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Old August 23 2014, 06:37 PM   #1
Agent Richard07
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The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

I found an article that suggests that The Last Airbender's problems weren't necessarily Shyamalan's fault. A person who claims to have worked on the movie suggests that it all started with Nicola Peltz being cast due to nepotism, then the whole race bending thing unravelled from there. Here's the article. There was also a more detailed account at AvatarSpirit.net where mismanagement by the studio and Shyamalan giving up and going along with it are mentioned but the administration decided to take down all discussion of the movie so the thread appears to be gone. Fortunately the initial post is here and reposted below.

Production wrapped 5 years ago so I don’t think Paramount is going to care. They know it bombed. What it came down to was M Night really was the only one who knew the show and what he was doing (the first draft of the screenplay? gorgeous. hence Bryke giving him the okay). The producers, who are actually in charge of at least 80% of production including casting…. not so much. They clearly never bothered to watch the show, nor had the ghostwriter who did the final screenplay.

Nicola was hired because she’s the daughter of someone one of the producers owed a favor to as Hollywood loves its nepotism. (Her audition tape was subpar at best). In having to cast her they had to cast a guy who could pass as her brother – hence Jackson. His audition was actually pretty good. He’s a funny guy and had clearly seen the show. Too bad the producers felt the movie didn’t have time for intentional humor and cut all that out of the script. Noah was the only one who honestly openly auditioned and was chosen based on talent. He just needed extra help acting because with a lot of it being green screened he was talking to air a lot of the time. Experienced adults have a hard time doing that let alone a kid.

If you recall they initially signed on Jesse McCartney as Zuko. Why? Because otherwise the lead actor roster would be “starring: two unknown kids you never heard of and that guy who played a minor character in Twilight!”. And then someone with a brain realized “wait a minute this show is kind of anime-esque and we’re hiring a bunch of white kids. Um.”. So what did they do? Because they couldn’t can Nicola without someone being really ticked, Jesse willingly bowed out and went with another project offered at the time. Even still, they still needed a big name to draw people in but it couldn’t be another white kid. Dev Patel just gave an Oscar-winning performance and was willing to sign on. And in getting him they had to make the rest of the Fire Nation match. Which is why it turned into heroic white kids VS evil brown people (which was intentionally unintentional).

And then it was horribly budgeted. The opening at the SWT all nice and pretty in Greenland? Cost big bucks. And then they realized with a story about people manipulating elements that couldn’t be believably done with in camera practical effects. So they had to rebudget and gave most of the money to ILM for post production. You go from the beautiful SWT to everything looking dingy because everything else was shot in Pennsylvania. The Fire Nation Royal Palace? An old high school in Philadelphia. Parts of the Earth Kingdom (including Kyoshi Island which got cut)? Reading, PA. And everything that was the NWT…. some sets built in front of giant green screens in an old emptied aircraft hangar in the outskirts of Philadelphia. Yeah.

And ILM was rushed despite most of the movie’s look being left up to them. And you had novice directors hired by producers to oversee that process. That’s how come the pebble dance happened. Sadly at that point M Night was just tired of arguing with the overheads, gave up, and collected his paycheck. If you look at the movie’s premiere and red carpet footage you can tell his excitement and happiness is fake. Bryke had little say in the film despite being listed as executive producers. That title was a fancy way of saying that they created the show it was based on and they’re still alive so they need some kind of nice credit. The actual producers didn’t know what they were dealing with and were only interested in a quick buck. Bryke and M Night gave up on the film around the same time for same reasons. The other people working on the film were a pain to deal with and Nickelodeon themselves only wanted the final product as quickly as possible and the money it would presumably make them.

At least they hired good caterers. The food was great on that set.
You can still see Shyamalan's fingerprints on the finished product, but do you think there's any truth to this?
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Old August 23 2014, 07:15 PM   #2
Mr Light
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

Sounds depressingly plausible.

I'm glad craft services was good though
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Old August 23 2014, 07:17 PM   #3
Christopher
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

I do think the problems with the movie lay mostly in the script, whoever may have written it. I had my problems with some of the direction, but mostly I think Shyamalan could still do some terrific stuff as a director if only he had good scripts to work with; there are tons of directors who fancy themselves writers but really, really aren't.

As for the casting, it did seem to me that Shyamalan wanted to cast inclusively, and of course since he's from India himself I don't see him as someone who'd favor white actors unduly. So learning about the nepotism does explain a lot about the casting of Katara and Sokka. As for Aang, though, I think maybe they should've had the sense to do their casting call somewhere with a larger Asian population than Texas.

Anyway, I still say that the closest thing to a live-action A:TLA movie is actually The Forbidden Kingdom. Granted, it suffers a bit from having a white lead tacked onto the story, but in terms of the wild martial-arts/supernatural action and the gorgeous location filming in China and the almost entirely Asian cast and the mix of humor and drama, it's exactly what I wish the TLA movie had been.
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Old August 23 2014, 07:44 PM   #4
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

"What a twist!"
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Old August 23 2014, 08:36 PM   #5
Takeru
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

Agent Richard07 wrote: View Post
You can still see Shyamalan's fingerprints on the finished product, but do you think there's any truth to this?
I could believe it if Shyamalan hadn't directed a bunch of shit movies before this one.
Nicola Peltz may have been cast due to nepotism but that wasn't the reason the movie sucked, neither was the race bending, the locations or the effects. The problem were the script and the direction and Shyamaln was responsible for both, he is the only credited writer, someone claimimg a mysterious ghostwriter turned the great script tomshit isn't believable.

