Right before critics dropped all sorts of hate on The Last Airbender, news leaked that M. Night Shyamalan was in the middle of setting up his next project: a supernatural thriller with Bruce Willis, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Bradley Cooper loosely attached. It appears that Cooper’s attachment was loose enough that the production for the sequel to The Hangover takes precedence. Shyamalan lamented, “Hangover 2… I don’t think Bradley can do [the movie] because of that.” More after the jump:
Given Shyamalan’s current critical status, it’s no certainty that the project gets a greenlight. If you combine the Rotten Tomatoes scores for his last three films, the combination would still be classified as “rotten”: Lady in the Water (24%) + The Happening (18%) + The Last Airbender (currently 9%) = 51%.
How much does that really matter, though, as long as his films are profitable? Despite a critical drubbing, The Happening earned a respectable $163 million worldwide, letting Shyamalan live to see another today. The director talked to hometown site Philly.com (via /Film) about the realization of an Airbender trilogy:
“A trilogy, that’s the intention, and the hope, but [the first movie] has to do well. So we have to wait and see. I have to get the call that says, go ahead and do it.”
“Critical acclaim” is not part of the equation, and that’s probably realistic.
(Tellingly, Shyamalan seems blissfully unaware that the film is reviled. When Vulture informed the director — who has refrained from reading the reviews — that “the critics have not been kind,” Shyamalan innocently responded, “Are you saying that in general they didn’t dig it?” No, M., they didn’t.)
It’s too soon for a ruling, but The Last Airbender earned $16.4 million on its first day; that’s pretty solid, especially when you factor in the competition. Although, if Airbender is successful, certainly Paramount must know that moving forward with the trilogy sans Shyamalan is an option. The animated series upon which the film is based originated at Nickelodeon, which sits alongside Paramount under the greater Viacom umbrella. With the right treatment, Airbender could be a valuable property for years to come, and the overall protection of the brand may very well take precedence over short term bucks at the box office.
I’m willing to believe that Cooper has legitimate schedule conflicts, but he seems like a savvy guy. When the franchise that launched you is calling, you don’t want to make too much of an effort to board the sinking ship that is S.S. Shyamalan.