Sat
Apr 24 2010 4:11pm
The Last Airbender trailer

I’ll admit, when the news of M. Night Shyamalan’s “whitewashing” of Avatar: The Last Airbender was first being discussed I only took an academic interest in it. (And was momentarily confused about how something with blue cat people could be whitewashed). Now that I am two-thirds of the way through the series, and hopelessly in love with Zuko, I have a much better understanding how atrocious that decision was. (Read Shyamalan’s lame excuse here). Which makes all the bending awesomeness in this trailer all the more frustrating.

And why so dark? It looks like perpetual twilight in this trailer. I still have season three ahead of me but, so far, the world around Aang is a bright and colorful one. Despite the difficuly of their journey, nature goes on as it would, largely unaffected by the squabbles of men...

So, who’s going to complain all the way to the opening day lines with me?


Avatar state EasterIrene Gallo hearts Zuko, wants to run a “Photoshop Dan Dos Santos into Aang” contest, and celebrated Avatar-state Easter.

25 comments
will shetterly
1. willshetterly
Me. Yeah, putting a white kid in Asian clothes and buildings looks ridiculously wrong, but Shyamalan did okay with Crouching Tiger. Why punish a director for casting decisions dictated by the penguins (suits, execs, money guys, whatever you wish to call them)?
Tobias Wright
2. tobiaswright
I think this might be one of those things better off left alone.

I think we know that no matter who did this, there was no way that a movie could do the wonderful job of world building that Avatar was able to accomplish over the run of it's show other than faithfully recreating the 4 seasons episode by episode. Although this may be only season 1.

Having said that, it might be nice to see how well realized the art direction might be. It seems to be pretty faithful. It may fall in the same category as Harry Potter: Nice to see on screen, not necessary though
Ésquilo
3. Ésquilo
Didn't see this much outrage about the black Kingpin in the daredevil movie. Hmm.
Ésquilo
5. Isambard
I'm with you man! I've actually decided not to watch the movie, mostly because of this casting decision, but also because the series is too dear to my heart to see it flagellated. Which is actually a sad decision, not just because its Avatar the Last Airbender, but because I'd really like to support the creators Brian and Mike, in hopes that when this is all over they could make another series. The world of Avatar is so rich that there are tons of new directions you could take it.
Ésquilo
6. wandering-dreamer
Yup, I'll be complaining all the way in line until I see the movie (and with my three foot Appa plushie if the theater lets me bring him in).
Marc Houle
7. MightyMarc
Whatever.

The most important thing is to make sure the actors can actually act well. If they do well, I'm cool with whatever decision Shyamalan makes. If they fail, then it's on Shyamalan's head.
Kate Nepveu
8. katenepveu
I adore your Easter egg but cannot support this movie.
will shetterly
9. willshetterly
Oops, bad memory: Crouching Tiger was Ang Lee. Shyamalan did Sixth Sense, and nothing that's impressed me since then. But this does look pretty.
Ésquilo
10. Lily of the Valley
And why so dark? It looks like perpetual twilight in this trailer.

Probably because all of the bending battle scenes are occurring during the climax of what would be the 1st Season, where [SPOILERS AHEAD for those who haven't seen the series!] General Zhao kills the moon spirit and the actual moon disappears from the sky.
Ésquilo
11. Lily of the Valley
(might wanna highlight after the spoiler warning xDD)
Thea James
13. SmugglerThea
Boycotting. There's no way I'm paying money - essentially giving my stamp of complacence, no, approval - to watch this whitewashed* and most probably terrible (hello, M. Night one-trick-pony Shyamalan) adaptation of a truly awesome and inspiring cartoon.

*And whitewashing is a huge deal, folks. If you haven't read up on it, seriously, racebending.com.
Ésquilo
14. Doug M.
Putting aside the racebending issue for the nonce, this trailer doesn't actually look that good to me.

Yeah, cool special effects. What else?

I don't see -- for instance -- any interaction between the characters. Okay, hard to do in a trailer. But not impossible. (To give a recent example, the trailer for Iron Man 2 managed to give us a couple of quick glimpses of the Tony/Pepper and Tony/Rhodey relationships.) This gives the impression that the movie is something like Mortal Kombat, with the characters defined only by what cool power they have.

More to the point, I don't see any fun. Avatar was a fun, fun show. The jokes, the wit, the play. Even the fight scenes often had a pleasant Loony Tune wackiness to them. One of the best, most complicated fights in the first season is broken up by Uncle Iroh first smelling perfume, then stealing a sample, and then macking on a cute mercenary.

I just can't imagine that happening in the movie this trailer is from. But if you suck the fun out of Avatar... well, what's left is unlikely to be very good.


Doug M.
Kate Nepveu
15. katenepveu
Doug M.: the fact that Shyamalan has said that he doesn't know what Momo's role is, may be indicative . . .
René Walling
16. cybernetic_nomad
I agree with Doug M.

On top of that, where is Sokka? I mean you briefly see someone who probably is him at the start of the trailer, but what's Avatar with no sarcastic comments from him?

