Jump to content

The Last Airbender


Peter T Chattaway
 Share

Recommended Posts

I'm finally starting to get into the Airbender animated series. The "Winter Solstice" two-parter brought something more to the storytelling than the episodic "how will we save this village?" structure of the first several episodes, which were quite well done for that they were, but I'd been hoping for more.

The comments about the series on this thread were a big reason I stuck with it, so thanks.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
Twitter Blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 80
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I thought the cartoon did a fine job of balancing the one-off episodes with multi-part episodes. And even the one-off episodes contribute to the whole, with later episodes often revisiting people, places, and character development from earlier episodes. (This is especially true in the 2nd and 3rd seasons, as e2c says.)

Edited by opus

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This thread got me and my kids into the animated series, too, for which I'm very grateful - we're 4/5th's of the way through Season 1, and enjoying it greatly.

I've loved Shyamalan's films, up to and including 'Lady in the Water' (I haven't been able to bring myself to watch 'The Happening'). The childlike, magical-thinking quality of his films fascinates me, as do his visual style and his psychological insights into trauma and its aftereffects (that latter part is inevitable for me, I guess :) ), so it saddens me greatly to read about his trashing of 'Airbender.'

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Christian wrote:

: Is the studio really anticipating strong grosses for this film?

I've heard that they are, yeah. Which surprises me, but then, Twilight seemed to come out of nowhere to me, too, when it opened to such big numbers two years ago.

FWIW, this post from last night is no longer up at Deadline.com for some reason, but the bit that's preserved in my news feed declares:

THURSDAY PM: Sources tell me that Paramount's The Last Airbender opened to $16+M today from 3,169 theaters, including the $3 million from its midnight shows. Helped by higher 3D ticket prices, the pic based on the Nickelodeon animated TV series should be on its way to $60M for the 5-day July Fourth Holiday and a shot at 2nd place.

Sixty million in its first weekend? If that holds true, then The Last Airbender would almost automatically be Shyamalan's best-grossing film since The Village (which came out six long years ago). So reports of his career's death might be exaggerated. (Unless we want to postulate that it has entered some sort of "undead" zombie-like phase -- soulless but still on the move.)

Christian wrote:

: Bordwell lives in France? :)

No, but he reads French magazines. ;)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

$60 MILLION?? For this movie?

Even if it tails off badly in the coming weeks, I'm thinking an opening this strong indicates that those sequels will probably happen after all.

Shyamalan was quoted yesterday in the "Vulture" column saying that he doesn't pay attention to reviews and had been oblivious to the howls of outrage among critics who'd seen his latest film. He said, just as he did in the book about the making of Lady in the Water, that he has visions in his head and tries to put them on screen -- as if that's all that anyone should expect, regardless of whether those images hang together when assembled into a story, or are worth looking at on their own.

The obliviousness got me thinking about the purpose of reviews. My initial reaction was to think Shyamalan even more arrogant than I did before I'd read the interview, but I don't know why I should assume that film reviews would be intended for the filmmakers, rather than for audiences. Maybe I'm the hubristic one.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Christian wrote:

: $60 MILLION?? For this movie?

And that's just the DOMESTIC box-office forecast for the weekend.

: Even if it tails off badly in the coming weeks, I'm thinking an opening this strong indicates that those sequels will probably happen after all.

Especially if the film does as well overseas as some people are expecting it to.

: The obliviousness got me thinking about the purpose of reviews. My initial reaction was to think Shyamalan even more arrogant than I did before I'd read the interview, but I don't know why I should assume that film reviews would be intended for the filmmakers, rather than for audiences. Maybe I'm the hubristic one.

On a semi-related note, I finally got around to cracking open my copy of Mark Pinsky's The Gospel according to Disney the other day, and in the introductory chapter on "Methodology", he says:

Some reviewers of
The Gospel according to The Simpsons
complained that there was not enough of my own analysis and interpretation in that work, and too much paraphrasing from the show's episodes, and material from academics, ministers, and theologians. These critics may be right. So in this book I have tried to remedy that, especially in the heart of the work, the appraisals of the individual animated features.

