Do you remember (it might even have been September) the first time that you saw THE SIXTH SENSE and were utterly blown away by this film from a director was clearly something of a genius?
How times have changed. With the release of M Night Shyamalan's THE LAST AIRBENDER garnering the kind of critical abuse unprecedented by even his standards we have to ask where it all went wrong and why the man considered most likely to succeed is now Hollywood's favourite pinata replacement.
Nobody likes a smart arse and Mr Shyamalan has never been backward in coming forward and telling everyone what a genius he is. In THE LADY IN THE WATER he cast himself as the man whose writing would save the whole of humanity! When he burst on the scene with the hugely successful SIXTH SENSE then he would have put a lot of more established noses out of joint, but it was a brillliant film. After all, he wrote, produced and directed it all himself. What a (talented) git!
Then came UNBREAKABLE, also starring Bruce Willis and another tricksy tale that proves to be a smart comic book origin story with another nice twist. THE VILLAGE was nicely put together with some scary moments, but it suffered from a twist that made it all a bit silly in retrospect and SIGNS was also a bit silly, but it was creepy too and had some major good jumpy bits.
Then came THE LADY IN THE WATER and the downward spiral began. This was Shyamalan's most personal project, based on a story that he told his kids, according to the hype. That's all well and good, but a bedtime story isn't necessarily what you want to base a film on and this film appealed neither to adults nor to kids. It was probably well received in the Shyamalan household, though. This was the film where everyone suddenly felt safe venting their envy and the bashing began.
It was THE HAPPENING, though, that took the sport of Shyamalan bashing to stellar levels. Sure, it was not a great film. It wasn't even a good film, but it had some supremely creepy moments at the start and some good jump moments in it as well. There were much worse films that the critics could have taken their spleens out to wipe all over, but it was Shyamalan and so it got far worse than it deserved. After all, the man who made THE SIXTH SENSE is capable of so much better.
And so we come to THE LAST AIRBENDER, which has had some gleeful savaging. We've not seen it, but feel confident that it's not as bad as everyone seems to think. It's a kids' movie and it doesn't seem to be being reviewed in that spirit.
M Night Shyamalan is the cinematic whipping boy of the moment. He needs to quit writing, directing and producing his own films and either write films for someone else or direct films that someone else has written. That way, he can't take all the blame himself.
M. Night Shyamalan Vista Series Collection (The Sixth Sense/Signs/Unbreakable)