Let's Talk About M. Night
Poor M. Night Shama*&^^%%*. Either people love him way too much (The Sixth Sense) or they just don't understand him at all.
I personally have a huge amount of respect for the guy. He's a unique storyteller trapped in a segment of the artistic community that is overly fond of the bland and the repetitve. I don't think movie industry people know what to do with someone who is just a pure bard--who loves stories for the sake of the tale.
There's a bit of the same reluctance in commercial fiction....M. Night's ink and paper counterpart is probably Greg Iles. Both of these men seem to enjoy crafting good narratives with interesting characters, and they both seem to resist genre repetitiveness. Which hurts them--that is to say it hurts their backers commercially.
I've spent enough time in marketing to know that Branding Is Key and Loyalty Is Hard To Win But Easy To Lose and Blue Is Always On Trend. So if you've got to sell a book or a movie, conventional wisdom would seem to say that you go with what has worked in the past. If The Sixth Sense guy has a new movie, by all means sell that film to the public in just that Golden Arches way. Tell them that this movie is created by the same guy who made that thriller a few years ago. And sell it as a thriller.
That's what the Film Marketing Machine has done to MNS' entire body of work subsequent to The Sixth Sense. And now, finally, with The Lady In The Water, their adulterous attempts have caught up with them. People aren't going to pay gate prices for yet another mis-marketed fiasco. Especially not with the bitter aftertaste of The Breakup fresh in their mouths. Films that are sold as "funny" are actually dark and depressing, and films that are sold as thrillers are actually nice love stories about slightly crazy cult groups in Villages.
So M. Night Shama&%%^( is left with a mis-sold body of work. I imagine that 20 years will put enough distance between the audiences and the marketing teams. Perhaps then his films will be appreciated upon their individual merits.
Greg Iles' publishers and agents finally got wise to marketing him solely as "Greg Iles" and his books as "Greg Iles' Books". So the WWII novels move just as well as the thrillers and the science fiction he turns out. Readers and publishers have come to know and trust the man and his talent. It would be nice if Hollywood would learn that lesson and let moviegoers experience MNS' work the same way.