Review: The Last Airbender Movie and the Drama It’s Causing Before Its Release

The Last Airbender Movie….and the drama it’s causing BEFORE it’s released…

Friday, August 28, 2009 at 5:09am

The movie that is causing more trouble mid-production than I’ve ever seen (lol). The Last Airbender, based on the incredibly cool show Avatar, (not to be confused with James Cameron’s movie Avatar which got the rights for the name before this movie) the Last Airbender is hitting theaters next summer and is getting a lot of words from people. Brought to us by M. Night Shyamalan (whose last movies haven’t been so hot) we are following the story of a boy name Aang, the last airbender and the Avatar, the one person who can restore peace to the world that is currently being overrun by the evil fire nation. This movie is going to be the first of three, following the show’s three season run starting with the Water book, then Earth, then the HOTTEST book, Fire.

Why is this movie causing sooo much commotion? The kids who are casted to play lead characters Aang, Sokka and Katara…are all caucasian. What’s worse? The fire nation is going to be played by Indian and Middle Eastern descent actors while Earth nation characters are to be played by Korean actors.

I know to some it’s really a question of “so what?” but to other’s it’s really not. To many, it’s a version of the media’s “white washing” and it has left many fans outraged, seeking you tube and other media outlets as a refuge to sound off. Many want to know what was M. Night thinking to change the cast from its anime inspired Asian appeal? And by Asian, they mean Central and East of Central Asian appeal.

Now you may be wondering, why M. Night decided to do this. Well for the most part from what I’ve read and seen across the internet, M. Night looked for a boy who embodied Aang, martial arts wise. He found it in the ten year old Noah Ringer. However, many are still wondering why he couldn’t find it, in a boy who looked much like Aang- a boy of Central/Eastern Asian descent. Furthermore Sokka, the warrior of the Southern Water tribe, whose people are describe as Inuits and depicted as darker skinned, is being portrayed by Twilight’s Jackson Rathbone. His sister, the water bender Katara (who is equally dark) is played by Nicola Peltz and who plays relentless, bad-boy, fire-bending Prince Zuko? Dave Patel. Yes, homeboy from Slumdog Millionaire. And word on the street is the he wasn’t even first pick. It was going to go to Jesse McCartney. That would’ve make two nations (Water Nation and Fire Nation) Caucasian, the last Air Bender (and surviving Air Nation citizen) Aang caucasian AND left the Earth kingdom up for ethnic grabs.

Now why are many asking questions about the changes to the show? One, it’s based in the art form of Anime, a Japanese form of animation and two, even the lettering characters and city names all sound like it could be from Central or East Asia. There are debates saying that because “India is Asia,” people should be satisfied that technically “Asians” are acting. But a lot of people aren’t buying that, especially since it was a last minute move. If Jesse McCartney was still playing Zuko, then what would they say?

Picture of Cast and Cartoon Before Jesse McCartney resigned.

Top Left: Aang: Noah Ringer

Right: Sokka: Jackson Rathbone

Bottom Left: Katara: Nicola Peltz

Bottom Right: Zuko: Jesse McCartney

Dave Patel as Prince Zuko

It seems that M. Night and the studios decided to quite this squabble by declaring that they wanted ethnic diversity- Caucasians playing Water Nation, Indians (and Indian looking) playing Fire and Korean (and possibly stray Central and Eastern Asian) actors playing Earth. But it still didn’t shut the crowd up.

The majority of the movie will circle around Prince Zuko and his fire nation entourage, Aang, Sokka and Katara as they try to find Aang a master and as Zuko tries to reclaim his honor. Because this movie is based on a season long of 30-minute episodes, it will have to be considerably condensed and so who knows how many other ethnic people we may see. The point remains that the main characters are the faces that will be on the screen for a lot of the running time, so…what can you really say to appease those who feel like they’re not going to see faces whom many identified with?

From Top Left going Clockwise:

Aang: Noah Ringer
Katara: Nicola Peltz
Sokka: Jackson Rathbone
Zuko: Dave Patel

This also comes after an allegedly “disappointing” depiction of another well loved anime show-turned-movie Dragon Ball Z, where the heroes were “white.” People brushed that one off saying that the characters came from different “planets” and therefore had no ethnicity despite the origin of the show (JAPAN) and names like Goku.

Dragon Ball Z cartoon to movie characters Goku and Burma played by Justin Chatwin and Emmy Rossum respectively.

Some people are taking it even further asking why the movie version villains (fire nation) are “brown,” but I’m not even going down that road.

The television show itself was created by two men of European descent and the voices were of multiple ethnicities including African-American actor Phil LaMarr and Filipino actor Dante Basco and the show earned an Emmy among many other TV awards.

As for me? I’m iffy about the movie because it’s live action. If Nickelodeon was releasing an animated movie version of Avatar, I would be in there like swim wear, but I’m not too sure that M. Night, whose vision I adored (until Lady in the Water) can carry off something that I really grew to love. Massive water walls, air slaps, fire emanating from fists and heels, stealthy martial arts that I’ve only truly seen done to justice in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero (yeah…Asian)…I don’t know man. Now apparently Dave Patel is a black-belt in Tai Kwon Doe, which makes him able to do all his stunts and would make for an interesting watch, but…I still don’t know.There’s going to be a lot of CGI in this flick and I don’t know if my eyes can take it if it’s not done right. M Night is really going to have to pull that one out his booty. And really good too, because if this one flops, no one’s going to want to see two more bad movies. I read that he’s already working on the script for the second flick and that this whole trilogy may take up to six years to complete. He’s not taking a line from Peter Jackson with the continuous filming thing…which is going to tough to explain why Aang (who is 12 in the show) looks 10 (Ringer’s actual age) at the beginning of the movie but then looks 16 by the end of the final movie when only about a year (if so much) was to have elapsed. lol. It’s kind of funny now that I think about it.

And knowing that there will be a CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF CHANGES…I don’t know. I’m still trying to deal with the changes on one of my Book-to-TV shows, so I don’t know if I can deal with this. Let’s just see how good the second trailer coming out in four months look and maybe I’ll think about going to see a matinee showing just because the original creators had a hand in it.

All I have to say is that they’re lucky the Harry Potter movie is scheduled for the fall. Otherwise…::smh:: Lets see what other movies we have in store for next summer….

Check these links for the buzz and cast listings: