The Last Airbender - Grading & Discussion

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Agent Richard07, Jul 1, 2010.

?

Grade the movie...

  1. Excellent

    2.7%
  2. Above Average

    18.9%
  3. Average

    18.9%
  4. Below Average

    18.9%
  5. Poor

    40.5%
  1. Agent Richard07

    Agent Richard07 Admiral Admiral

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    Just curious. It's a big, not to mention odd blunder, so I was just wondering if it was brought to his attention and what his reaction was.
     
  2. Agent Richard07

    Agent Richard07 Admiral Admiral

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    Oh yeah... The credit sequence is at the end and it looks a lot like the opening montage of a James Bond movie with character silhouettes doing some stylized bending.
     
  3. Cutter John

    Cutter John Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    I'll be the obligatory pissed animation fan.

    "Awww cartoons are just for kids. Lets make a REAL movie in live action!"

    Then you wind up with a watered down, Readers Digest 'adaptation' of the original series. Same can be said for 90% of 'animation turned live-action' movies out there.

    Will be happy to see this one tank.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    How extensive a category is that, though? Most of the examples I can think of are film adaptations of comedies, like The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, Alvin and the Chipmunks, etc. Not exactly the sort of shows that have extended storylines that a film would digest in that way. Most of the non-comedic titles I can think of that have animated TV and live-action feature versions are ones where the animated shows are themselves adaptations of movies or comics, so it's not really a case of the animated show being the direct inspiration for the movie.

    So I'm curious what you consider to be other examples of this happening. The closest thing I can think of is the Dolph Lundgren Masters of the Universe film, though arguably that and the cartoon were both independently based on the toys.
     
  5. Skywalker

    Skywalker Admiral Admiral

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    Good grief, Shyamalan has got to stop writing his own movies. His dialogue makes George Lucas sound almost Shakespearean.

    The movie was bad, but I don't think it was completely unsalvageable. The pacing was completely off; things happened for no real reason, and Aang, Katara, and Sokka moved from place to place with nothing really connected the different setpieces except for a few Cliff's Notes voiceovers by Katara. The movie could have used another thirty minutes or so to allow the story some breathing room. I also kind of think it was a mistake to show Fire Lord Ozai and Azula so soon. I think I would have preferred if they'd left them out until Book Two.

    And what happened to poor Sokka? Gone is the humorous, sarcastic Water Tribe boy we know from the series. Sokka's supposed to be the Han Solo of the trio, but instead they turned him into a lifeless shell who's just there to be protective of Katara and apparently fall in love with Yue even though we never actually get any scenes between the two of them to establish that relationship. I don't mind that they cut Suki out of Book One because I figured they wanted to just focus on Sokka's relationship with Yue, and then bring Suki in when they journey across the Earth Kingdom in Book Two.

    On the plus side, I thought the bending effects were pretty good, and I liked the overall look of the movie. Shaun Toub as Uncle Iroh was probably the best of the actors, and Dev Patel was decent in some parts, mostly when he was playing off of Toub. Noah Ringer was okay as Aang, but Aang's not exactly a difficult character to interpret, anyway. Nicola Peltz was probably the weakest of the main actors, but that didn't particularly bother me since Katara was by far my least favorite of the main characters in the cartoon.

    If they do develop a sequel to this, I'd prefer Shyamalan to be relegated to a producer's role at the most and allow others to write and direct it. But releasing this on the same weekend as Eclipse was probably not a good idea. It might not even do well enough to see a sequel. Whatever happens, I just hope that the cartoon's reputation doesn't suffer because of this movie.
     
  6. Cutter John

    Cutter John Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Though goofy, I can give things like Flintstones, or Scooby-Do a pass. As you said, theres no deep storyline to mess with, plus theres the "Oh wow, he looks just like he did in the cartoon!" novelty to go with it.

    Other offenders are things like last years Dragonball movie, where there already exists. And though I was never a fan, the MotU film you mentioned was another.

    If the live-action creators are basing their interpretation on the same source material as the animation, say a novel or comic, I can live with that. Or making a film that builds on an already existing series? Sure, why not. But adapting an already successful animated series just strikes me as a slap in the face to animation genre.
    I believe this movie only deals with season one, but that is still one long tale with a strong storyline and characters which develop throughout those ten hours. Far too many interesting characters and mythology to go after with one 90 minute movie.

