Mamo #171: Twilight of the M. Night

Shyamalan fever has come roaring back, as audiences and critics alike are enthralled and delighted by his latest… Oh wait, it’s not 1999. In 2010, The Last Airbender is also looking like the last go-round for America’s master of the disappointing twist. He’s getting his cultural ass kicked by a bunch of sparkly vampires! Some say this child of Pondicherry, India thinks white people are better than Asians when it comes to delivering the kung fu grip. He’s downtrodden and beleaguered, and what better time for the Matts to jump in and make it all that much worse.

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Matthew Fabb

For the Last Airbender, changing the race of the main characters is different from say making Kingpin black in Daredevil, because the characters belong to a group of people based on the culture of a certain race.

Example, two main characters are from the Water Tribe, who live on the north and south poles of the world and culturally are based off of the Inuit and a bit of Native Americans. Making those two characters white, means in the movie all the Inuit characters in the movie world are now white. Just as the main character, Aang belongs to a group based off of Tibetan Buddhist monks, so in the movie now all these monks are white.

The characters themselves might not have looked overly Asian in the cartoon because of the Japan anime stylized look, however, part of what makes up these characters is culture and characteristics from their race.

Finally, here's an image that I've seen going around about the whole Anag is white in the movie:

Finally, I'll give another mention about how incredible the tv show is. It reminds me a bit of what Pixar does in movies, directed at kids but having a huge amount of depth and great story arcs that adults love as well. I personally, think Avatar: The Last Airbender outdoes and has more depth than anything that Pixar has done, however, to Pixar's defence they have never done a tv show before. Hopefully just as the horrible League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie adaption helped the sales of the graphic novel, hopefully this bad movie will help get more people to check out the amazingly good tv show.

Now I haven't seen the movie yet (seeing it tonight) but I can understand fans getting upset with compressing 22 episodes into under 2 hours. Imagine say making a movie of the tv show Lost and trying to do the whole first season in under 2 hours. No matter what is cut out, some fans are going to be upset at certain cuts and it takes an incredible writer to pull it off properly. From the reviews, it sounds like Shyamalan wasn't up to the task and it's too heavy in exposition any time anyone tries to talk.

Matt Brown

Well, let us know if you survive your viewing! I still haven't mustered up the courage.

Matthew Fabb

So I survived, but it was really quite as bad as the critics are saying. Out of the 3 child main characters, 2 of them are absolutely horrible. With Aang the main character, it looks like they went with someone who was good with martial arts rather than acting talent. Aasif Mandvi, from the Daily Show, is supposed to be a villain but is hard to take serious and really funny at times in serious moments. However, part of it is the script which is so bad at times it's laugh out loud funny. Most of the movie felt like one of those episode season recaps specials just letting the audience quickly know about certain plot points of season 1 before season 2 starts. There's absolutely no flow to the story as it goes from plot point to plot point. Shyamalan really didn't have a clue what he was doing with the script and with so many talented writers on the tv show, it's too bad none of them were used to compress the material.

I would recommend anyone who's interested in seeing the movie but who hasn't seen the tv show, to instead go rent the first disk of season 1 and give the tv show a chance. It's likely cheaper and so much more enjoyable. While the movie got critically trashed, the tv show got huge critical praise and quite a number of awards (including an Emmy and a Peabody, which praised the show for it's "complex characters and healthy respect for the consequences of warfare").