Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Good night, M. Night: Shyamalan's Futility

I unfortunately had the mispleasure of seeing M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender recently. I knew it would be awful but I was unprepared at just how awful it was.

I'd seen the animated series upon which the movie is based. The show is rich in storytelling, characters and imagination. It's great for all ages and pretty epic. The movie is none of that. I don't want to spend too much time criticizing the movie, but M. Night has successfully stripped away everything that made the show exciting and charming and instead made a movie consisting exclusively of poorly delivered exposition where stuff just seems to...happen...randomly, from one scene to the next. Just awful.

All this got me thinking, how does this man still get to make movies. And more than that, why do studios allow him to put his name above the title, as if he's a selling point. At this point, his name deters people from seeing his movies. Does his output still make money worldwide? Is that why he's allowed to continue, unchecked?

I had some time on my hands so I put together a list of the movies he's directed, versus their Rotten Tomatoes score, worldwide box office take, budget, and profit to the studio (which roughly amounts to 55% of the worldwide box office). Finding advertising budgets was the most difficult part, but I did my best internet sleuthing to come up with my figures.

To wit:

Movie RT rating Worldwide gross Budget (production + marketing) Studio's take Profit
Wide Awake (1998)41%$1,288,000$6M$0.7M($5.3M)
The Sixth Sense (1999)85%$672.8M$65M$370.0M$305.0M
Unbreakable (2000)68%$248.1M$101.5M$136.5M$35.0M
Signs (2002)74%$408.2M$110.7M$224.5M$113.8M
The Village (2004)43%$256.7M$116.0M$141.2M$25.1M
Lady in the Water (2006)23%$72.8M$150.0M$40.0M($110.0M)
The Happening (2008)18%$163.4M$130.0M$89.9M($49.1M)
The Last Airbender (2010)6%$319.7M$280.0M$175.8M($104.2M)

I rounded the figures to the nearest tenth of a million. So there you have it, his last 3 movies have cost the studios around $250M. Incredible. Is it any wonder that each of those 3 movies was produced by a different studio? Nobody wants anything to do with him after a flop. Looks like Night is running out of studios to burn.

One thing I learned about movies from this exercise is that marketing budgets are often almost equal to production budgets. Most astounding is The Last Airbender's advertising budget: of that $280M total budget, $130M of it was for marketing.


Is it any wonder why this man has no future credits listed on his IMDb page?