avatar: the last airbender

I recently finished watching the first book (season?) of Nickelodeon's animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

As an aside, when the James Cameron movie, Avatar, started getting publicity I was so confused because I already knew about the then forthcoming movie version of Avatar: The Last Airbender but hadn't heard of the Cameron film.  People started asking my opinion about the Avatar movie and I'd be all "What are these blue things you're talking about? Where's Aang?"

ANYWAY.  The animated series?  Love it.  It starts out super formulaic in each episode, but as it goes on, the characters grow and the storylines begin to expand over two or more episodes.  By the middle of the second book (season?) the characters are satisfyingly complex and well,  I'm completely hooked.
But alas, the movie arrived and received absolutely terrible reviews.  Apparently enough of the ire was directed at the director himself, that people have written in M. Night Shyamalan's defense.

All that is tepid compared to the hate expressed in comment threads and message boards. Some never liked the guy in the first place, while others feel betrayed. Either way, no filmmaker nowadays — not Michael Bay, not Brett Ratner, not Joel Schumacher, not even Uwe-freaking-Boll — seems to prompt this kind of visceral, personal loathing. Which is a shame, because Shyamalan was once a rare talent — a director who could make serious, somber, and suspenseful dramas about grief that spoke to mass audiences. And we see little reason why he can’t be again.

I dunno, I could get pretty heated in my hate for Michael Bay.  The author doesn't even try to redeem the disaster that is The Last Airbender, but on the topic of Shyamalan as a director, if I saw the movie I suspect I would agree with quadmoniker of postbourgie:

But the source material would seem to play to exactly what Ebiri thinks are Shyamalan’s strengths. Both Zuko and Aang  are lonely and grieve, and the point is alienation, loneliness and reclamation. It’s almost as if someone served up a perfect Shyamalan redemption vehicle, and he managed to screw it up. 

 However, Shyamalan is not the only one to blame, even though many reviewers direct their ire at him.  People having been mad at Paramount for ages about the whitewashing of The Last Airbender.  Let's see what the researchers over at Racebending.com found: 
Over a 10 year period from 2000 to 2009, we found that Paramount did not produce a SINGLE movie starring a Latino, Asian American, or Native American actor.

Had Paramount’s leads been anywhere near proportional with the actual United States population, twenty of their films would have had a Latino lead actor, six of their films would have had Asian American actors as lead, and at least one film would have starred a Native American actor.

So surprise, surprise.  White male actors are overrepresented, while Asian actors are severely underrepresented.   The Last Airbender was a completely appropriate opportunity to remedy that, and yet the casting calls asked for Caucasian actors, placing Asian actors as background extras.  I think Gene Luen Yang summed it up best:
references:  http://delicious.com/ejmankh/airbending

No comments:

Post a Comment