Ross Douthat:

Time has not been kind to the defense of M. Night Shyamalan that I penned four summers ago, just before the release of his first true stinker of a movie, "Lady in the Water." Not that I would take those arguments back, exactly: I'm still happy to defend all of his pre-"Lady" work, the much-derided "The Village" included, against the many critics who soured on Shyamalan earlier on. But if you describe someone as "a filmmaker of rare talent and creativity," as I did, and then they follow your vote of confidence by releasing "Lady," "The Happening," and now "The Last Airbender" (currently the worst-reviewed movie of the summer, below "Furry Vengeance" and "Sex in the City 2″) on an unsuspecting public ... well, let's just say I wouldn't blame anyone who cited Shyamalan as exhibit A in the case against my critical acumen.

But somewhere deep down, I still harbor a faint hope that M. Night will hit bottom and find a way bounce back up. Maybe he needs to direct someone else's script, or write rather than direct (as he did with the excellent "Stuart Little," back when he was starting out in Hollywood), or just have a come-to-Jesus moment where he faces up to the fact that he's been churning out pure dreck for going on five years. But the problem is that first he'd have to actually realize that he's hit bottom -- which makes it discouraging that he hasn't yet produced a true box office flop.

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