Can you feel it? The wind just changed direction, and I have a feeling it's going to be a long time before that wind changes back.
Since the release of "The Sixth Sense," M. Night Shyamalan has been calling his own shots, and he's grown a reputation for himself as a wee bit of a control freak. And by "wee bit," I mean "planet-sized." If you've never read The Man Who Heard Voices, the book that was written by Michael Bamberger about the development and production of "The Lady In The Water," you should. It's an amazing glimpse at a man who is still wracked by insecurity even after having a career-affirming mega-success or two, and who is so wounded by the development process on his early film "Wide Awake" and the unproduced "Labor Of Love" that he has never been able to fully embrace collaboration again.
That may be changing, though, and I consider it very promising news, indeed. When Shyamalan first started gaining momentum in Hollywood, it was because of his skills as a writer. If you go back and look at his early scripts on the page, like "The Sixth Sense" or his draft of "Stuart Little," what comes across first is the economy of his writing, and the elegance of how he could communicate an idea. Over time, he's become more and more confident as a director, but in the process, he's lost touch with his own talents as a writer, and I'd say his last few feature scripts have been the worst work of his career.
With "The Last Airbender," Shyamalan took a big step in adapting someone else's material for the first time. Unfortunately, his script managed to miss everything that made the original show charming and rewatchable, and he may well have killed that franchise dead in the process. This summer, he tried to set up a new original script of his, and I've read lots of speculation about why that movie didn't happen. Since it's not getting made, I feel like it's not really fair to pick on the script, but I'll say this… fans of "The Happening" would have had a field day with this one, and fans of "Signs" or "Unbreakable" would have felt even further out of touch with this once-promising filmmaker.
So now it's time to take that final step and direct a script written by someone else altogether. Gary Whitta wrote "One Thousand A.E." for Overbrook, Will Smith's production company, and it looks like Shyamalan may be directing Jaden Smith in the movie, described as an original sci-fi project.
I'm sure many Shyamalan fans will be upset to hear he's working from someone else's script, but I think it might turn out to be an important step for him. Shyamalan may be an easy target, and he may have made himself into a bit of a professional victim, but in the end, this is a really talented guy who just needs strong collaborators, and it sounds like this might be one of those pivotal moments for a filmmaker.
We'll see, and we'll definitely have more on "One Thousand A.E." as it unfolds.