Since The Happening, though, I've tried to look at and, yes, even appreciate Shyamalan's films as milestones in cinema history. It's incredibly rare that movies this distinctively awful are seen by so many millions of people - nearly all of whom, ironically, would consider them unwatchable. The opening of a Shyamalan film is truly a social phenomenon in my eyes, much different than the latest teen fiction trilogy installment or fanboy-frothworthy video game adaptation.
Ask yourself, how often are you around to witness a formerly celebrated artist's career - be it a musician, writer, or painter - dramatically crumble through no fault or circumstance (i.e., drugs, mental illness) other than their own bad ideas?
I'm not asking you to appreciate the art of Shyamalan's films, but rather the rarity of his career. This is a filmmaker - by most accounts supremely talented (at what? I couldn't say) - who despite obscenely negative reviews still continues to write and direct blockbuster films with major studio backing. It would be as if LeBron James were to suddenly go ice cold for the next decade with his new team (oh, let's say 2.5 points per game and the team wins fewer than 20 games every year), and yet still command sell-out crowds and an eight-figure signing bonus for his next contract.
Looking at it another way, Shyamalan has officially moved into car wreck/natural disaster/graphic war images territory. Despite your deepest fears or your most sincere moral judgments you just can't look away, and when you take a step back you realize you are witnessing a piece of history in the making.
Yes, when our kids are watching Shyamalan's films in shocked awe at midnight screenings 25 years from now (let's be optimistic and assume people will still visit movie theaters in 25 years), you can tell them that you recognized at the time the significance of these films. You knew that you were bearing witness to "a hate crime against film lovers", and that his films brought out the most superlatively creative writing from critics around the world. You knew that these weren't just "bad" movies, but among the worst original productions coming out of a very dark period in Hollywood.
If you don't see The Last Airbender for yourself, see it for future generations. See it for history.