So the last few years haven’t been good for one Manoj (that’s “M.” for short) Night Shyamalan. The trouble all started with The Village, which was genuinely creepy but lost audiences with bait and switch marketing and yet another twist ending that deflated almost all of the preceding narrative. Lady in the Water, commendable for its intent, failed to connect with anyone but the actors, ego and monkey tree-things it cut paychecks for. The Happening… wince.
So yeah, yeah, M. Night has hit the skids as of late. Not because he’s a bad director– as his early catalog attests, the dude’s deliberate and fantastic when he wants to be– but because the guy became way too reliant on his ability to surprise and overconfident in his increasingly egocentric and convoluted storytelling ability.
What M. Night needed was a reinvention via 3rd party material. With The Last Airbender, he’s been given his chance at that reinvention and cinematic redemption. While Airbender isn’t really high-concept (it’s based on a Nickelodeon cartoon, after all) the conceit of “Elemental Nations” of Fire, Water, Air and Earth at war is interesting enough to put it up on the radar. But will it connect? The mystical martial arts Asian genre feels spent and the overly cliched voiceover doesn’t help in that regard, but I have confidence in M. Night’s skills and like the trailer’s tease.
C’mon ol’ buddy, don’t let us down.