Also this trailer is typical of most trailers you see these days, showing you all the surprises you should only discover at the movie. Hollywood: when making trailers, you want to hint at stuff and not show it all. Or show it in such a way people don't realize what they're seeing. Learn from the master. (and yes, I realize N. Shyamalan probably did not do the trailer.
Ésquilo
17. omega_n
Here's my first question: why did they take a well-received cartoon aimed at 8-12 year-olds and think, "Hey, you know who should direct the unnecessary live-action version of this? Shyamalan, the guy who does bad supernatural thrillers aimed at adults!" It's like saying, "Hey, you know who should direct the Spongebob movie? Tarantino!"

I mean, in that interview he's talking about how "dark and edgy" he is. This is not primarily a dark and edgy series. It has moments of being a bit grim, but a lot of it is really lighthearted and funny. Just from watching the trailer, I can tell that this is going to be two and a half hours of CGI-filled fight scenes and uber-angst.

And his excuse for the whitewashing is just pathetic. He's basically saying that the ideal actors, both in ethnic appearance and acting talent, didn't just drop into his lap, so it's not his fault and what can he do. Go and look for them, Mr. I-Have-So-Much-Artistic-Integrity-It-Hurts.
Ésquilo
18. M. Ellis
I adored the cartoon series, and I'll be skipping the movie, the DVD, etc. The only thing the producers appear to understand is money, so failure to give them money is the only way to get the message across.
Pablo Defendini
19. pablodefendini
@omega_n
Actually, racebending issue aside (which yes, makes this movie utterly unwatchable to me on principle), M Night is actually a perfect choice for adapting a cartoon into a movie, if you realize that M Night is just about the most academic, paint-by-numbers, workmanlike director out there.

All of his movies are formulaic, and employ cheap tricks (the twist, the twist!). However, if you look at a movie like Unbreakable (the one film of his I've actually enjoyed), you can see how he's most comfortable when slavishly following previously established tropes and aesthetics.

That, to me, is the one saving grace for this movie: you can be sure that M Night will try his damndest to slavishly translate the show onto the screen in the most literal way possible (and anecdotal evidence from a good friend who's a huge Avatar fan and has actually been on set—on board a Fire Nation ship no less—supports this). However, there are two huge caveats, which have both been mentioned upthread: M Night's proclivity for making things dark and gloomy, as opposed to the colorful wackiness of the show, and movie suits' desire to make things gritty and dark.

In any case, does not bode well for our Aang gang. Quite unfortunate.

@wilshetterly
Hm. Ang Lee directing an Avatar adaptation.... now I could see how *that* could work....
Ésquilo
20. hapax
Even if I could (or wanted to) put the racewashing aside, I see no point to this movie. I can't think of anything live action would add to a story that was almost perfectly told already, nor anything in this director's past films which made me interested in his personal take on the story -- a story which that interview indicates he neither likes nor understands.

Or, as my daughter said upon seeing the trailer, "AVATAR goes emo. I Don't Think So."
will shetterly
21. willshetterly
pablodefendini, yeah, I was excited about seeing the version by Ang Lee. Now I'm going to wait for reviews before I decide whether to see it. I wish I could go back to that alternate universe.

I was just talking about the trailer with Emma, and she pointed out something that especially bugs us about casting honkeys: None of them are famous. It's not like their names will help sell the movie. So what the fuck?
Pablo Defendini
22. pablodefendini
@willshetterly
I can only assume it's got something to do with shortsighted movie executives not being able to conceive that an ostensibly white bread (let's talk again after we get the census 2010 results, Hollywood), middle American audience could possibly relate to poc characters... Very weak sauce, I know, but it's the only thing I can think of.
will shetterly
23. willshetterly
pablodefendini, that, or nepotism. Almost all young actors are second, third, or fourth generation Hollywood.

Hmm. I'm embracing the power of "and" here.
john massey
24. subwoofer
I'm going with Smuggler on this. MNS has cried wolf a few too many times for me and I am casting a jaundiced eye on this one. I just wonder how he is going to pooch this.

@17- Sponge Bob is a scared cow for me! But honestly-Tarintino might do an okay job at it. After the er... suggestive overtones in the SB movie, how bad can it be if Tarintino directed? Well, maybe that is tempting fate.

Whitewashing- well- look at the disaster that was Dragon Ball- why does the main character have to be white? I am fairly confident that on a global population scale, caucasian is no the most prolific. It reminds me of the McDonald's commercials for the last Summer Olympics. Group of white kids hanging out and talking about the games. Am I far off the mark or is there no ethnic diversity in social cliques in school? White kids only hang with white kids and that is a fair cast of the people that participate in the Olympics- even for team USA? Gimme a break. Meh.


Woof™.
Maggie M
25. Eswana
@willshetterly None of them are famous. It's not like their names will help sell the movie. So what the fuck?
Although, the boy playing Sokka is Jackson Rathbourne, probably best known as one of the (many) angsty and sparkly vampires in Twilight. So if the execs are hoping to get a squealing pre-teen girl audience, that might work.

I think I will see it... but I approach it with such trepidation. I love the series so much that even if it were a perfect adaptation (which this promises not to be) it just won't be the same. Sigh.
will shetterly
26. willshetterly
Eswana, I don't think anyone would've minded if they had cast one or two honkeys in important roles. But the important characters who had dark skin tones or wore very Asian clothes should've been true to the TV show. This isn't the same as making Nick Fury black in order to add diversity--they're erasing diversity that already existed and was commercially successful.

But if the reviews are good, I'll see it.

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