M. Night Shyamalan: A Conundrum of Misguided Talent

7/10/2010 Posted by Admin

M. Night Shyamalan: A Conundrum

By our guest blogger, Joel Crabtree

Once in a while, critics take it upon themselves to put someone in their place--when an individual film becomes a secondary concern to a career spiraling out of control. Recently, reviewers stepped in once again to make sure writer-director-producer-oracle M. Night Shyamalan got a mass in-print spanking for “The Last Airbender” a la Ben Affleck post “Gigli” and “Surviving Christmas.”

With Shyamalan, it's an opportunity that many have been waiting for since “Signs” … or “The Village” … or “Lady in the Water,” depending on how quick they jumped off the bandwagon. Either way, Shyamalan has been cruising for this bruising for years now, with many critics referring to the trifecta of “The Village,” “Lady in the Water” and “The Happening” (or as some call it, “The Crappening,” real mature guys) as the beginning of the end for the director.

I strongly disagree with that. It's obvious that M. Night's career was going down when SyFy (formerly known as The Sci-Fi Channel) aired “The Buried Secrets of M. Night Shyamalan.” The hoax claimed after an accident as a boy, M. Night could communicate with spirits. No matter how bad his films are panned, he will never make anything as embarrassing as “The Buried Secrets.” The faux documentary by Nathaniel Kahn, which was made to promote “The Village,” is one secret I'm sure Shyamalan would love to bury. It's definitely worth watching for a laugh.

You could also blame Shyamalan's recent failure on his ego. Or better yet, on the pressure placed on him by studios (and probably himself) to always top his previous efforts--ironically driving his career into the ground in the process. Maybe the source material, “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” isn't easily translatable to film.  “Dragonball Evolution,” another anime-based film, certainly had that problem.

No matter what the reason, it's clear that M. Night is at a crossroads in his career. Critics, and many movie-goers, are at the end of their rope with his shtick. At this point, he has two basic options: Adapt or fade away. I would recommend the latter.

Take two or three years off, relax, and return as a more mature filmmaker who is no longer marred by being on critics' Most Wanted list. If Shyamalan leaps into another project immediately, the Internet will be abuzz with trash talk before it even goes into production. He should wait, and let “The Last Airbender's” dust settle. When he does return, maybe he should delegate some of the responsibilities to others.  You know, like getting someone to polish up the screenplay.

Now, here's my twist ending. No matter what critics say of him, I will stand by this statement: M. Night Shyamalan is a smart man and usually a smart filmmaker. The response to “Airbender” has probably been a humbling experience for him, and I would hope that he's learned something from it. Whatever Shyamalan's next move might be, it's certain that all eyes will be on him yet again.

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