That caught my eye, because my own review of that book concluded with:

The Gospel According to the Simpsons sometimes reads more like a collection of facts and episode synopses than an engagement with ideas -- like a journalist, Pinsky lets his sources do the interpreting -- but it's a must-read for anyone who wants to keep tabs on the relationship between faith and popular culture.

So, was Pinsky thinking of me? Possibly -- mine is one of six reviews of that book that he links to from his website, and the second half of my sentence was included in the list of review snippets in subsequent editions of the book. But I've never spoken to Pinsky, so I have no idea which particular critics he's thinking of. I'd be curious to know who the others might be. (And FWIW, I wouldn't say that I myself was "complaining" about this aspect of his book; it just stood out to me because I was reviewing his book in tandem with The Simpsons and Philosophy, where every chapter is very much a personal engagement of ideas based on the show.)

Anyway. I mention that simply to say that sometimes authors and artists DO take "advice" from reviews, and sometimes they DO allow those reviews to influence their subsequent works in presumably positive ways.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Kyle Smith: "It reminded me of mid-80s fantasy messes like 'Krull.'" That's funny. I've never seen Krull, but I, personally, kept thinking of The NeverEnding Story -- a movie I enjoyed well enough at the time, but must say I find a wee bit difficult to sit through as an adult.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steel yourself, Christian. Based on how the film did yesterday, some people are now estimating The Last Airbender could make as much as $70 million in its first weekend (if we count Monday as part of the weekend, I think).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steel yourself, Christian. Based on how the film did yesterday, some people are now estimating The Last Airbender could make as much as $70 million in its first weekend (if we count Monday as part of the weekend, I think).

This is a film that throws out of whack all of the things I've learned about box-office analysis, even at a novice level, over many, many years. I had just assumed word of mouth would be terrible among those who saw the film, leading to a fast fade, but maybe, just maybe, people actually like the movie and are telling people to see it. I never did see what the "Cinemascore" was among audiences on Airbender.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Christian wrote:

: I never did see what the "Cinemascore" was among audiences on Airbender.

Actually, the Cinemascore rating is apparently a mere C. So the buzz shouldn't be that great. But I dunno, maybe the movie targets adolescent boys or some other demographic that is somewhat off Cinemascore's radar (e.g., maybe Cinemascore was talking to parents instead).

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This movie may make $70 million over the weekend, and the sequel(s) might be made, but if the video below is indicative of how people overall feel about the movie, then the sequel(s) could be in real trouble.

If those who come to see your movie while dressed as your movie's characters start dissing your movie, I think that’s a pretty good sign that your movie has gone off the tracks.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I appreciate the comments about the film leaving too many things out, or leaving too many things unexplained, as it compressed the story down to a mere two hours; it reminds me of how one of my colleagues said the movie reminded him of The Golden Compass.

But, uh, why are all those people in the video complaining about the character's name? As Shyamalan himself said: "And I fought like crazy to have the pronunciation of the names to go back to the Asian pronunciation. So you say 'Ahng' instead of 'Aaang' because it's correct." Are the fans complaining that the movie is too Asian now or something?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

e2c wrote:

: The people (in this video and elsewhere) who state that they think Shyamalan never actually watched the original series are (imo) likely right.

You're joking, right? In that article that opus linked to a week ago or so, Shyamalan explicitly says, "I saw my family in that series when I was watching it, I saw them in the faces." And he gives explicit reasons for pronouncing characters' names a certain way, or for going about the ethnicity of the casting in the manner that he did. You can certainly disagree with his choices, of course, but you can't just say he was an ignoramus who didn't know the source material and didn't know what he was doing.

