Unless you’ve been home-schooled, you are probably aware what bullying is. We all went through it at some stage of our lives, be it in schools, kindergartens, sandpits, colleges, universities (grad schools, I’m looking at you), or at work and we all fully comprehend how hurtful it is to be somebody’s target. And if you don’t understand it because you used to be (or even worse – still are) a bully yourself, then you sir are a douchenozzle and should be ashamed of yourself.
As I understand it, most of us have some sort of experiences in that regard. After all, we can usually identify a huge discrepancies in a given population between the bullies and the bullied – there’s always this one c**t in a given population that holds ransom an entire group of people, so, if my calculations are correct, chances are that most of us hate being ridiculed or otherwise abused. Then how is it possible that all of a sudden it gets so easy to hop on the hate train and participate in a heinous act of public humiliation? Is it the herd mentality or the illusion of anonymity that makes us all complicit in collective bashing of someone, just because it is trendy to do so?
I already glanced over the subject of the social status (or lack thereof) of M. Night Shyamalan’s – once great and promising young talent, now a pariah forever condemned by the same people who once loved him. Back in 1999 he made an astounding splash with his big budget début “The sixth sense” and there’s not a soul in the Internet who hasn’t seen it and/or doesn’t hold a strong opinion on this particular film. This revolting supernatural horror sporting a duo of Bruce Willis and a young Haley Joel Osment (who by the way hasn’t made much out of this initial splash) and the now iconic phrase ‘I see dead people’ managed to win over millions of people and garnered fantastic reviews. The producers made tonnes of money out of the deal and Shyamalan was on course to become a full-time dollar-printing machine.
And this is where everything went sideways… Even though his two follow-up features (“Unbreakable” and “Signs”, both of which I personally loved) were still critically acclaimed and in spite of fantastic box office returns, the venomous world of critics started voicing louder and louder that the supposedly great M. Night Shyamalan was a crook – a one-trick pony… And it all went downhill from there. Now, riddle me this: where does the line between an auteur and a one-trick pony lie exactly? Well, let me help you:
Auteur – A film-maker usually a director, who exercises creative control over his or her works and has a strong personal style.
One-trick pony – A person or a group noteworthy for only a single achievement, skill or characteristic.
The way I see it, at the end of the day it is down to a personal preference whether to label someone an auteur or a one-trick pony and it is most likely based on either an emotional relationship with one’s work or other external factors. So, is M. Night Shyamalan a one-trick pony?
Let’s examine, shall we? Most if not all of his films deal with supernatural themes – check. All of them have a characteristic pace, minimalistic dialogue, moments of deafening silence and related elements of style – check. All of them sport a good deal of jump scares – check. All of them have twist endings – check. Wait, hang on… “The Sixth sense” – definitely a twist there… “Unbreakable” – sure, I’ll give you that; an ‘it was me all along’ twist… “Signs” – nah, not quite a twist… “The Village” – sure, a twist… “Lady in the water” – no twist… “The Happening” – if you think that’s a twist, then you’re your problem, not mine… “The Last Airbender” – haven’t seen it, sorry… “After Earth” – no sign of a twist anywhere…
To me it looks like the ‘dreaded trademark Shyamalan twist’ only makes an appearance in three of his films. But the critics will actually go out of their ways to point out he’s known for the abundant twist endings to his movies every time they get a chance – which is false. Unless, of course, the twist in “The sixth sense” has done you in so much that you can’t get over yourself anymore. And what’s wrong with twist endings anyway? One in four films that make it to the screen sports some sort of a twist (don’t have the numbers, don’t quote me on that) and we somehow unilaterally decided that it’s the Shyamalan’s twists that we are supposed to hate. Is it because none of the remaining two twist endings were anywhere near the level of the first one? Still good twists though… Maybe we should ostracise Steve Soderbergh for his twist endings as well, or David Fincher, or Ang Lee, or even better – Sir Alfred Hitchcock? Is it a sin to take after the great master in more than one regard? Is it not tactful any longer? Especially that in his early films Shyamalan made it glaringly obvious where his inspirations were with Hitchcockian plot devices and even with making brief cameos in his films.
Practice your hate all you want, but we cannot deny him the fact nearly all of his films are suspenseful and scary, but somehow we’ve fallen prey to the merciless snake-pit of a world of film critics, who decided M. Night Shyamalan was not going to be part of the club any longer and whatever he does, the reviews he’d rake in can only get progressively worse. Interestingly, despite critical backlash, the audience has not quite agreed with what the professionals had to say…
But guess what? The reviews aren’t the be-all-end-all in here – it’s the moviegoers who make the final call and even with callous reviews his last films have garnered – all of them made a profit. Even “The Last Airbender” that ‘won’ 5 Razzies turned out to make money after all. Could it be, because it was a kids’ movie? We can laugh all we want, but with the money this guy has made over the last 14 years, he could technically afford to make 10 more films budgeted at $150M, have no-one see them and still be in credit.
Therefore, I think it’s high time somebody put a stop to this madness. You’ve had your go (hell, even I said some hateful things about the guy in the past), but now it’s time to let him go about his day. You took his lunch money and gave him a wedgie – let him be and ask yourself a question, if per chance you claim to have hated Shyamalan’s movies because others told you to. If so, then make up your own mind instead. There’s no shame in saying you like Shyamalan’s films – I know I do. Even “The Happening”, which wasn’t exactly great, and “After Earth” that apart from being a substandard Sci-Fi, was in actuality quite nice when Shyamalan’s style could surface.
As it stands, the hate club has grown strong enough that Shyamalan’s name is absent from all the posters and trailers for his newest film and it should be a clear sign that the things have gone too far. He’s not a leper, y’know? He just chose to have a style and stuck with it, which doesn’t make him a one-trick pony – it makes him more of an auteur, I believe. If you hate abstract art, you wouldn’t take a day off work only to go and visit a gallery of modern art, now would you? Unless you’re a bit perverted and enjoy pain, but that’s not my problem…
Directors are people too and this one has had enough, don’t you agree? Maybe next time we should let him have his name on a poster for a change…