WTF Has Happend to M. Night Shyamalan? [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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09-11-2008, 08:03 AM
It wasn't until Kam reminded me that he had a movie out this year, "The Happening" that I even remembered the guy. This guy FLOORED me with "The Sixth Sense", entertained me with "Unbreakable" and "Signs" but his last three films, ("The Village", "Lady in the Water & "The Happening") have been cinematic, critical and monetary disasters. Whassup with this guy? I'm pretty sure Kam knows but I'd like to hear from others as well.

Did he slurp too much of his own KoolAid?
Does he, like Spike Lee, need to be controlled more?
Has he run out of stories to tell?
Has he used up all his juice in the wood?
Can he be saved? I like(d) his work immensely.

Da Worfster

09-11-2008, 09:03 AM
I think his problem is that he got 'tightcast'... so after the first 3 movies, everybody was just looking for the twist instead of actually enjoying the films... Best example was people's reaction to the village.... the twist was crap but the movie was far deeper and more intelligent than any of the previous 3 films... but because people were not impressed with the twist, the film generally got trashed by fans and some critics... e.g. Ebert and Roper... Roper enjoyed it by ignoring the twist and Ebert hated it because the twist was predictable...

The sixth sense (generally regarded as his best work) really isn't his best IMO... I remember watching it and being floored by the twist... My older brother saw it and thought it was a weak film, because he was able to predict the twist during the openings few minutes of the film... if you take away the twist, it really isn't a very special movie (I realized that when I tried re-watching the film)...

So in summary, what made M. Night famous is pretty much what has killed his career... that damned twist...

09-11-2008, 09:16 AM
Did you see The Happening?

I snuck into it on an afternoon when I needed more air conditioning after paying for the first movie.

It was amazingly bad on every level. Incoherant, confusing and pointless. The whole premise was so ridiculous and infantile, and by the climax you really wanted all the characters to just die.

Horribly acted too. Wahlberg is a stiff in everything anyway, but in this, it's like he has an IQ of 70 (even though he was supposed be a science teacher). Slow-witted and slack-jawed. And I love Zooey Deschannel, I really do. What marvelous eyes she has, but in this her character is unlikable and whiney. The cinematographer even managed to make her look fat and dumpy. Sad.

I'm with you, I was bowled over by 6th Sense and Unbreakable. I enjoyed Signs, especially the whole glasses of water gag, but with hindsight, you can see the road he was headed down, with it's almost "all sizzle and no steak" emptiness. The rest? Pretentious crap of the highest order. Until we get to The Hap's, which bumbles into Ed Wood territory. Really.

To answer your questions:

Maybe believed his own press. It's easy to surround yourself with yes-men and sycophants in Hollywood.

Virtually EVERY director needs to be controlled more. Yes, Spike and M. Night especially. Spike's new joint looks like it's all stems and seeds.

I don't think M Night has run out of stories to tell as much has he has run out of visual and storytelling styles to tell them with. Every one of his movies has this heavy (when they're good) or plodding (when they aren't) atmosphere and pacing that's supposed to be loaded with eerie portent. Can he do comedy at all?

Yes, I suspect that he will never get a big budget again.

Who knows if he can be saved? He's such a Johnny one-note that maybe he doesn't really merit saving.

Ajani, it's "Typecast" not tightcast.

09-11-2008, 09:33 AM
Haven't seen "The Happening." Have seen the others. Basically, I agree with you Worf. Not sure if he's slumping, trying to send a message that's just too personal to appeal to anybody, or what. Also, seems to me he likes to use conventional devices such as allegory, metaphor, etc. that often work better in literature than on screen.

Anyhow, I had a different reaction to "Lady in the Water" than most critics and viewers. To me, the famous MNS "twist" was that the movie was nothing like the previews/trailers. Once I got past that, I related to the story (even though it was an ancient, foreign fairy tale set in modern society). I'm not one for sappy sentimental movies and this one had a little of that. But I thought it was an interesting depiction of a society's (residents of the complex) coming together, each finding his/her own strength to achieve a result. Yeah, that sounds like weepy, wimpy BS (not to mention communistic) compared to most of the stuff we talk about. However, it reminded me of how 2 different neighborhoods I've lived in came together after hurricanes. In the last one, I didn't have a chainsaw, but my neighbors did so I didn't need one. I had plenty of help cleaning up my yard as did everyone else. I kept a grill and coffee (camping perculator) going until power came back on. You wouldn't believe how something like a cup of coffee can lift your spirits if you drink it everyday and suddenly you're cut off. Of course it made me feel good when family and neighbors would come by just for the coffee.

oh yeah...I know it's time to cut the grass when I see scrunts.

09-11-2008, 10:06 AM
Three well thought out responses. Great!!! No I've NOT seen "The Happening" (needed a better title right off the bat), but I wanted to. However it disappeared out of the theatre's faster than Paris Hilton gettin' out of her Prom Dress. That's what started this whole post. I thought the movie hadn't even been released yet I didn't know I'd missed it until Kam mentioned it in a thread about "Tropic Thunder".

