Is it more accurate to say that M. Night Shyamalan is a polarizing cinematic figure, or that he is just widely maligned? The director has gone from rising star to whipping boy to laughing stock in what feels like such a short time span, a popular film career that has gone on for not even 15 years. The promise of his early films such as The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable seems like a distant memory, and today his name evokes—despite rather consistent box office success—almost uniform critical derision.
How did this fall from grace happen? It baffles me. The Sixth Sense is kind of an undeniable classic, so ingrained in the cultural psyche that its famous twist and catchphrase are etched in Hollywood history. Unbreakable, which came out a year after the resounding success on Sixth Sense, may be an even stronger and more resonant film despite its less iconic status. The decline was relatively gradual, I suppose. Signs showed signs of structural weakness. The Village had a decent foundation but was riddled with cracks and flaws. Lady in the Water and The Happening signaled nothing short of an absolute implosion. They were so bad that I haven’t even been able to bring myself to watch The Last Airbender because seriously guys, like I just can’t even right now.
After Earth is the latest Shyamalan enterprise. Is there hope for it? Who knows. I don’t like to speculate on such things. What I do know is that if anyone is due for a comeback, it’s our old pal M. Night. Here are 5 glimmers of hope from his previous films to keep us optimistic about the dawn of a new day for M. Night Shyamalan.
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