In other words, the people who state that Shyamalan never actually watched the original series are WRONG, and, if I were to speculate about them the same way that they speculated about Shyamalan, I would have to say that they are wrong because they never actually read the interviews in which Shyamalan has discussed the series and why he made the changes that he did.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An Asian friend gave it thumbs down. He did not like it. And I had to laugh after hearing all this talk about the vague ethnicity of the lead child actors (a claim I heard almost exclusivly from white people) one of his comments in a long list was, seeing these white actors surround by various Asian people in he background made the white actors stick out like a sore thumb.

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steel yourself, Christian. Based on how the film did yesterday, some people are now estimating The Last Airbender could make as much as $70 million in its first weekend (if we count Monday as part of the weekend, I think).

Aaaaaaand it turns out the estimators were right. The current estimate has the film earning $70.5 million by the end of the day today.

Nezpop wrote:

: And I had to laugh after hearing all this talk about the vague ethnicity of the lead child actors (a claim I heard almost exclusivly from white people) . . .

Just for the record, I have only made that claim about the actor playing Aang. I would never make that claim about the boy and girl who find him in the ice. (I forget the characters' names.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aaaaaaand it turns out the estimators were right. The current estimate has the film earning $70.5 million by the end of the day today.

The only thing "bend"ing is my mind, as it tries to wrap itself around the idea that the film freakin' raked it in over the long weekend.

Also, Anne Thompson notes:

This weekend’s success at the B.O. underscores that it’s easier for studios to maintain a solid franchise than to launch an unbranded title. Paramount had a Nickelodeon title to build from with Airbender; its longevity will determine whether there will be a sequel. A nasty C Cinemascore should put a damper on its word of mouth, but Paramount’s Cloverfield and Shutter Island overcame that barrier and climbed to respectable B.O. figures.

I don't think I knew that Shutter Island scored a C Cinemascore.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anne Thompson wrote:

: A nasty C Cinemascore should put a damper on its word of mouth, but Paramount’s Cloverfield and Shutter Island overcame that barrier and climbed to respectable B.O. figures.

Well, sort of.

Cloverfield merely doubled its first-weekend take -- it grossed $40 million in its first three days, and then another $40 million during the rest of its theatrical run -- so it would seem that the audience for that film tapered off fairly quickly. (The film also made another $90 million overseas, and all on an estimated budget of $25 million, which is dirt cheap for a big-studio movie.)

Shutter Island, on the other hand, more than tripled its first-weekend take; it started with $41 million in its first three days and then went on to gross another $87 million over the next few months, so the word of mouth in THAT case was presumably better. (The film also made another $166 million overseas, and all on an estimated budget of $80 million -- which is pretty modest by modern big-studio standards.)

So... will The Last Airbender merely double its first-weekend take? Will it triple it? And what will the OVERSEAS box-office figures be? That's the REAL question, since it's the overseas figures that will most likely decide whether the rest of this trilogy gets made.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Weep, Christian, weep: If current estimates hold, then as of today, this film will have earned $100 million in North America alone, after only 11 days in theatres (and it's still one of the Top 5). It's only a few million bucks away from grossing as much as Shyamalan's last two films COMBINED, and it will certainly be one of his three top-grossing films along with The Sixth Sense and Signs.

Enter Ross Douthat:

But somewhere deep down, I still harbor a faint hope that M. Night will hit bottom and find a way bounce back up. Maybe he needs to direct someone else’s script, or write rather than direct (as he did with the excellent “Stuart Little,” back when he was starting out in Hollywood), or just have a come-to-Jesus moment where he faces up to the fact that he’s been churning out pure dreck for going on five years. But the problem is that first he’d have to actually
realize
that he’s hit bottom — which makes it discouraging that he hasn’t yet produced a true box office flop. “Lady in the Water” lost money, but not on an epic scale. “The Happening,” depressingly, was actually a modest hit. And “The Last Airbender,” no doubt buoyed by its roots as a Nickelodeon TV show, managed to survive the critical drubbing and take in $70 million in its opening weekend. It probably won’t make back its obscene budget domestically, but the international market might push Shyamalan’s latest effort into the black.