And Bryke did not give him the "okay", it was never their decision, Nickelodeon owns the franchise, Nick decided to make a movie and Bryke had to play nice because Nickelodeon employed them, they could have seen an obvious shit script and wouldn't said a simgle negative thing about it publically. The writer of this post using them is just an attempt to make the story of the wonderful Shyamalan script more believable, I don't buy it.
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Old August 23 2014, 09:02 PM   #6
Christopher
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

Takeru wrote: View Post
The problem were the script and the direction and Shyamaln was responsible for both, he is the only credited writer, someone claimimg a mysterious ghostwriter turned the great script tomshit isn't believable.
Actually it's entirely believable. The screenwriting process in the Hollywood feature industry is incredibly convoluted, and virtually no feature film script is ever the work of a single writer, no matter what the credits say. Sometimes a film's final script may be cobbled together from drafts by over a dozen different writers, and the few who get their names onscreen may be pretty far removed from the final draft. Often the credits have very little to do with who actually wrote the finished product; for instance, Speed is credited solely to Graham Yost, who came up with the basic story and structure, even though virtually every line of dialogue spoken in the movie was actually written by Joss Whedon. So, as a rule, you can never trust the writing credit in a Hollywood feature film to be accurate.

Aside from that, though, I agree that, given Shyamalan's overall body of work, it's hard to believe he did a great script.
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Old August 23 2014, 11:19 PM   #7
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

Takeru wrote: View Post
Nicola Peltz may have been cast due to nepotism but that wasn't the reason the movie sucked, neither was the race bending, the locations or the effects. The problem were the script and the direction and Shyamaln was responsible for both, he is the only credited writer, someone claimimg a mysterious ghostwriter turned the great script tomshit isn't believable.
This. I don't really give a shit who gets cast in movies so long as they do a good job.

The problems with this movie were due to the script and direction. This story claims that Shyamalan was the only one really familiar with the cartoon, yet, as the direction, he didn't bother to correct the pronunciation of the main character's name?! That shows me he didn't have a clue what he was doing.

This movie missed the mark on so many levels, and it's really quite disappointing.
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Old August 23 2014, 11:31 PM   #8
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

Takeru wrote: View Post
Agent Richard07 wrote: View Post
You can still see Shyamalan's fingerprints on the finished product, but do you think there's any truth to this?
I could believe it if Shyamalan hadn't directed a bunch of shit movies before this one.
Just this, and his post-Airbender works aren't exactly stunning either.
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Old August 23 2014, 11:57 PM   #9
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

Yeah, it may be true, but I've never seen a good Shyamalan movie.
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Old August 24 2014, 03:30 AM   #10
Christopher
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

RoJoHen wrote: View Post
This story claims that Shyamalan was the only one really familiar with the cartoon, yet, as the direction, he didn't bother to correct the pronunciation of the main character's name?!
Actually he did correct the pronunciations of the character names, because it's the show that got them wrong by Americanizing them. Shyamalan changed them to be more authentic to the Asian languages they were derived from. It's one change I actually consider an improvement. (Along with the more intricate tattoo. A solid blue arrow would've looked really silly in live action.)
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Old August 24 2014, 03:36 AM   #11
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

I doubt this is true.

You know who knows the cartoon well? The creators of it who had nothing to do with the movie. Everyone knew that, yet they signed on anyways. That's their fault.
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Old August 24 2014, 04:20 AM   #12
Skywalker
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

Christopher wrote: View Post
RoJoHen wrote: View Post
This story claims that Shyamalan was the only one really familiar with the cartoon, yet, as the direction, he didn't bother to correct the pronunciation of the main character's name?!
Actually he did correct the pronunciations of the character names, because it's the show that got them wrong by Americanizing them. Shyamalan changed them to be more authentic to the Asian languages they were derived from. It's one change I actually consider an improvement. (Along with the more intricate tattoo. A solid blue arrow would've looked really silly in live action.)
The show couldn't have gotten the character names wrong, because how they pronounce those names in their world is different from how we would pronounce them in reality. Shyamalan should have left them alone.

I agree with you about the tattoo, though.
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Old August 24 2014, 06:42 AM   #13
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

^ Yup.

This article sounds like a bunch of excuse-making to me.
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Old August 24 2014, 11:54 AM   #14
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

While it sounds like a troubled production, none of that excuses MNS's flat direction, amateur editing and utterly pitiful "action" scenes. Even without those problems, it still would have been insipid shite so long as MNS was sat in the director's chair.
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Old August 24 2014, 05:47 PM   #15
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Re: The Last Airbender - Not Shyamalan's Fault

Haven't seen the movie or the show, but from what I've read, isn't the core problem that they tried to cram too much story into one flick? The Golden Compass movie had a similar problem - there were all sorts of poor choices made, some the director's fault and some the studios', but even with otherwise first-rate direction, trying to cram the whole book (minus the last few chapters, another wtf) into 100 minutes doomed it to mediocrity.
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