In 2005, Nickelodeon launched an original series called ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ that fused anime with western animation, depicting a society very much seeped in Asian history, culture and mysticism, but likewise blended with other influences. The series followed the adventures of teen protagonists Aang, Katara and Sokka in their quests through their home world. The sophisticated and literate series proved a huge hit, appealing to a large demographic, from its primary target audience, kids to teens and adults. The show ran for three seasons, with a followup, ‘The Legend of Korra.”
In 2010, hoping to capitalize on the TV series’ success, a live action movie was released, directed by the acclaimed M. Night Shyamalan, a director usually associated with suspense dramas typically with a surprise twist ending. This was a huge departure for the director, but after winning accolades for (some of) his former films, hopes were high.
The result was ass.
It was trashed on every level. It has a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and “swept” the Golden Raspberry Awards (the annual awards ceremony “celebrating” the worst movies of the year), nabbing Worst Supporting Actor (Jackson Rathbone as Sokka), Worst Screenplay and Worst Director (Shyamalan), “Worst Eye-Gouging Use of 3D” and of course Worst Picture. Shyamalan recently actually dredged up this catastrophe in an effort to defend it.
And apparently Megan Fox is to blame.
This is what Shyamalan had to say about this opus:
“You could make it one of two ways: you could make it for… nine and 10-year-olds, or you could do the ‘Transformers’ version and have Megan Fox.
“[Which would equal making] a movie about a kids show that my 10-year-old is watching and not make it for her. I [would have been making] it for my guy friends. That felt like a betrayal of the innocence of the piece. In retrospect, is it too young to go out.
Shyamalan also assures us that the movie has actually found its audience:
“I go out and 10-year-olds are like, ‘That’s my favorite show! I love that movie!’ Parents come up to me and go, ‘They’ve watched ‘The Last Airbender’ 74 times!’ Those kids, it’s for them. It was for them, to talk about mysticism and Eastern philosophies through a 10-year-old’s vernacular. So, you know, these are business propositions, which have very little interest to me, of like, ‘Hey, the business proposition is to get Megan Fox to be…’ You know, ‘You should age it ’til it’s that.’ That wasn’t the source material, you know what I mean?
“Whereas, also, like a ‘Transformers’, it’s really fascinating, because it’s valid for ‘Transformers’. You know why it’s valid? Because… the little boys that were playing with them are grown up now. They’re the ones who wanted to see Megan Fox. That’s absolutely appropriate, you know what I mean?”
When asked to comment, Megan Fox replied, “Bitch, what do I have to do with your s****y movie?” (#notreally)
So Shyamalan took a rich, sophisticated cartoon series, with a lush mythology, which he ADMITS his 10 year-old watched– and presumably comprehended just fine, otherwise, why bother?– and felt that it was too intelligent, so he dumbed it down (in a fairly condescending way) into this mess?
I’m not even sure why he referenced the ‘Transformers‘ movies at all. Is he saying that there was pressure to age the characters up and add sex appeal? I can’t see that. ‘Transformers’ may appeal to kids, but those movies aren’t “kids/family movies.” They’re big budget, escapist summer blockbusters. ‘The Last Airbender’, being a Nickelodeon production, WAS intended to be a family movie, and I’ve seen enough of those to know Hollywood doesn’t shy away from focusing on child actors in these cases. There shouldn’t have been any push to include Megan Fox or any other sexy/sexual cast members or overtones.
Honestly, the real problem is that Shyamalan either didn’t get the source material himself or he thought kids were too dumb to get a more faithful (i.e. complex) live action version. (Yet they’re smart enough to know who directed it and what he looks like, as he gets mobbed by kids in public who love this trainwreck.)
But that’s just me. What do you think? Does Shyamalan have a point and was his heart in the right place? Or did he just make a crap movie and now needs to stand up for it, even though most everyone has forgotten it?