I saw a trailer for a promising new thriller called The Devil, but when I learned that Shyamalan was producing it, I was surprised to have a sudden negative reaction. Then I heard from my cousin that he and people in the audience of the movie Inception were also enthralled with the trailer for The Devil until they burst out in boos when the line "From the Mind of M. Night Shyamalan" appeared on screen. The New York Post reports a similar reaction of derision and laughter from audiences in Manhattan.
How can this be? Was I mistaken by Shyamalan's early success? I rewatched those early films -- The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and even Wide Awake and The Village -- and I still enjoyed them. And then I tried to rewatch Lady in the Water and The Happening, but just could not get through them. They were absolutely horrible. Reaction to The Last Airbender, the movie that I had hoped would revive his standing in the eyes of moviegoers, has been awful. Where did everything go so wrong?
In an older blog entry, I listed Shyamalan as one of the "good directors gone bad" (he was top of the list). Despite the naysayers who claim he was never any good, I still stand by his talent -- his early films were a lot of fun to watch. I do not know the reason for his missteps with the last batch of movies he created, but where the early films had great visuals, terrific acting, nice pacing, great surprises, and mostly cohesive storylines, the latter films were all botched messes and tough to sit through.
Have audiences turned their backs on M. Night Shyamalan forever? Will his name on any future project cast doubt on the the quality of the film? Can he repair the damage done to his name? I hope he can redeem himself, because Hollywood still needs auteurs.