By most quantitative accounts, 'Devil,' a film conceived by M. Night Shyamalan but written by Brian Nelson and directed by the Dowdle Brothers, isn't off to a very good start. This is not surprising considering Shyamalan's "From the mind of" credit in the trailer eventually became a cue for laughter whenever it played in theaters, but the film opened in third place and has, as of this writing, a forty-one percent fresh rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. However, given a little context, the situation isn't quite so dire.
Yes, 'Devil' is currently rated rotten on RT (a rating my own review disagrees with), but its forty-one percent is a remarkable increase from the abysmal six percent that his recent directorial effort, 'The Last Airbender,' earned earlier this summer. (Note: it's not very fair to compare the box office totals of the two because a kids-friendly, massively marketed movie like 'Airbender' would have had a bigger opening no matter who directed it.) And if we look prior to 'Airbender,' 'Devil' still pulled in better reviews than both 'The Happening' and 'Lady in the Water', neither of which managed to crack a twenty-five percent score. That means as far as the numbers go, Shyamalan is back where he was with 2004's 'The Village.'
So that begs the question, should Shyamalan stick to simply producing movies? Should he take a break from directing himself to usher in fresh blood as part of his new series of Night Chronicles?
A pair of pro/con thoughts:
Shyamalan is a great idea man.
Pro: 'The Sixth Sense,' 'Unbreakable,' 'Signs,' 'The Village' -- all have great concepts due entirely to Shyamalan. He's in love with every aspect of storytelling: The art of it, the history, how important it is to have imagination in our lives. For better or worse, at least Shyamalan is still in love with something most of Hollywood has forgotten about.
Con: As in love with storytelling as Shyamalan is, he does tend to favor one particular style of story. Everything must be in harmony by the end of the story. Unfortunately in order to do so, Shyamalan often must rely on twists to tie it all together and that unifying bow can be a bit too convenient.
Shyamalan will have limited power.
Pro: Shyamalan has been a producer on every single one of his films, but also being the writer and director has given him even more creative control. If you remove those two feathers from his cap, however, and allow other creative agents - be they fellow producers, writers, directors - to flank his perspective, however, then any bad ideas of his (like casting himself in cameo roles) are more likely to be reasoned away.
Con: If you don't think Shyamalan has been doing anything wrong over the last couple years, then the idea of other people keeping his creative genius in check is surely a horrifying one.