Eleven years ago, M. Night Shyamalan graced the cover of Newsweek magazine joined by the headlining statement, "The Next Spielberg." This was as Signs was opening in theaters and the already two-time Oscar nominee was still considered a great new showman in Hollywood, a master of both suspense and surprise (particularly in his endings).
Within a matter of years, the filmmaker proved unworthy of the claim (and interestingly enough the magazine itself has fared little better). Signs was his last predominantly well-reviewed movie -- through his brand new movie After Earth -- and his peak success at the box office, too (The Sixth Sense grossed more in total but Signs had his best opening).
So, let's hope people are more wary with their declarations, especially for people connected to Shyamalan. For example, nobody should be declaring Jaden Smith the next Will Smith. Aside from the historically common psychological issue of sons feeling the need to make their successful father's proud, it's just too early.
Sure, Jaden's last movie was a worldwide hit even without on-screen parental guidance. He also has already put out a rap album and appeared on a single that went platinum (Justin Bieber's "Never Say Never"). And he's only 14. Will was 18 before his first record hit and in his 20s by the time he was a screen star (with TV's The Fresh Prince of Bel Air).
He's definitely got a lead, and even if it takes another 10 years for him to have both the single of the summer and the action-sci-fi blockbuster of the year, that'll do nicely for the guy. At the moment, however, he's not all that good an actor and doesn't seem to have the charm to substitute for that the way his father tends to.At the same time, though, the movie also implies that the dad might have been trying to keep his son out of military service so that he doesn't wind up crippled or worse. The correlation between that and the way Will Smith (who wrote the film's base story) has brought his kid into the entertainment service where he's vulnerable to very negative reviews, as After Earth is receiving, is a rather confounding contrast. But like the kid in the film, maybe Jaden is determined.