How many chances is M. Night Shyamalan going to get to direct a big-budget movie without making it toe-curlingly horrible? The Indian-American filmmaker proved he had the talent to put together an entertaining narrative with The Sixth Sense, though audiences are still waiting for Shyamalan to recreate that magic. They have been waiting for a long time.
There were flashes of quality in his two efforts after the Bruce Willis horror-drama, Signs and Unbreakable, though both suffered from sequences that bordered on the ridiculous. The dip in form continued with The Village (2004) though reached a terrifying low with Lady in the Water (2006) - or so we thought.
The Happening, starring Zooey Deschanel and Mark Wahlberg, prompted the New Republic to assert, "[A]n astonishment, so idiotic in conception and inept in execution that, after seeing it, one almost wonders whether it was real or imagined," though Shyamalan's career eventually reached its nadir with the infamous Last Airbender (2010) about a 12-year-old boy who provides the last hope of restoring harmony to a land consumed by chaos. "$150,000,000 well wasted. The Last Airbender is an insult to those wanting sophisticated, entertaining or even competent cinema," said Michael Leader of Film4. In his scathing review, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian said, "After the first five seconds, it seems as if you have been watching it for around two-and-a-half hours, and that this time has passed in four-and-a-half days."
After the nightmare that was The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan probably thought all his Christmases had come at once when Sony hired him to direct another $100 million plus blockbuster with Will Smith - what could possibly go wrong? Well, everything, apparently. After Earth is on the verge of losing the studio tens of millions after failing to land the top spot at the box-office. A score of just 11% on reviews aggregating website Rotten Tomatoes is dangerously close to Last Airbender territory and this was without Shyamalan's presence on the promotional trail.
It's perhaps no surprise that the filmmaker is headed into TV with the 2014 drama series Wayward Pines, though respected actor Matt Dillon and Oscar winning actress Melissa Leo probably have more to lose than the director from Puducherry.
Watch the trailer for After Earth:
Mel Gibson [L] Starred In M. Night Shymalan's 'Signs,' While Zooey Deschanel [R] Appeared In 'The Happening'
Will Smith [L] Stars In 'After Earth', Which Pulled In Only Marginally Better Reviews Than 'The Last Airbender', Starring Dev Patel [R]