    Its just one step removed from taking an anime, then cutting and dumbing it down for an american audience.

    Of course I'm one of those folks who hates most remakes too. So I'm at least consistant there. :)
     
  7. Tulin

    Tulin Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I LOATHE anime so I would NEVER consider seeing this junk.

    I am enjoying seeing the internets break over this film, however.
     
  8. Tulin

    Tulin Vice Admiral Admiral

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    God - whether or not Ebert knows what he's talking about, I CANNOT STAND all this Goku, Roki, Sumo bullshit.

    Oh and why do PC types get their flaps all waving when caucasians take Asian roles but apparently there is some kind of quota to have X amounts of other ethnicities in roles that could have just been caucasians?

    Double standards is what it is and the old trope that only white people can be racist.
     
  9. SG-17

    SG-17 Commodore Commodore

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    Avatar: The Last Airbender isn't an anime. Oh and if you want to troll anime you should probably go to 4chan.
     
  10. Takeru

    Takeru Space Police Premium Member

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    1. Avatar - The last Airbender is NOT anime.

    2. Saying "I loathe anime" is ridiculous, it's not a genre, it's a medium that encompasses all genres and countless art styles. It makes as much sense as saying "I loathe US live action productions".

    Yeah, that's stupid! I don't remember any racebending bullshit when Smallville made Pete Ross and Lana Lang black and half-chinese respectively. Everytime something like that happens they are just changing some unimportant things like the characters skin color to be more inclusive, blablabla.
    But cast a few white actors in asian (actually fantasy based on asian stuff) roles, suddenly "there are NO white people in the avatar universe, stop trying to be inclusive you racist bastard!!!"

    Maybe it wasn't the smartest choice to cast all four lead characters white (before they recast Zuko), but I doubt it was racist.
    I'm pretty sure it would be almost impossible to find two Inuit actors to play Katara and Sokka! I actually read a comment from someone who thought it's racist to cast white actors in Inuit roles, he suggested mexicans because "at least they have brown skin" ... great way not to be racist.:wtf:
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2010
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Okay, so that's a total of three films named so far that fit the category. So it seems like hyperbole to say "just like 90% of the adaptations out there."


    Because it's not about characters, it's about the real live people who get paid to play them. It's an employment issue. Ideally you want people of all ethnicities to get a fair and equal chance to make a living as actors. But in classic fictional franchises like comic books, the overwhelming majority of characters are Caucasian due to the racial biases of the past. Therefore, casting them based strictly on the original ethnicities would deprive nonwhite actors of employment opportunities. Conversely, in those all-too-few cases where prominent characters are nonwhite, if you preferentially cast white actors in them, that also constitutes employment discrimination.

    So you're dead wrong to call it a double standard. It's the exact same standard -- the desire to see fair hiring practices -- applied to two different scenarios. Your mistake is in thinking it's about the characters. It's not, because characters aren't real and don't have to feed their families. It's about real human beings and their right to fair employment opportunities.

    That said, I think it's clear by now that the protests about discriminatory casting in The Last Airbender were unfounded. Of the twelve top-billed actors (assuming IMDb's cast list is in the same order as the film's), at least seven are nonwhite, and the actors getting the most praise for their performance are Patel and Toub, whereas the "lead" characters played by Peltz and Rathbone are diminished to the point of virtual irrelevancy. So I think TLA actually deserves credit for fair and inclusive hiring practices, and the fact that the characters don't have the exact same ethnicities they had in the show is irrelevant. If they'd all been white, that would be a problem. But that's definitely not the case.
     
  12. Cutter John

    Cutter John Rear Admiral Rear Admiral


    Unfortunately you kinda have me at a disadvantage as I didn't have a list handy. After doing a bit of Googling, I can up with the following list. Not exactly Oscar material here.

    Boris & Natasha
    Dudley Do-Right
    Fat Albert
    George of the Jungle
    Inspector Gadget
    Josie & the Pussycats
    Mr Magoo
    Popeye
    Transformers 2
    Underdog

    I left off GI Joe, and the first Transformers movie, since while I didn't see them, I'd heard that they weren't completely bad.

