It’s been a long and frustrating ride with M. Night Shyamalan, the once golden-boy of Hollywood cinema who promised so much with his earlier films, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Everything that came after that left me – and a large chunk of the discerning movie-loving public – entirely cold.
So I won’t be watching The Last Airbender. Ever.
Some might find the instant dismissal of a film (regardless of the uniformly depressing reviews) to be a little harsh. But we’ve got to start being firm with this guy! Despite consistent bad reviews, he insists on continuing to ruin perfectly good concepts with his clunky, underwhelming writing.
Of course, there are plenty of people making crappy movies. Why pick on M. Night? What did he ever do to me? Well, his crimes (as I see them) are three fold:
1. In this instance, he took an existing property that I love. I watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, an American cartoon series made in the style and tradition of the Asian cartoons known as Anime, from start to finish last year. It’s an epic story set in a well-realised world filled with imaginative (and funny) characters.
Yet, despite his previous shortcomings, I was hopeful M. Night could turn it around given a solid existing story. I didn’t do my research, it turns out, as M.Night foolishly took on the writing responsibilities for the film. Which brings me on to point 2…
2. The thing that’s always bugged me about M. Night is that he is a good director. Hollywood doesn’t really have many directors who are comparable in terms of visual artistry. Take The Lady in the Water, for example. Sure, it’s a bizarrely meandering, kind of pointless film, but it looks great. He’s always been great at injecting an element of the fantastic into an otherwise normal environment; the apartment complex where Lady takes place is as mundane as they come, yet it becomes a place where magic can happen.
And still he continues to insist upon writing his own films. Which is a shame, because he’s not a good writer. One of the main criticisms directed at The Last Airbender is that the exposition is clunky and confusing, which is ridiculous given the simplicity of the parent material. Why couldn’t he let someone else write it?
3. The man clearly has a vivid imagination and is capable of coming up with excellent concepts for films. With Signs, I loved the idea of watching a single families reaction to mankind’s first contact with alien life. Excellent idea, poor execution. More than anything, I hate to see a good concept wasted on an underwhelming film. A film like The Village irritates me so much more than, say, Transformers 2.
So, for these reasons, I won’t be watching The Last Airbender. I don’t want to see a world I enjoyed spending a great deal of time in ruined. And I want M. Night to move on and direct movies written by competent writers. Even if he gets someone else to pen his own concepts, that would be better than dealing with the ongoing death of his career (at least artistically – thanks to strong box office figures, he won’t be out of a job any time soon).