Hi, Tim here. This weekend sees the release of After Earth, the latest of 2013’s surprisingly well-stocked slate of post-apocalyptic sci-fi thrillers, starring Will and Jaden Smith. These are all things that are proudly trumpeted by the ad campaign. What is conspicuously not trumpeted, proudly or otherwise, is the identity of the film’s director M. Night Shyamalan, who for the first time since his gigantic 1999 breakthrough The Sixth Sense is not mentioned by name in the ad campaign for his latest feature.
This is, undoubtedly, because Shyamalan been steadily pissing away audience goodwill almost since the moment he started earning it, with each new film he’s made being widely regarded as worse than the one preceding it (a steady downward trend on Metacritic, down with just a single blip up on Rotten Tomatoes). With After Earth appearing to flatten or slightly reverse this trend, it’s as good a time as any to explore the exact shape of Shyamalan’s fall in such a relatively short time, trying to figure out exactly how the man anointed as “The Next Spielberg” at a tender age ended up becoming one of modern cinephilia’s greatest punchlines.
THE SIXTH SENSE (1999): Wunderkind