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Creator: M. Night Shyamalan

"Perhaps Shyamalan wanted to be a 21st-century George A Romero. Instead I'm afraid he is turning into Ed Wood Jr."

M. Night Shyamalan (born Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan in Pondicherry, India on August 6, 1970) was raised in Philadelphia, where he has also set and filmed most of his movies. M. Night Shyamalan's first two feature films were Praying with Anger, released in 1992, and Wide Awake, released in 1998, both of which had heavy religious themes and were modestly received but not exceptionally successful.

He ended up writing a screenplay inspired by an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, a Nickelodeon show. Shopping this script around, it became famous for a bidding war and being snatched up by a Disney representative for an obscene amount of money without consulting his executives. This movie became the surprise mega-hit The Sixth Sense (1999), which featured a well-planned Twist Ending that was so widely talked-about that everyone knows it now.

Oh, and speaking of 1999: Shyamalan also wrote the screenplay for Stuart Little and ghostwrote the script for the film She's All That. (It just took him until 2013 to admit to the latter.)

His fourth film, Unbreakable (2000), is often overlooked as it's not the mega-hit that Sixth Sense was, though it was still well-received. Although it likely started the 'realistic' comic book films years before Batman Begins, it was viewed as low-key and 'normal', to the point that many people are unaware he directed it. This film also had a Twist Ending, and may have started the pattern for his movies to follow, which ended up creating a very negative Hype Backlash with every movie to follow.

Signs (2002) is the first of his films to receive extensive mockery, centering around the now patented Twist Ending. Despite this, it was still very popular in cinemas and was his second-most-successful movie at the box office. It was also the last of his films to get a mostly positive reception from critics.

Then there was The Village (2004). And Lady in the Water (2006). And The Happening (2008). The Village had a few defenders and was quite profitable, but was still eviscerated by critics mainly due the ending being too much of a curveball. Lady in the Water broke from the Twist Ending formula (being based on a bedtime story for his children), but became the point where in some circles, he officially degenerated from 'failing director' to 'laughingstock'. His next film, The Happening, was supposed to be his Win Back the Crowd movie, an R-rated horror about an apocalyptic event. It was well-marketed, and more successful commercially, but soon became infamous as a So Bad, It's Good accidental comedy than as a straight-up horror due to its plot being about evil plants.

His next film was The Last Airbender (2010), adapting the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender (an animated show Shyamalan stated he was a great fan of) to the big screen. Many people had reservations about the film based on the previews (being in live action, the stigma against Shyamalan on itself, and Race Lifting the main characters), but the trailers won over many of the skeptics. However, less than one week after the release of the film, it garnered a near-universal negative reaction from both fans and critics alike, currently holding at 6% on Rotten Tomatoes. It's his highest-grossing film since Signs (simply because of the fans of the original TV series, who are clearly shown to regret spending the money for it) but still lost a lot of money because of its huge budget and marketing costs.

Shyamalan still has an outstanding deal with Media Rights Capital to produce — but not direct — one film a year for the next three years. The first of these, The Night Chronicles: Devil, was released in September 2010. Trailers initially played up Shyamalan's involvement in the film, but due to negative reaction, his name was not prominently featured in later trailers. His next film was a Will Smith vehicle called After Earth; notably, the trailer for After Earth made absolutely no mention of Shyamalan's involvement. It wasn't quite as reviled as The Last Airbender, getting 11% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it was a commercial flop (and a movie with Will Smith is usually guaranteed to be a success) and has been compared to Battlefield Earth, sometimes even being called a worse, or at least less interesting movie.

Some people wonder why Shyamalan has never made a sequel to Unbreakable, one of his better-received hits; at the time, Shyamalan insisted he would only use his Auteur License to make original works, not sequels. What Could Have Been...


Tropes:

  • Auteur License: The runaway success of The Sixth Sense granted him the ability to make his quirky films without hindrance until his second straight flop resulted in his license being revoked. Nickelodeon probably gave him one for The Last Airbender, but he didn't keep it for After Earth.
  • Biography/Mockumentary: Sci-Fi Network made one of him. It was weird. Highlights included a near-death experience from drowning (which may explain why Unbreakable, Lady in the Water, and Signs all have lakes and rivers as a motif), that most of his films are set within fifty miles of each other, and that pictures with him in it had some odd light distortion.
  • Color Motif: His films often use bright colors like red and yellow to emphasize the supernatural or otherwise scary or shocking elements in a scene. This is particularly noticeable in Unbreakable (which also uses the colors green and purple to isolate the characters played by Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson).
  • Creator Cameo: Shyamalan is noteworthy for appearing in his own movies. With the exception of Lady in the Water,note  he tends to portray either villainous characters or characters who have a negative impact on the protagonist.
  • Dull Surprise: In most of his films the goal has been to make the characters low-key and avoid overacting at all costs. From The Happening on, he has instead taken this trope.
  • I See Dead People: Trope title comes from a line from The Sixth Sense.
  • Lampshade Hanging: He lampshades his common theme of twist endings in Unbreakable, where the young Elijah is handed a comic book by his mother who says "I hear this one ends with a twist".
  • Mandatory Twist Ending: Manoj, your movies ARE this trope. At first, they were truly epic, but as time went on, the obligatory twist often made little sense and was just there because it being there is the rule. Also, no matter how good the twist is, it helps immensely if the two hours leading up to it are about something and make sense.

Rod SerlingScreenwritersDavid Simon
Seltzer and FriedbergDirectorsTakashi Shimizu
Paul Anthony ShorttSpeculative Fiction Creator IndexRobert Silverberg

alternative title(s): M Night Shyamalan
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