    Really, all I'm saying is that there already exists a well done, perfectly good animated version of this story. What was really a need for a luke-warm live action version?
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2010
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^I take your point. But movie executives aren't approaching it from that direction, i.e. "Does this franchise need a new live-action version?" Movie executives need to create movies. A lot of movies, on an ongoing basis. And so they'll look for adaptable properties wherever they can find them. They're not concerned with what the franchise needs, they're concerned with their own need to keep putting out product, so they'll draw on whatever pre-existing properties they can get the rights to.

    In this case, I'd imagine the thinking at Paramount was, "How can we compete with Harry Potter and Twilight?" Hence, they were looking for an opportunity to create a live-action fantasy franchise aimed at younger audiences. And they saw that they already owned a popular fantasy series called Avatar: The Last Airbender, so they decided, "Let's use that." They didn't do it in animation because that wasn't the niche they were looking to fill.
     
  14. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    About the race bending issue, I think it is not accurate that there is no complaint or voices raised when a black person or other non-white person is casting in a role that is seen as traditionally white.

    I've read grumbling about Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin, Kerry Washington as Alicia in the FF films, Marlon Wayans as Ripcord, and there was displeasure with the rumors of Beyonce taking on Lois Lane or Will Smith as Captain America. Will Smith as James West didn't set well with some people either. Even John Bryne expressed some displeasure with Jessica Alba being cast as Sue Storm. I haven't read the Thor boards but I can imagine somebody having issue with Idris Elba as Heimdall. So the idea that people, generally white people I'm assuming, are meek and mild on this issue, isn't correct. Now the way they might express their displeasure might be different, but there is vocal, or written, displeasure, when casting goes from white to black or non-white. Also, I saw little protest over Angelina Jolie's race bending in Wanted, taking on a role for a character that looked like Halle Berry in the comic. So, this idea that non-whites are always pouncing on white folks for race bending is overblown.

    Also, I would argue that since the vast majority of roles in Hollywood are conceived for and go to white actors that there isn't as much of a concern about white people not being represented fairly or adequately. Rest easy, whites are still at the center of the universe as far as Hollywood is concerned. The fact that blacks and others have been cast as traditionally white characters occasionally unfortunately reminds us that there haven't been enough support given to projects that feature traditionally non-white characters. And a lot of times when those type of decisions are made, the new non-white characters aren't the main characters anyway, with the exception of Will Smith as James West.

    Generally the main characters, the most 'human' characters, the one we are supposed to identity with and feel empathy for, remain white characters. So, even the non-traditional casting can wind up leading to a type of tokenism that might add color but not much else to the films. That's why I find it interesting that the race bending for Avatar seemed to change the main character to a white person, just like the Dragonball movie. It was like Hollywood was admitting that audiences would not be able or find it hard to identify with, empathize with, or root for a person of color. And that the films would be more 'marketable' with white leads.

    As Christopher pointed out, there is an employment issue here. A fairness issue. But also, there is an issue of diversity. We live in a multicultural, multiracial world and I think we need more entertainment content to reflect that.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2010
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    And I've always been startled by the fierce resistance I've gotten from some posters here to my suggestion of Gina Torres for Wonder Woman.


    So do I, but that's because she can't act worth a damn. I do think she's entirely unconvincing as the biological sister of Chris Evans, but if they'd cast a Latino actor as Johnny alongside Alba's Sue, I would've had no problem with it. Aside from the fact that Alba can't act worth a damn.


    It does seem unconventional for a supposedly Norse deity, but Hercules and Xena gave us Greek deities played by Pacific Islander actors, plus a black Helen of Troy and Cleopatra. And heck, I once saw a stage production of Hamlet in which Hamlet was white and Claudius -- his biological uncle -- was black. It's fiction; you suspend disbelief.


    A similar, but more obscure, case would be Famke Janssen playing the lead in a TV pilot based on the old indie comic Model by Day, whose lead character was black.

    Exactly. People who argue that it's a double standard would only be right if there weren't any more racial discrimination in the world. But there is.

