M. Night Shyamalan have taken a critical lashing for his latest film, The Last Airbender, but it doesn’t seem to be discouraging him. In an interview with MTV, the director revealed that he has already begun to work on the next two installments of the film franchise. His plans for the third film are still vague, but for the second he intends to take the bold creative step of making the film “darker and richer” than the first. Shyamalan also revealed that he had cut the Kiyoshi Warriors, a female fighting force, from the first film but would be including them in the second in an expanded role, along with Princess Azula, who he described as the series’ “real, pure antagonist.”
Shyamalan may be optimistic, but the future of the next Airbender film is still in doubt. Despite the film’s overwhelmingly negative reviews, it has made over $79 million domestically in the week and a half since it’s been released. Word-of-mouth has been known to kill movies on their second weekends, however, and the film is still from making up it’s supposed $150 million price tag and equally large advertising budget. Critical hatred won’t stop Paramount from making a sequel as long as the original is profitable, (which is why there’s still a Transformers series), but hopefully the sheer level of disgust for Shyamalan’s handling of this project will make them reconsider their choice in director.
While it would be nice to think that the critical lambasting would help Shyamalan get his act together, it seems like he’s missed the point somewhat. One of the many failures of the film was its inability to capture the original show’s signature humor, which was replaced with an unfailingly dour tone. So his plan to make the next film even darker (which is, admittedly, in keeping with the original show) seems misguided. Not to mention the fact that The Last Airbender fails at the most basic of filmmaking criteria; from having dialogue that makes sense, to giving the characters any defining characteristics, to even directing the actors so that they react to each other and don’t stare out into space whenever anyone else is speaking. We know that it’s possible for Shyamalan to make good movies, or at least mediocre movies, but Paramount may do better to hire itself a second-year film student to make the sequel and save themselves some money.