True Colors: Why M. Night Shyalaman Deserves Another Chance

Hitchcock. Spielberg. Scorsese. Coppola. Kurosawa. Kubrick.

If there was a Mount Rushmore of directors, here’s where the game begins. Many cinephiles believed there were no more truly great directors. Today’s genius can be found in the Coen boys, Tarantino, Scott, and Boyle, but they have a hefty climb to reach those heights.

And then, came along M. Night Shyamalan.

It was a relatively unspoken name in Hollywood circles and then the ring fell off Bruce Willis’ finger. Within an instant, everyone began to shout his name from the rooftops. He was the next big thing. Set aside some stone, his face is going up there.

Following The Sixth Sense, we got a nerd movie with a Shyamalan twist in Unbreakable. This guy can’t miss!

Then came a rather tragic and circuitous trek of his career. The next five movies began a ‘Meh’ fest of indulgence. They all began the same: “Oh, he’s back. This is going to be it.” But they all ended the same: “The hell?!”

Signs. The Village. Lady in the Water. The Happening. 

Each film was gradually worse than its predecessor. Throwing caution into the wind, Shyamalan went all-in on what the critics were saying and how the fans were fanning with The Last Airbender. 

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Good Night!

This is one of the dumbest movies made in recent memory. I would rather see Earth, Wind, and Fire geriatric reunion tour than these dingy elements. What was he thinking?

Hollywood was begging him to find his magic again. Pleading with him to find the top-secret, spoiler proof ender like he was known for presenting. Annnnnd… here comes After Earth. 

It’s bad enough the movie made watching the Kardashians seem like quality viewing. This was Will Smith’s idea, one that Night should have put back in the future genie’s bottle. What was he thinking listening to the Fresh Prince?!

The mystery was he knew what people wanted from him. Instead of going to that light of acceptance and profitability, he ran from it like a current president from common sense.

So, he left.

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Is he back?

For two years, M. Night Shyamalan took a sabbatical. Maybe he went to the islands and chilled. Perhaps he locked himself in his media room and began watching pictures from the aforementioned mountainous gaggle of directors. Who knows.

What is known is that he came back swinging. In 2015, he had $5 million to make a movie so he goes the indie route with Blumhouse and profited $93 million with The VisitThis is easily one of the most underrated movies of the year then.

So, he’s gaining a little momentum. Not so much with pretzel-knot twists in the plot, but surprising nonetheless. (If you saw Visit, you know.) In his spare time, he was executive producer of a cult-followed show on FOX called Wayward PinesAgain, no cliffhanger but a tinge of mystery to you coming back for more.

Night wanted more, and he’s feeling himself again, so why not?

Here comes SplitThe trailers showed James McAvoy brilliantly portraying more personalities than Britney Spears on X at a rave. The movie was self-funded — Night used $9 million of his own from his ‘I See Dead People’ piggy bank. This… this could be the one. And, in old-school Shyamalan fashion, he knew something we didn’t know.

The movie made more than $280 million at the box office. He brought Night’s name back to headlines in a good way. Here’s one-time guy behind a superhero / supervillain movie taking a page from Marvel’s book — with a post-credits scene that got people shouting louder than anything in the movie!

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Yeah, he’s back.

No one. Not one person saw that coming! The scene was 16 years in the making and it paid off in spades. There he is, the working man’s superhero David Dunn, drinking coffee and grizzly telling the woman in the diner, “Mr. Glass.”

Finally, we are getting the sequel! And just like with the powerhouse movie that brought Shyamalan to us, no one ruined the ending. It was out of respect than anything. Two movies creates a mash-up for a sequel. It was genius.

Now that Glass is out (more about that in a second), we see the kind of cerebral moviemaking powers this one-time considered guru possesses. Have you seen why he chose those colors in the Glass poster?

Hear from the man himself:

 

 

 

Much like with most things he does (again, no telling what was going on with Airbender and Earth), there is a true method to his madness. He truly is a savant for symbolism, only the depths of his storytelling gets drowned out by the hype and ballyhoo what people want from his movies — that serpentine tale ending with a twist.

Is he, really?

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FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m a Night fan. I haven’t seen Glass yet. No fear of spoilers here.

I have; however, read reviews. Rotten Tomatoes can make juice or pizza sauce for all I care. Most of those reviewers are angst-ridden hipsters who would rather sip a latte to an Indie than buy a Coke during a blockbuster.

Yet, there are some reviewers–respected minds of movie making–that aren’t delivering the glowing reviews for Glass as people would want, much to the chagrin of this reporter.

Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

In his past work, [M. Night Shyamalan]’s displayed a wonderful knowledge of cinematic language, and a masterful control of the camera. But none of that is on display in Glass, which only has a few memorable shots spliced into a visually bland, flat space.

Chris Nashawaty, EW

That playful air of the unexpected is mostly missing from Glass. We’ve been here before, now there’s just more of it. Yes, it’s easy to be impressed by the world that Shyamalan has created and now fleshed out, but it would be nice if we were also moved to feel something too. In the end, Glass is more half empty than half full.

John DeFore, THR

Is Glass the least satisfying chapter of an often enjoyable, conceptually intriguing trilogy? Or is it an attempt to launch a broader Shyamalaniverse, in which ordinary men and women throughout Philadelphia and its suburbs will discover their own inspiring abilities?

Sam Adams, Slate

On a purely practical level, Glass is drawn-out and disjointed, with disparate plot threads (some of them leading to, yes, a perfunctory rug pull) that seem dictated more by its stars’ availability than narrative cohesion.

Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Yet the movie, watchable as it is, is still a disappointment, because it extends and belabors the conceits of “Unbreakable” without the sensation of mystical dark discovery that made that film indelible. “Glass” is a sequel that feels more dutiful than necessary. It turns the earlier film’s ominous pop poetry into over explicit blockbuster prose.

See that obstruction ahead? Not the close one. The one way off in the distance? That is a huge fork in the road — one Shyamalan is approaching. Does he go left and make piss poor movies without his signature? Or, will he go right and continue to make movies his way?

nightThe man clearly has talent as a story teller. He truly has a passion for making movies that make people talk and experience something. The question M. Night Shyalaman is “What does he want them saying when they leave the theater?”

Night has experienced both the magic of a glass slipper fitting when no one expecting his foot to slide in Hollywood in the first place. He has also felt the effect of a shattered dream leaving movies altogether.

He made a comeback, so he’s focused. Whether or not the third of the Shyamaverse troika sucks or not, he deserves fans to hang on because much like his first go-round, what happens after involving Mr. Glass will show which fork he takes.

We can only hope he chooses wisely before that glass ceiling comes crashing down on him once and for all.

 

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