Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why I'm Skipping "The Last Airbender"

Much has been made about the controversial "whitewashing" of M. Night Shyamalan's "Avatar: The Last Airbender" film adaptation.

Valid arguments have been made against the casting process and its unfortunate implications, and many have called for boycotts of the film.

However, my reason for sitting out "The Last Airbender" is much simpler, and specific to this particular series:

There's nothing the movie can offer me that the series hasn't already done better.

I usually enjoy adaptations for two reasons. The first has to do with the whole concept of "dream casting" - yes, he was extremely disappointing in the sequels, but for that first "Spider-Man" movie I honestly can't see anyone pulling it off as well as Tobey Maguire. And I wanted to see Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier at least a decade before Bryan Singer, so there's that.

The second reason is more to do with narrative distillation: the best adaptations are the ones that appropriate the source text's best qualities and apply correctives to the flaws. On that note, thank you again, Peter Jackson, for deleting Tom Bombadil from "Lord of the Rings", the book that has more fat than Homer Simpson.

But "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is quite possibly the most meticulously-plotted, well-acted, elaborately-designed, narratively-exquisite series I've ever had the pleasure of watching. There isn't a single thing I'd change, or even want to see differently. I don't need to see a live-action Aang when the animated one was so charming and endearing; I don't need to see a live-action Appa when "Appa's Lost Days" still moves me to tears; I certainly don't need to see some talentless Hollywood tweener fail to fill the shoes of Azula, one of the greatest female villains in the medium's history.

There's nowhere for Shyamalan to go but down - why would I pay money to watch that?