Last weekend brought a long anticipated opening for the live-action film adaption of Nickelodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” cartoon show, a film written, directed, and produced by M. Night Shyamalan (a fact that his opening and closing credits would not let you forget).
I will admit that when I found out his name was attached to the project my initial excitement dwindled – his recent flops The Village and Lady in the Water can testify as to why; yet, my fandom took the reigns as anticipation built.
As trailers were released for The Last Airbender (originally titled “Avatar” but later changed as to avoid confusion with James Cameron’s film), the fear I had be dismissing for almost a year began to grow. Film adaptations always disappoint, but this one foreshadowed epic downfall like a Greek tragedy.
As a fan, the film was more than a disappointment – it was a travesty. Everything from blatant plot butchery to the mispronunciation of character names could fill any die-hard with absolute disgust (enough to prompt me to write a less than cordial “95 theses” I’d much like to staple to Mr. Shyamalan’s face).
But from a filmmaker’s perspective, the movie was reminiscent of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room – so blatantly poorly written and directed that scenes meant to be dramatic caused audience members to die laughing. A variety of on-the-nose dialogue, plot holes, and poorly choreographed action scenes made the film a calamity of errors. Visually, the film was appealling; but, pretty don’t fix stupid.
Ironically, the film was meant to take Nickelodeon’s film brand to the next level much as Pirates of the Caribbean served for Disney, as The Last Airbender was written to have two sequels to match the cartoon series three book structure. Scoring a measly 8% on Rotten Tomatoes, its hard to say whether Paramount will back the other two films.
While the film has had a moderate box office success, my advice to Paramount is quite simply this: if you must degrade the source content further, Shyamalan’s gotta go.