'After Earth' Movie: Everything M. Night Shyamalan Touches is a Failure

As an old school horror film aficionado, M. Night Shyamalan showed great promise to me when he first appeared on the Hollywood scene. I liked horror films for the suspense they created out of lighting, pacing, and music. M. Night did just that in The Sixth Sense. It was a great start to his career and I was so excited to see if his future films would deliver on this hope he had bestowed upon me. Sadly, that did not happen. Instead, Hollywood billed his films as having a twist ending, or some other kind of gimmick. It killed the appeal of his films from a critical standpoint. Many film critics hate gimmicks, and I count myself among that number.

Despite that assessment, M. Night Shyamalan continued to produce some thought-provoking films. Unbreakable was a very clever way to approach something that other directors would have run away from: a super hero film. Doesn’t that sound bizarre today? It’s true though. I think a lot of fans wanted another Horror film from Shymalan and thus were disappointed in Unbreakable. I wasn’t and I still consider it a great film.

After Unbreakable failed to achieve mass success (I guess), M. Night gave us Signs.  I don’t care what other critics have to say or even what many so-called fans of M. Night had to say, Signs was brilliant. Sci-fi themed departure for Shyamalan, but what a cast and creepier than all get out! Some folks bash M. Night for being in the film and demonstrating his lack of acting talent in the process. Regardless, Signs was fairly successful in both the critic’s eyes and in box office revenue.

Signs was followed by The Village. The casting was better than Signs, and some of the acting was even superior. Here, M. Night seemed to be returning to Horror (which was really Suspense) but alas, that was not the case. True to his “twist endings” gimmick, The Village had a doozy of an ending. Fairly brilliant, but the gimmick had run its course. The jig was up. The Village fell hard.

And then … came The Happening. Arguably one of the worst films ever made, The Happening has been bashed thoroughly by seemingly everyone willing to devote any time to criticize it. It is at this point that I ceased to believe in or even defend M. Night. The love affair with this “brilliant” director was over, and not just for me.

He got worse. Shyamalan then gave us The Lady in Water as a tribute to his children. Who cares about this nonsensical modern-day fairy tale? It was an atrocity, without question. He turned right around and butchered The Last Airbender.  I thought it was finally over here. Since he couldn’t even adapt a popular anime series to the big screen, what future could he have? 

Apparently, Hollywood thinks he still has something to offer. He is now at the helm of the latest Will Smith debacle After Earth. I haven’t seen it and I have no intention of doing so. Sadly, M. Night Shyamalan’s films have gotten so bad that I simply have no desire to view them … even if they are free. I think Will Smith. I like Jaden Smith too. I like science fiction films. Today though, this director is now a poison. Whatever he touches has been ruined long before it hits the screens and I feel badly about that. 

According to at least one review, After Earth isn’t awful but also isn’t being touted as a great film either. That’s enough to secure this film as one of this summer’s DOA (dead on arrival) films. I hate to sound so harsh when speaking about someone that I once held in such high regard, but that’s the truth of it. 

It is my sincere hope that Shyamalan will return to the thought-provoking and clever storytelling that got him going in the first place. Maybe he shouldn’t do a horror film, but showed such great promise with the Sixth Sense that I still hold out hope that he will deliver in this genre once more. After Earth may be a great film and I will root for M. Night’s praise to be sung once more.  It won’t be with this latest film of his apparently, but I will never know. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Jef Cliber

Avid fan of Star Wars, fantasy, and comic books, Jef is a classically-trained studio artist that works in theater management and is a published movie critic.

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