Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Avatar: The Legend of Korra

I'm still squeeing about this.

“The Legend of Korra takes place 70 years after the events of ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ and follows the adventures of the Avatar after Aang - a passionate, rebellious, and fearless teenaged girl from the Southern Water Tribe named Korra.”

Korra’s quest eventually leads her to Republic City - the epicenter of the world of “Avatar.” A metropolis powered by steampunk-type technology, the city is inhabited by people from all nations. Korra finds that Republic City suffers from rampant crime and is also dealing with an anti-bender revolt. Korra is tutored by Aang’s son, Tenzin, is the ways of airbending."

Interesting things I'm looking forward to:

1. New set design. Seventy years means a lot of technological advances. The designers did such a terrific job painting the Avatar world that adding more steampunk to it might detract from the beautiful traditional Asian setting, but considering how awesome some of the sets look, I'm not too worried.

2. Korra. The new Avatar will likely be taking a more traditional path towards training for her career. And considering the bulk of the ATLA audience have been women ages 14-40 (and older!), it will be very interesting to see where the series takes the viewers in what was previously a primarily boys 9-12 viewership.

More specifically, I want to know:
a) What will Korra's spirit guide be? (Roku had a dragon, Aang had Appa...)
b) Will she Bloodbend? (Please say yes.)
c) What nation will her love interest be from? I'm voting fire...because I bet Bryan and Mike are going to squeeze that Zutara in somehow... And yes, don't doubt for a minute that there won't be a romance subplot. Teenage female Avatar? It begs for a YA romance.

3. Tenzin. It's terrific we'll get to see the next generation carry on, an important theme in the ATLA universe. Considering our happy little Airbender would have died at age 83 (the series ends when he's about 13), I can only imagine Aang's son being adult-aged: heck, he could be an old man or, if Aang was particularly virile, a teenager himself. Will he take after his father? Will he resent the fact that he has to contend with yet another Avatar? Will he resent and brood over the fact that he is one of the last Airbenders? (Or is he...?)

4. Whatever happened to...? Everyone still has questions about Zuko's mom, about the Spirit World, about all our favorite characters. Perhaps a few flashbacks will resolve those issues and satisfy our curiosity.

2011 can't come soon enough, and it'll probably be late in arriving...that's okay, though. I waited 3 years for the Shyamalan movie, I'll wait however long I need to to wash its taint with this glorious new series.



New Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series announced!!!

Nickelodeon has officially announced that a sequel to the critically acclaimed “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is the works! From the creator-producers of “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” “The Legend of Korra” (tentatively titled) animated series is slated to premiere in 2011. According to Nickelodeon executive Brown Johnson, the new series will follow the adventures of a teenage Water Tribe girl avatar named Korra (pictured above presumably), described as a independent hothead “ready to take on the world.”

Perhaps this will wash away the taint of Shyamalan's film....

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Last Airbender in Five Stages of Grief

Denial – Surely this can't be the movie Shyamalan intended. No, hell, no, they didn't spend $150 million and 3 years on this, the live action version on my most beloved show ever.

Anger – No. NO! How can this be happening? How can you say that? Aang! And it's Ang not Ahhng; stop talking! Stop it! Act! For God's sake, act the way you do kung-fu! Gaah! Shyamalan, what have you done?!

Bargaining – C'mon, just...just get us through this with the giant Ocean Spirit rising up and pushing the Fire Nation out to sea and everything will be okay. Just give us the Deus Ex we need for this series to be something and it will all be good, and I swear, if Aang just says "No. It's not over," I will watch this film twice more and watch the sequels three times each!

Depression – Noooooo...nooooo.... Oh God, why.... No, Katara, stop talking. Your expositions means nothing...nothing.... I'll never be able to tell anyone I'm an ATLA fan ever again....

Acceptance – *sigh* We'll always have the TV series. Really, it's a shame they never made a live action film. THEY NEVER MADE A LIVE ACTION FILM. (Go to step 1.)

Review: M. Night Shyamalan`s The Last Airbender

There's no way I can say this gracefully. Let this screenshot from the original series say it all.

M. Night. Shyamalan's The Last Airbender was HORRIFIC.

Forget about the Racebending issues. Forget that James Cameron scooped the proper title "Avatar". Forget that the movie cost $150 million to make.

This movie sucked without any assistance.

I mean, it's not just ho-hum. Not just bad. Not just "It was a poor adaptation of a beloved cartoon series" the way Transformers was. Or even G.I. Joe. Or Garfield. Or...or...

*cries in my hands*
*curls up into fetal position*


The handful of redeeming qualities--beautifully-rendered translation of the settings and the world, sparing nods to the fandom, and special effects that blend classic wire-guideline kung-fu with excellent CGI--do not make up for the utter unwatchability of this movie.

Now, maybe I'm extremely discerning and biased, considering I've turned everyone I've encountered toward the cult of Avatar: The Last Airbender. But I'm also a writer, and that critical eye was absolutely dazzled by the ineptness of this film.

Gods, where do I start...

1. The script and storyline. You would think that Shyamalan would have been able to pull the juiciest, most potent lines from an existing TV series and created a script worthy of a condensed version of Book One: Water. You'd think he would have been able to cut away the fat and present this classic tale of the reluctant hero out to save the world with minimum distractions. I still contend he did it well in Signs, Unbreakable, and The Sixth Sense, regardless of other feelings about his later films. (I haven't watched anything since The obviously I'm missing a chunk of his career that would have given me some insight, I'm sure....)

