just like him. It is always..Oh Shyamalan!..he dared mock us critics. Let's play out a personal war against him by trashing everything he says or does under the guise of critiquing the movie.
Although I can't help but feel that too much revelation in the beginning animation also makes it a little underwhelming.
- THE HAPPENING
This is one movie which I am a little dicey about. Not because of the way it unfolds but because of the way it has been horribly miscast and how Shyamalan (or the studios' and critics' reactions forcing him to) does not have an underlying human element in this movie.
In all of his previous movies, there was always some conflict in the life of the protagonist which took precedence over the current situation which he/she needed to overcome. In Sixth Sense Malcolm had his failing marriage. In Unbreakable Bruce Willis is unable to come to terms with what he has lost due to his decisions not realising what he might've gained. In Signs Graham is unable to practice the basic tenet of all religions--forgiveness-- only because he feels that he's been given an unfair deal. This clouds all his actions. Cleveland in LITW is lost. He is sad because he has no one for whom he would continue with his true purpose until he meets Story and decides to help her.
In this movie, that conflict is missing. There is some hint at marital tension between the leads but because it is left unexplored, we never truly feel for the characters. Despite this, the movie manages to raise pertinent questions about the environment.
And be true to yourself and just consider… if plants do decide to release an unknown toxin (which happens to be one of the limited ways for them to defend themselves), can you really escape? It takes years and years of research to make drugs and anti-toxins. What if we never get that sort of time?
- THE LAST AIRBENDER
I have not seen the animated series and couldn't care less about it. If I feel for the characters and their actions, the movie is good for me.
For someone who has not seen the series, the movie is not that bad. It works as a family fantasy adventure. However, for older people, the problems of rushed narratives, inadequate character development and unconvincing actors remains. As for fans of the series, there's always going to be something or the other which will bother them. The way it is with comic book movies.
Unfortunately, this is one movie where Shyamalan tries too hard and fails. I do not understand the decision to play around with characters' ethnicities. It seems unnatural. Also, it is quite evident in many places that narrative is rushed. Perhaps if he did not put the restrain of a time limit for the movie it might've been better.
- AFTER EARTH
It is surprising that the negative comments about this movie can actually be traced back to the time just after IMDB revealed that Shyamalan was the director.
The movie is certainly not as bad as anyone would make you believe. But does it redeem Shyamalan?
It brings back the importance and use of colour. It is a refreshing take on post-apocalyptic earth. It brings back the subtext of emotional upheaval in a different setting. It tells me that M. Night Shyamalan is still in there somewhere but he is broken and is willing to do anything for the audience to like him again. Even let Will Smith ghost direct it.
On the flipside, the plot is more worthy of a videogame. The movie could definitely have been cast better or at least Will Smith could stop directing his son. Then perhaps Shyamalan might actually have had the guts to reprimand Jaden to stop looking like he's constipated all the time. It could have done with a few tenser moments. The emotional upheaval could be more cathartic. The beasts could be a little more terrifying.
All that being said, the movie is at par with most of the regular fare that Hollywood puts out these days. We have become too used to Avenger/Iron Man style of heroism that we can't comprehend the smaller battles all of us face. I really don't care if it is Scientology 101 or not. Frankly I believe it should not matter. Some people believe in it so let them. Are you afraid that they may be right? Are you afraid that your own faith is so weak that if they keep sending out such messages you'll be converted?
I believe that it is good for him to be taking such smaller steps right now. In fact don't let his involvement be revealed at all. Then perhaps the movie will be seen on its own merit and not based on prejudice.
A lot of anti-Shyamalan sentiment is because of the way his movies are marketed. And yes it has to do with the Sixth Sense effect. Since that movie had a twist ending, everyone expects his movies to be spooky/horror with twist endings when they're actually dramas with a sometimes spooky backdrop. He has been typecast. Then when the movie turns out to be somewhat different, everyone starts bashing him up (at least the audience). In his movies the focus is not on mind numbing action set pieces and gimmicky special effects rather on human relationships and what effect do certain outside events have on them.
Off late people have been giving too much importance to the Rotten Tomatoes ratings. I have been very surprised to find that a lot of well-loved movies have very low ratings on that site. Metacritic however is relatively better. But both of them are a form of "word of mouth" these days.
Having said that, I believe the vitriolic hate Shyamalan attracts is nothing more than prejudice at this point. I don't say that all his movies are artistic masterpieces but then not every movie is supposed to be. I am not saying that people are not entitled to their opinion but it is a little odd that the hate comments start only after his name is announced as being associated with the project.