Saturday, June 15, 2013

M. Night Shymalan: What Goes Up Must Come Down

I remember watching a scene from The Sixth Sense in one of my college literature courses because that's just how intense and multidimensional it is. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat during almost all of Unbreakable because the duality of a superhero and intellectual villain onscreen against the backdrop of such a true to life plot and setting transfixed me to the screen; not to mention the exceptional acting of Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson and stunning cinematography. I remember jumping at almost every moment of Signs in the theater, clutching onto the arm of my brother thinking, "I really need to invest in a baseball bat." The aforementioned movies provided supernatural elements that were compelling without being cheesy or superficial. Then there was The Village where I remember saying, "Are you kidding me?!" upon the conclusion. Yep. 2004 became the year I started questioning Shymalan's staying power. As a fan of fairy tale-esque type stories, I gave Lady in the Water a chance and regretted it. Not only did the story move way too slowly, but the acting chops of the star studded cast was underused while Shymalan's painful acting was overused and difficult to watch. Let's just keep it down to Stan Lee style cameos, Shymalan. Ok? I avoided The Happening and read numerous outraged articles and reviews about The Last Airbender on the use of white actors for parts based on various ethnic characters. Shymalan, did you learn nothing from Dragonball Evolution?!

M. Night Shymalan provided the story concept for Devil, which had potential, but only fared a little bit better than The Village. Devil is the first of a trilogy of films Shymalan is looking to make using what could be a masterpiece of a sequel for Unbreakable and a return to impressive film-making for him, as the plot for the untitled third installment. Seriously?

Below is a screenshot of the critical reception of Shymalan's movies since the critically acclaimed Sixth Sense in 1999. The percent column represents Rotten Tomatoes and the fraction column represents Metacritic. As you can see, Shymalan started off strong with the three movies which I consider his best, Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. After that, he started on a downward spiral that didn't pick up until this year's After Earth, which can probably be attributed to the star power of Will Smith and "Big Willie Weekend" for helping bring in a marginal increase in viewership. Emphasis on the word "marginal".
After Earth has received some pretty scathing reviews despite Smith's star power, and I couldn't seem to find anyone to pay to go watch it with me. I guess that means I'll be Redboxing it in a couple months. People tend to say there's no where to go but up, but I think it's safe to say Shymalan, much like Rose Royce's classic song, "I'm Going Down," needs to hang up his screenplay writing pen or tap into the formula that made The Sixth Sense so excellent.