I think it's fair to say that this is the last hurrah for M. Night Shyamalan. Still coasting on the stunning success of The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan has spent the last decade producing a lethal string of films that would have killed the career of almost anyone else. I almost think the guy is utilizing some sort of Indian curse or incantation to prop up his flagging career. How else would someone explain the enormous sum of money thrown at him to produce a big screen adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender? After The Lady In The Water and The Happening, I wouldn't give Shyamalan a dollar bill to go 'round the corner and buy me a coffee. Even Hitchcock would have been tossed out on his fat ass had he defecated himself so publicly. Although the film isn't slated to hit theaters until this summer, test screenings are already taking place. This is probably due to nervous studio executives desperately trying to determine if Shyamalan has anything left in the financial tank. But two early reviews that have appeared on Aint It Cool News seem to leave everyone even more confused than before about this film. Here's the highest praise the positive review could muster:
Overall, I think they have a fun-to-watch summer movie here. Id put it more on the Narnia level rather than the Lord of the Rings level, but still it has a nice feel to it and unlike most of the other test screenings Ive been to, Im actually really looking forward to watching this one again when released to see how it looks in the end, and hoping I am not as bothered by (Jackson) Rathbone then.
Meanwhile, the negative review is quite nasty:
This was some of the most wooden acting I've ever seen. The lead child actor was the main culprit and he seemed amateurish compared to some of the others, his two friends weren't much better. Out of the adult actors, the guy who portrayed Commander Zhao should never be allowed to act again. His line reading was atrocious, especially when acting next to others such as Cliff Curtis (although he's been better) and Dev Patel ...There were also some weird scenes here and there interjected throughout the movie. An oddly miss-placed scene featuring a foot massage as well as some corny attempts setting up romances. One scene that I laughed at (but was intended to be serious) is when a certain baddy punches a fish to death. The horror the horror!
Meanwhile, to counter the negative word of mouth, Paramount is releasing their Super Bowl spot early. It's an effective trailer full of interesting money shots. It also mimics the tone of the trailers for Clash of the Titans, which is unwelcome. The trailer is embedded after the jump: So what do we say about M. Night Shyamalan and his prospects with this film? I can tell you that I get a slight queasiness seeing Shyamalan listed as a writer for this film; I'm just not sure the guy can write something objectively anymore. There is a slight bit of hope that adapting someone else's material will prevent him from indulging in the self-absorbed nonsense that has plagued his other films. Neither review seems to slam Shyamalan himself, so perhaps he will escape unscathed. We shall see. I really hate to dog on Shyamalan, because I really think he is a visual stylist who knows how to build tension. But I haven't really liked a film of his since Unbreakable, and even the last five minutes of that film made me angry. Almost every film since then has eroded my confidence in him even further; the "swing away at water glasses" bullshit in Signs, the substandard Twilight Zone crap in The Village, and on and on. Can a children's film really hope to help Shyamalan regain his touch?
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