M. Night Shyamalan

If you were to ask most people why The Last Airbender got so much hate, they’d probably respond with another question: “Where to begin?” Viewers slammed the live-action fantasy for its muddy visuals, its wooden acting, its incoherent plot, its stilted dialogue… and let’s not even get into the whitewashing controversy that surrounded the casting.

If you asked director M. Night Shyamalan, however, he’d have a very different reply. In an old interview, the filmmaker complains that critics just don’t “get” him and his “European sensibility.” Hit the jump to watch his explanation.

The interview’s a few years old, but has been making the rounds on the Internet recently. Given what we know now, it’s a little bittersweet to hear him asked about the sequel that never got made. Showbiz 411 originally posted the video.

Here’s a transcript if you’d rather just do a quick scan:

I don’t know what’s going on with me and the critics in the United States, I gotta tell you. Something’s going on.

They’ve never got me, and it’s getting worse. It’s almost like, go away. I also think I’m getting more, you know, influenced by other cultures more, as you could see from the movie. So I’m not doing like a straight-up American movie anymore. The tonalities are changing. I always had a European sensibility to my movies. The pacing is always a little bit off for them, and it feels a little stilted, and they need more electricity and all that stuff.

And I’m like, this is the way I think of things. ‘Cause, you know, Hitchcock and Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick, these are my teachers. So it could be a little bit of that, that there’s just a little bit of cultural difference. Just like on this movie, I’m very used to getting on a plane from the U.S., having been savaged by them, and then going to, like in this case, I went to Japan next, and then they’re like, “Genius!”

You can lose your mind a little bit, going on Saturday from being an idiot to Sunday being a genius. But it gives you perspective. But luckily for me, it’s not something I can fight. It’s not my fight to fight. I’m defenseless, it’s the audience, if they choose to fight for me, then they fight for me. And they have through my career, and I’m honored to have that relationship with them. And I’ll keep fighting for that relationship. And maybe, 20 years from now, I’ll get a good review, I’ll sit here together, and be like, “I got a good review! Woohoo!”

In Shyamalan’s defense, of course he isn’t going to admit his movie sucks during its promotional tour. Still, there has to have been a better way to respond to the criticism. Namedropping iconic filmmakers and insisting that the Japanese think he’s a genius just open him to further scorn.

Moreover, it’s not remotely true that American critics have “never” understood him. The Sixth Sense earned six Oscar nominations, and Unbreakable and Signs got solid reviews. But his reputation has plummeted drastically since then, to the extent that the ad campaign for After Earth barely mentioned his name at all. (Not that it helped.)

Although Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender didn’t get a sequel, its source material has lived on. The cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender yielded a sequel, The Legend of Korra, which kicks off its second season this weekend on Nickelodeon.

As with any beloved series, there’s some worry that the new season might not be as good as the last. Perhaps, then, fans can use the video above to calm their nerves. After all, Season 2 of Korra can’t possibly be worse than The Last Airbender, right?

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