    There are other exceptions, such as the Latina Natalie Morales getting the lead in The Middleman, based on a comic whose female lead was a redhead. And in the show, the character's Latina ethnicity was made very much a part of her character (e.g. making her fluent in Spanish), despite her name being Wendy Watson. Though that show was, sadly, not nearly as popular as it deserved to be.


    Which is why it's a good thing that the actors getting the most attention in TLA are not Ringer and Peltz and Rathbone, but Patel and Toub.
     
  16. CaptainCanada

    CaptainCanada Admiral Admiral

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    EW predicts based on current numbers that TLA will make about $70 million by Sunday, which, given the terrible reviews, is a pretty decent sum. We'll see how it holds, because the word of mouth is pretty terrible, from what I've seen.

    But, at a minimum, I don't think the studio will lose money on this, once foreign box office is tallied, etc.
     
  17. Rii

    Rii Rear Admiral

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    It's the opposite for me: reading Ebert has caused me to spend a not insignificant amount of time and money on films I otherwise would likely never have seen. :lol:


    As a viewer I couldn't care less about the 'real world' behind the art; whether it be hiring practices, Polanski's checkered past, or Russel Crowe's penchant for hurling telephones. There's a time and place to be concerned about such things; and - again, as a viewer - in relation to any given artwork is not it.
     
  18. Coloratura

    Coloratura Unsung Aria Premium Member

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    Well, I'll end up seeing it because one of my friends wants me to go with him on Tuesday (he's buying, so how could I refuse?!). Hopefully I will enjoy it. I certainly want to enjoy it, but I want them to give the characters their due, because I absolutely love the source material and am hoping for an enjoyable film.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But the specific question being raised here was why there was allegedly a "double standard" approving of casting nonwhites in traditionally white roles but protesting the casting of whites in nonwhite roles. The answer to that specific question is that it's a hiring issue. What you're discussing here, your taste as a viewer, is a separate matter.

    Although not entirely separate. If your priority is entertainment and enjoyment of the artwork, surely the talent and charisma of the performers should matter more than their complexion. And the more diversity there is in casting, the greater the pool of talent you have to draw on and the better the odds of getting a really superb performer, regardless of appearance.

    And as for myself, I like diversity. I find it aesthetically preferable to uniformity. So for me, casting inclusively is about the art, in more ways than one.
     
  20. Rii

    Rii Rear Admiral

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    In the abstract, I agree: diversity in casting is a good thing and should be encouraged.

    It's an easy statement to make. As a viewer, my relationship with the art form is not a coherent whole, but rather a series of distinct associations - individual films - grouped under the umbrella term 'cinema'. I can hardly avoid being aware of certain externalities, but they don't resonate with me except insofar as those externalities are relevant to individual films.

    My notion of 'casting' is limited to questions of who's right for this film, or that film; and on that level I've no interest in diverse casting. If it should happen to arise that the film is a veritable rainbow of humanity, so be it; but my interest is in what works - on a creative level - for the specific film in question. I would vehemently oppose making a character with any creative reason at all to be a specific ethnicity a different one merely to satisfy some abstract standard of diversity.

    As a practical matter there are enough characters whose ethnicity is simply irrelevant that this isn't a significant impediment to achieving a diverse casting base across the industry, but it does crop up in individual films. I would've liked to have seen Chekov made a woman to address the glaring gender imbalance on the bridge of the nuEnterprise; but only because the character is so much a cipher that one could do almost anything to him - besides making him other than Russian - without treading on toes. Making, say, Spock a woman is an entirely different proposition.

    And without commenting on The Last Airbender specifically - because I know almost nothing about it - I find something distasteful about taking an existing work and scrubbing from it all evidence that it originated other than than from the Here and Now and Our Kinds of People; and so harbour a general suspicion of remakes in general, and remakes of foreign works in particular. An example which I've discussed on the board recently is the upcoming Hollywood version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Despite the promising announcements of David Fincher as director and Daniel Craig as one of the lead actors, I remain very much concerned that they are going to fuck it up; if not deliberately then inadvertently by simply substituting America for Sweden, thus missing some of the underlying sociocultural currents that lend the tale its effectiveness.

    I hope the above has served to clarify my position somewhat. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2010