So here’s my message to America, and the world:
Stop enabling Shyamalan!
I don’t care how many fond memories you have of “The Sixth Sense,” or how much your pre-teen kids wanted to see “Airbender” — the man has a serious problem, and it’s high time we stopped giving him the rope on which to hang a once-promising career. As long as people keep buying tickets for his movies, he can swaddle himself in the delusion that he hasn’t lost his touch, and that it’s the critics who’ve lost theirs. Only when an M. Night Shyamalan movie meets the same fate as “Hudson Hawk” and “Cutthroat Island” can the healing finally, mercifully begin.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is a great clip. The question is ballsy, and most of us would agree with it, but Shyamalan parries it pretty effectively. At first he just seems oblivious and arrogant, which he is to some extent, but I like the way he raises the point about certain "lesser" films of his being more popular than other films depending on which country we're talking about. Even if overall box office take worldwide agrees with the reporter's assumptions, it's not fair to say "the audience" has gradually lost faith in Shyamalan. The reporter appears to be referring to North American audiences only, and even then, I'm not sure how the films have done in, say, Canada vs. The U.S.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Christian wrote:

: The reporter appears to be referring to North American audiences only . . .

Which is interesting, since this interview took place in Mexico, i.e. outside the "domestic" North American market.

: . . . and even then, I'm not sure how the films have done in, say, Canada vs. The U.S.

Well, since you asked... :)

I've been keeping tabs on this stuff since 2004, so I don't know the figures for Shyamalan's earlier films, but as for his last four films, this is how they were doing as of their last appearance in the Canadian weekly top ten lists:

  • 2004 -- The Village -- CDN $8,454,503 -- N.AM $107,003,000 -- 7.9%
  • 2006 -- Lady in the Water -- CDN $1,841,678 -- N.AM $32,203,657 -- 5.7%
  • 2008 -- The Happening -- CDN $4,360,000 -- N.AM $59,063,000 -- 7.4%
  • 2010 -- The Last Airbender -- CDN $7,520,000 -- N.AM $115,138,607 -- 6.5% (so far)

Canada has about 9.7% of the "North American" population, so basically all of Shyamalan's recent movies have done less business per capita here than they have in the States.

But yes, in the current marketplace, the foreign grosses matter A LOT. You could argue, if you want to, that Ratatouille marked a low point for Pixar, inasmuch as it is their worst box-office performer in North America since A Bug's Life -- and you'd be right, as far as that goes -- but you'd be ignoring the fact that Ratatouille had the second-biggest overseas haul in Pixar's history, behind only Finding Nemo. Similarly, there was a time when some people pooh-poohed The Last Samurai because it was a Tom Cruise movie that made "only" $100 million -- but they were overlooking the fact that it made another $300 million or so overseas.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's awesome that they're playing up the steampunk angle. Not sure if that means a less 'pan-Asian' flavor as the aesthetic moves into a more heavily industrialized look. Judging from the still, though, it looks like the two elements are meshing well.

Asian steampunk. Awesome.

Edited by KShaw

Everything that matters is invisible.

-- Robert Bresson

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't see any reason that the two elements can't coexist happily. The Fire Nation (in TV series) was pretty steampunk already - their ships and weaponry, for example.

My thoughts exactly. Steampunk has become a little passé these days, but I think it would work very well within the context of the series (and I, for one, still think it's kind of cool). There were several episodes in the original series that suggested that the world of Avatar was beginning to move into a more technological, industrialized existence, so putting more steampunk into the sequel makes sense to me.

BTW, I think we should probably create an actual "Avatar: The Last Airbender" thread, so as to keep this thread focused on the Last Airbender thread. If folks are cool with that, I'll try and move relevant posts from this thread to that one.

Edited by opus

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to comment
Share on other sites

OK, I've created a new thread for Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel here. I'm in the process of moving relevant posts in this thread over, but it's slow going for some reason.

Edited by opus

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share


×
×
  • Create New...