Friday, July 2, 2010

The Last Airbender

Okay, let me get this off my chest first. One of the reasons I was not super excited about Avatar (by James Cameron) in the first place was that I was pissed at James Cameron's people not allowing the use of the name Avatar in the movie that M. Night Shyamlan was making. Now, at the same time, I had no knowledge of the movie, except for maybe the ridiculously stupid casting decisions. I was upset at the A:TLA movie for having white people playing non-white characters.

Regardless, I still had some hope. After seeing the teaser, and seeing a white kid with strange tribal tattoos on his head (arrow shaped, but not pure blue) airbend randomly as the Fire Nation closed in with ships, I just lost all hope that the movie would be good.

The Casting: The setting of Avatar is very Asian, mostly influenced by Chinese, but other Asian cultures are there as well. The entire way the show is done is very reminiscent, in both plot and art, by anime. It is a very Asian themed world. So, obviously, the main characters should all be white. Oh, right! The Fire Nation is actually played by Indians. The Water Tribe people have their culture very based off of Inuit designs, just with the living near the poles of the world, so obviously, one of the white girls from Miley Cyrus' "7 things" video is perfect. Seriously. 27 seconds in is Nicola Peltz, the actress who plays Katara in "The Last Airbender." I can honestly say that when watching trailers, I was confused as to who the girl they kept showing was. Eventually, I realized it was supposed to be Katara, only after recognizing her face as Nicola Peltz. The costume was a brown parka (as opposed to the blue ones worn in the show), and instead of having a darker skin tone, she was of course, white. When I first heard the casting decision, I was unsure as to how bad a choice it was. Once I saw it, though, I realized how stupidly the casting was. Oh, and the people in the Fire Nation are definitely not Indian, or appear to be based off of Indians. There's one guru, Pahtik, from Book 2, who is more based off of Indian Culture. The Fire Nation is nothing like that.

The Tone: One of the things that makes Avatar a great show is that it mixes in a lot of small humor in with its epic storyline and battles. There is a lot of fighting in the show and it is very awesome, but at the same time, Sokka is the "meat and sarcasm" guy, as he called himself in an episode. Aang is still getting used to being unfrozen, so when they visit the Fire Nation in Book 3, he acts like they used to in the Fire Nation (if they even did), saying things like "stay hot" or "flam-ie-o." While it isn't a comedy, by any means, it is also not the most serious show ever. There is a lot of humor in it. Plus, the show is very colorful. Aang wears bright orange, the Water Tribes wear vivid blue, the Earth Kingdom wears very green clothes, and the Fire Nation has a lot of red in their armor. Plus, the world is very colorful and bright, even with the war and chaos. I have not seen the movie yet, so I cannot speak of the entire movie, but I can speak from seeing the trailers. The movie is not silly at all, with no humor and no color. It looks grey and dark and dingy, and far too serious. In something I read, it seems that M. Night wanted to take out the lighter elements to make a more serious movie. Avatar has serious moments and a dark undertone, but the main tone is very light. While the whole world is in danger and there was a genocide of Aang's people, it still is not depressing or dark. There are dark moments, like the episode "The Storm", but those aren't the main driving point of the series.

The Look: This deals with some stuff from both of the previous sections, in that it looks dark and depressing, and nothing like the characters, but also, mainly dealing with how the actual stuff in the movie looks. Aang, like all master airbenders from the Air Nomads, has tattoos covering his body, the most visible being the arrow on his head, but the arrow connects to his entire body, leaving him with arrows on his hands and feet, and lines connecting all the arrows, running along his arms, legs and back, all connecting. They designed their tattoos after the first airbenders, the Sky Bison, who have a dark patch of fur on their heads in the shape of an arrow. Now, in the show, the tattoos are blue, and when he enters the Avatar state, his tattoos glow, along with his eyes. Every avatar, when entering the Avatar state, gets the glowing eyes, but only Air Nomad avatars get other parts glowing. In the movie, Aang has tattoos that glow blue when he is in the Avatar state, but are otherwise black and not solid. Sure, a giant blue arrow isn't the most realistic thing, I get that. Still, it is his signature look. Aang is bald, with a giant blue arrow tattoo on his head, and wears bright orange robes. Changing the arrow would be like giving him hair (and not just for Book 3's beginning, where he does actually have hair, but also is trying to look less like himself). It doesn't change the character a great deal in terms of substance, but it does make it look different from the show in a bad way.

The Reasoning: Apparently, M Night's daughter wanted to be Katara for Halloween one year, and got M to start watching Avatar. He liked the show and was intrigued. Then, they decided to make a movie, a live action movie based off of the show. I don't know if M Knight asked to make the movie, or they decided to make it, then came to him. Either way, it doesn't answer the question of why they made this movie. And by that, I mean, why did they want to make a live-action movie? I can honestly say that I didn't have any desire to see Avatar in live action any more than I want to see Bleach or Naruto in live action, or Family Guy or Spongebob. More so than any of those, though, Avatar doesn't need to be made into live action because, well, it was fine the way it was, and was finished. When making a movie, you can make it based off of the original, in that it is the exact same plot that you do in the same way, or you can do your own thing with it, basing it off of the original, but in a unique way. A lot of superhero movies fall into the second category, with the individual plots not being the exact same as the comics, but Spider-Man still failed to stop somebody, then his uncle got killed, then he became Spider-Man and fought his best friend's father, aka his worst enemy; Professor X gathered mutants together to fight for mutant rights against those who would do harm to mutants or to stop mutants from doing harm to humans, fighting against Magneto and the Brotherhood; etc. For Avatar, you can either do the exact thing as the series (which seems unnecessary), or you can set it in a different time (pre-Avatar returning which makes no sense as it is about the Avatar, or post-the series which makes no sense as the series ends with peace and there is nothing hinting at excitement or chaos), or you can do what the superhero movies did (which would be horrible, stupid, and completely idiotic, since it isn't as much about getting the character into movies as about getting the story into movies). No matter how you try and do the movie, it doesn't make any sense. It didn't have loose threads that needed to be tied up, it didn't leave a lot that could be explored, it was compact, tight, and worked really well. It seems to me (and at least some of my friends) that the only reason that makes sense is because they were greedy and wanted money.

As of writing this, I haven't seen the movie, but I plan to, not because I expect to like it, but because, despite how bad it looks (and it does have a 9% fresh rating on the Rotten Tomatoes tomato-meter), it is still a movie based on Avatar. And hopefully (although, it is unlikely), that will be enough.

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