The thought of James Cameron spending $300 million on Avatar is outrageous, but for some reason, M. Night Shyamalan getting $280 million -$130 million for marketing, $150 million for production – for The Last Airbender seems downright ridiculous. Cameron spends big, but delivers big; with Shyamalan, that’s not always the case, especially recently. Okay, despite getting trounced by the critics The Happening did manage to take in $163.4 million worldwide, but $280 million still seems like too much to gamble on a filmmaker that can’t guarantee quality.
Plus, the guy is in a total slump. Ever since Signs, he’s fallen further and further. The Village isn’t terrible, but far from the caliber of his previous work, Lady in the Water is just plain old silly and then there’s The Happening, which is almost laughable. Increasing the odds against Shyamalan hitting it big with Airbender is the fact that he’s got zero experience in the genre. His films are dark, mysterious and famous for their twists; Airbender is based on a Nickelodeon cartoon. This is also the first film Shyamalan directed that isn’t based on his own original idea.
Now the obvious question is, will it be worth it? I’ve got high hopes this could be Shyamalan’s critical comeback, but it’s hard to picture Airbender amassing enough of a haul at the box office to justify the expense. This seems like a project that could suffer a similar fate to Percy Jackson. The kids might come running, but for those without little ones, they’ll likely opt for more mature fare. However, Shyamalan did say that “the movie is less slapsticky and more epic and darker” as compared to the source material. Hindering its chances even further is that it’s up against the monster of all current film franchises, The Twilight Saga. Yes, Eclipse will have a head start opening on the 30th and get some of the Twihards out of the way, but it’s really considered a guaranteed success at the box office and the fact that early critical buzz has been positive will only make it more profitable and Shyamalan is well aware of this. He said, “I’m hoping after they see Eclipse, they’ll come see our movie.”
M. Night, the pressure is on.
By Perri Nemiroff (via The LA Times)