"Holy Chit" (as he slaps his forehead) "you mean I got drunk and ah missed it?"

I then went online read reivews and then thought about this thread. Interesting points all, particularly Deano's take on "LitW". Fascinating.

Da Worfster

09-11-2008, 10:15 AM
I've only seen 6th Sense and Signs. 6th Sense was okay, the suprise ending made the movie (yes I was surprised), but without that ending slapping me in the face, the rest of the film was good but not great IMO.

Signs was brilliant IMO. I loved Joaquin Pheonix's character being addicted to CNN, because that's exactly what I would be like. And (I've said this before) the flashlight scene in the basement is one of the most memorable and best directed movie scene's that I've ever seen. And the way his wife died. I still get chills when I think about that sub-plot.

None of the trailers that I've seen for his films since Signs has made me want to see more. And from what I've read, I'm glad that I haven't. It would be very hard for him to top Signs in my book. Maybe he just peaked too early and everything else just looks bad in comparison.

09-11-2008, 11:07 AM
Everyone has been ripping on The Happenning, but to me, other than Tropic Thunder, it is the funniest movie of the year.

The problems i always see in bad directing, is when you can "see" the directing. the best art is when it's seemless. most often seen with CGI, when you can "see" the special effects, it's a bad special effect. When the special effect is seemless into the story, you don't notice it. the best directors are the ones who can not only cross genres, but can tell a story that you wouldn't have guessed is their story. imo, there are a handfull, (if that even) of directors that can do this. same as their aren't many actors that can cross genres either, or writers.

this is one thing that's made me re-examine Woody Allen. When i saw match point, i would never have guessed that's a 'woody allen' movie. but so far, all of M Night's movies are quite heavy handed. there's a plodding feel to them that exhudes "this is important" much in the same (non-negative) way tim burton's movies have the light jovial feel that exhudes "this is fun" from everything down to the art direction to danny elfman's scores.

i think that's the main problem with M Night, aside from talks of ego and controlling him and other personality issues, sticking just with the artistic side of things, his direction is always that of a heavy hand, and in some cases it works (unbreakable) and in others it doesn't (lady in the water). I would say the tone and feel of both movies is quite similar. but the storyline lends itself far better in Unbreakable to make a very interesting tale rather than with LITW. imagine, for example, had Tim Burton directer LITW.... what kind of fanciful, magical tale would it have been then?

edit: and also, imagine if M Night directed Edward Scissorhands.... a strange but heavy story that Tim Burton handled quite lightly. tell a heavy story with a heavy hand... what would it have been?

09-11-2008, 11:26 AM
Well I'd like to echo what Troy said: he's not been good at picking the right actors lately. The sixth sense wasn't all that impressive to me because I also figured out the plot early on and Unbreakable was more of the same. But what made Sixth Sense and Signs good was the acting. I know Mel Gibson isn't exactly hot in Hollywood right now, but Signs came out before all the nastiness came out and he can be a pretty funny guy (on screen). Same for Phoenix and the kids.

I also thought that The Village was a great flick and so was Lady in the Water, mostly because the acting was excellent. I'm a MNS fan so I own all these movies. Yes the stories were a little weak, but the acting was top notch. Phoenix, Howard & Hurt in The Village and Howard, Giamatti, and Choudhury (who hardly ever gets the praise she deserves), where all veteran actors who saved these movies from less than ideal story-lines. For the record, I think that Lady in the Water would have done much better as a period film rather than a contemporary one, perhpas set in Eastern Europe with a little more mysticism and foreboding.

The Happening was another movie that completely pissed next to the pot. And again, I have to say that MNS's casting was rather poor. The story could have been more, but it was interesting nonetheless (especially in our Inconvenient-Truth world). If anything, he could have done so much more with the old woman at the end of the movie. I suppose as a period film it also would have had more pizzaz. Zoe was just fine, and she's definitely pretty enough, but the rest of the cast, even Leguizamo, sucked in those roles.

But all that being said, I think MNS (that's a lot easier than spelling out or even saying his whole name), still has more to show the world. I think he needs to let go of some of the directorial decisions and allow someone else to be more involved with the casting. He's still a great story teller, and I think he will eventually get his groove back. He's young, and after all, do we really like every movie from our favorite directors? They all have duds, some more than others. That takes nothing away from their hits.

09-11-2008, 12:07 PM
edit: and also, imagine if M Night directed Edward Scissorhands.... a strange but heavy story that Tim Burton handled quite lightly. tell a heavy story with a heavy hand... what would it have been?


09-11-2008, 06:05 PM
I liked The Village, thought it was a great story, but I can see how people were disappointed that there were no real monsters, but Lady In The Water was too schmaltzy, too maudlin, somewhat insular, and the main character sounded and looked like Troy, only with less hair;)

LiTW got way overboard with its "something special for mankind" overwroughtness and M.Knight played a guy who was going to change the world with a reminded me of the ending to the first Highlander movie...way too overreaching in its attempt to be profound and it lacked real closure. Many of the plot devices became way too convenient as well toward the end and also somewhat juvenile IMO. MKS's attempt at being Steven Speilberg, if you will.