But no. Despite having a 61-episode cartoon series that has effectively proven that its target audience is not made up of complete morons who need to be spoon-fed everything, Shyamalan turned Last Airbender into a vanity project and decided to make the world his own. (The credits state he is the writer, director and producer of the film, so we can blame him squarely for everything.)

He only rewrote a few of the rules (e.g. firebenders can't create their own fire, only manipulate it) but he decided EVERYTHING had to be explained. From the scrolling text introduction (NO. BAD SHYAMALAN. Only Star Wars is allowed to do that!) to Katara's incessant voice over (thanks, Katara, I can see the Sokka and Yue are interested in each other, thanks for not trusting the actors) this movie was filled with tell, not show; words, not action.

We can see little to no development of Aang's (irritatingly pronounced pronounced Ahhng in the film instead of Ang in the TV series) character. Every word out of his mouth made me cringe. He might as well have turned to the screen, broken the fifth wall and said, "This is where I'm supposed to show you how inspiring I can be, even if all I seem like is a young kid."

The script and story structure was cheesy, cliche, bland, drawn-out, and at times non-sensical, and it did nothing to evoke any sentiment whatsoever. It was alternatively too short to relate the epic tale, yet way too long in its pacing. It was heavy handed, repetitive, and just plain bad. I know dozens of fanfic writers who could have written more convincing and interesting dialogue. Hell, by the end of it, I was pretty certain I could cobble together a better script.

2. The acting. To be fair, these poor slobs, including Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel, didn't have a whole lot to work with. There were brief flashes of real skill, but I can only imagine Shyamalan suppressed it. I've only ever seen this level of acting constipation in Star Wars: Episodes 1, 2 and 3.

Jackson Rathborn as Sokka (Sew-ca in this film version vs. the canon Saw-ca) looked like he was ready to burst in every scene. Katara was whiny, and reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Dawn, except without any of the subtlety or teenage torment. And Noah Ringer...geez, I don't know where they got this kid, but they should have relegated him to stunt double and put an actual actor in his place. He tried, he really did. But that script did absolutely nothing to help.

On the Fire Nation's side, Shaun Taub's Iroh (pronounced Ear-roe, instead of canon Eye-roe) was the only passable performance. I kept expecting Aasif Mandvi's Zhao to start every line with, "Well, John..."; and Dev Patel seemed like he was phoning it in...except that he was drunk-dialing an ex-girlfriend at 2 a.m. Appropriate, perhaps, for poor, tortured Zuko, but we all know he's capable of better. I continue to blame M. Night.

3. The editing. Perhaps the rush to turn this feature into 3D one forced someone to choose the splashy scenes over the goods ones. But since I watched this in 2D, I can say that making this 3D definitely won't help.

Part of me thinks there's a much better movie on the cutting-room floor. It felt like there were huge gaps in the story; of course, you're going to lose a lot of the nuances and breadth and depth when you try to pack 440 minutes of cartoon into less than 2 hours, but there were no acts that could be easily distinguished, no subtle turning points, nothing that indicated to the viewers, okay, the real world is at an end, let the journey begin; and now, that's over, here's the dark moment. We were instead treated to a lot of really slow, drawn-out martial arts scenes--beautiful, except that this is supposed to be a world where people bend. For whatever reason, Shyamalan didn't put in the thing that this movie is supposed to be about: manipulating elements. All I can think is that they ran out of time and money, having spent it entirely on doctoring a doomed script.

And on that topic of martial arts, if it takes a whole bunch of flips and punches to get one fireball to hit a guy, I think I'd rather have a bow and arrow, thanks.

By the end of it all, John and I both agreed this film could use a Phantom Edit.

Okay, major issues aside, there actually were a few things fans of the show could appreciate. Shyamalan does massacre the film, but out of necessity, he's taken a decidedly different route to tell what should have been an epic tale. We see scenes that never existed in the original series. We see nods to the show he is a huge fan of, starting with shots ripped straight from the opening credits.

The score by James Howard Newton was pretty good, blending classical epic fantasy with traditional Asian instruments.

Costumes were great. Sets were great. It was the most of the Avatar world realized.

I loved Appa and Momo, though they barely had roles in the films.

Did I have an issue with the racial profiles of characters? Not really. But the script was so bad you could have had anyone in these roles and it would have been terrible.

If Shyamalan was trying to appease the fans, he missed the mark. There's no doubt Avatards will rush to see this film that's been +3 years in the making. In fact, I'd encourage all fans to see it, just so that you understand how good the series is and learn why it's sometimes better to leave well enough alone. What is in doubt is whether enough of them will see it to produce Books 2 and 3.

Bottom line: this is yet another failure to adapt a story geared toward the young adult set for Hollywood's mass audiences. In this case, it was about as fail-tastic as it could get. If Shyamalan wants to have any hand in another film, he'd best take the producer's chair and keep his cursed mitts off anything he loves if he wants it to do well. Now that would be a twist ending.


The Last Airbender reviews have been DISGRACEFUL.

I would have thought it would eke out at least at 50%. I thought they would at least beat out Eclipse.

But no. Not since Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li have I seen Rotten Tomatoes ratings this low.

I feel bad for everyone involved. Especially Shyamalan.

Of course, that doesn't mean I won't still go see it. And I have to remind myself that Hollywood bases sequels on box office numbers, not reviews.

Still, at 9% Rotten, I doubt the film will draw any new fans, which would have been vital to those revenues.

Will be back soon with my review. *Cries with my face buried in Appa's fur*