17 January 2010


Coming Attractions can be a mixed bag, can't they? For instance, even though we just had one, Christmas still probably ranks high on a lot of kids' Coming Attractions lists today; Spring mid-terms, not so much. This summer's Avatar: The Last Airbender, a re-telling of Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko's animated Avatar series, borrows from both our examples. On the one hand, Nickelodeon's Avatar cartoon concluded its third and final season last fall, and the popularity of the show already gives the feature film version a sizable fanbase. On the other, many fans -- as well as some folks involved in the production of animated Avatar -- have voiced their strong disapproval of the film's casting decisions.

You see, Avatar's story is decidedly Eastern-focused; its main character - known as 'The Avatar, Master of the Four Elements" -- is the sole peacekeeper between the earth's elemental clans of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. He disappears, of course, and havoc ensues. Havoc's ensued in this world because the film's writer and director, M. Night Shyamalan, placed mostly Caucasian actors into the principle roles, the exception being Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame in the part of Zuko. (The rest of the cast includes Noah Ringer as Aang, The Twilight Saga: New Moon's Jackson Rathbone as Sokka, and Nicola Peltz as Katara.)

Shyamalan's not Caucasian, though, but public opinion splits between those who view his decisions as somewhat racist, and those who view anyone saying his decisions are racist as being racist. We see the whole thing as being ridiculous. Fans should worry more that their beloved Airbender is in Shyamalan's hands in the first place. True, old M. Night's a comic book fan, and we loved Unbreakable. But that was ten years ago, and in our opinion, dude's been breaking every other film since.  Does The Happening make anybody wince besides us?

Avatar: The Last Airbender -- which, we'll note, isn't using its first name thanks to James Cameron's little film co-opting the moniker -- also happens to be Shyamalan's first adaptation. Which we think might be a really, really good thing. Maybe M. Night's finally giving up on that elusive Sixth Sense repeat, after all.  Then again, he and producer Frank Marshall have already stated that, like the cartoon, their Avatar's going to be a trilogy as well. Considering the movie's sixth months out, it's not looking like M. Night's seen the light of day just yet. 
 Paramount Pictures' The Last Airbender is set to make waves July 2, 2010

No comments: