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If you happen to be familiar with this filmmaker's body of work, you know that in recent years, his movies have struggled at the box office, with critics and fans alike. The Sixth Sense. To date, it is probably Shyamalan's most successful film, garnering six Academy Award nominations including the big one, Best Picture. This film also firmly established the director as a formidable force and spoke to his talents in the areas of both screenwriting and directing.
As far as successes go, his films Unbreakable and Signs could be viewed as the last of Shyamalan's films to be included under such an umbrella. From The Village on down to his most recent release of The Last Airbender, which is Shyamalan at the lowest point of his career, it seems that the guy can't catch a break. Perhaps not until now.
For one thing, Shyamalan is not the sole writer of this film, which is based on an idea conceived by Will Smith. He shares screenwriting credits with Gary Whitta, who is known for having written films like the Denzel Washington vehicle, The Book of Eli. Based on that alone, this may not seem like that much of a big deal. However, when you consider that every film he has directed he also wrote, and that his last five films have not done particularly well, that could be one ingredient to making After Earth the first solid success for Shyamalan in years. Perhaps he just needs a break from his own ideas and take part in what could be a liberating experience for him. You might say that this film is an out-of-the-box project, which could be just what he needs to get the creative juices for his own ideas back on track.
Another interesting fact has to do with the marketing of this film. Until now, Shyamalan's name has been used as the key selling point for each film he has directed. With much of the trailers and TV spots his name is seldom featured if at all. For this film, Sony has (perhaps wisely) decided to put Will Smith and son Jaden in the spotlight for the marketing campaign. You could argue that this is really a Smith film as opposed to a Shyamalan film, which could be another ingredient for a positive turn out.
The super charismatic Smith is one of the biggest box office stars today and no matter what your opinions of the director's previous work, Smith can open a film and can do so seemingly on a consistent basis. He will do just that for this film. Consider that many of the films he has starred in have easily grossed over $100 million. Make no mistake, Smith being a part of this project is a huge deal because it means that people are going to see the movie. While the end result may not be as good as The Sixth Sense, it certainly won't be as much of a critical failure as The Last Airbender.
It's probably a given that the film will be a success for Smith and son. Whether the film will bring back many of Shyamalan's lost fans, though there are factors that could make that possible, remains to be seen. We won't really know until the film opens on Friday. At this point, Shyamalan's career path could not get much rougher than it already has, but with Will Smith backing him, it seems like a surefire win.