All About M. Night Shyamalanâ€™s Avatar the Last Airbender Film Adaptation
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Obsessing over M. Night Shyamalan’s Avatar the Last Airbender film adaptation!
LastAirbenderFilm.com was established on November 11, 2008 (then as The Last Airbender Movie Blog) by long time Avatar fan, Jack B. Our chief goal is to provide the latest and most accurate news and information on M. Night Shyamalan’s live action movie adaptation of Avatar the Last Airbender.
Budget Confirmed: $250 MillionApril 21, 2009 by nextairbender
Frank Marshall confirmed today that the budget for the planned The Last Airbender trilogy is $250 million, and that they will be spending more on the first film “to create the world.”
Marshall Claims No DiscriminationApril 20, 2009 by nextairbender
The Last Airbender Producer, Frank Marshall, in an effort to quell the continuing charges of whitewashing the cast, had this to say on his Twitter.
The casting is complete and we did not discriminate against anyone. I am done talking about it.
Well there you have it.
Shooting to Start This Week in South Philly Seaplane HangarApril 12, 2009 by ccarver3
According to a report by Philly.com, shooting is set to begin this week at one of the largest soundstages on the East Coast.
This week, M. Night Shyamalan and his Last Airbender cast and crew will shoot at the Navy Yard in South Philly on what could be the largest soundstage on the East Coast.
It’s a World War II seaplane hangar that served as the PX for the Navy until it was decommissioned - 75-foot ceilings over about 100,000 square feet, or almost two football fields, including end zones. Paramount knocked out the hangar’s temporary columns, walls, and ceilings, so it’s all clear. “Built for war and indestructible” is how Greater Philadelphia Film Office head Sharon Pinkenson describes it. Before Shyamalan got ahold of it for his action film, it was used for storage of equipment for the X Games during the winter between the competition’s two summers in Philadelphia.
After doing a little researching around I managed to find a picture of the hangar/sound stage. This thing is huge!
South Philly Sound Stage Hangar-- ©2008 Everett Priestley
Frank Marshall added a picture of the hangar to his Twitter site this morning!
Navy Hangar Set -- © 2009 Frank Marshall
Teaser Trailer By June!April 9, 2009 by nextairbender
Producer Frank Marshall updated his Twitter yet again, this time announcing that a teaser for The Last Airbender will be out by the end of June!
An aside: It seems as if the excitment about this film is building by leaps and bounds. Even my cousin in Sydney, Australia has been texting me wanting to get the inside scoop so that when he meets his pokie mates at his local pup, Scruffy Murphy's, he will be able to dish some juicy gossip. I texted him back an said just stick with your best games like Take Olympus or Joker King or maybe Hand of Midas where you've won a gorilla or two when you are hot. (BTW: that's what Aussies call a $1000 note). Actually now that I think of it, he wasn't playing pokies when he won the big bucks. I think it was some poker tournament. Anyway, I periodically did send my cousin some juicy tidbits over the months. He was so pumped to see the movie when it came out in 2010. Too bad it turned out to be a dud. I think Sukhdev Sandhu from the Daily Telegraph (UK) summed it up perfectly in his review A quite breathtakingly inept hodge-podge of vapid spirituality, playground chopsocky and visual effects that take 3D to an entirely new level: Zero-D.. I rather thought (after the fact) that Shyamalan took this beloved source material, stripped the characters of all emotion, threw in intrusive narration, and doused it in CGI. But back in 2009 we were ALL so excited by the idea of Shyamalan taking on this classic. Oh well.
Pictures of Noah Ringer & Co. Are ComingApril 9, 2009 by nextairbender
According to Producer Frank Marshall’s Twitter, a press release and photos of the cast are due out in June! If there aren’t any leaks between now and then, we’ll be getting out first look at the Noah Ringer as Aang and the rest of the Gaang in just two months.
Spears and Meat, Purty Sweeeet!April 8, 2009 by nextairbender
Amanda Bell of the Twilight Examine sat down with Jackson Rathbone for a little chat, discussing topics ranging from his role in Twilight, to his upcoming role as Sokka in The Last Airbender.
“I’ve been training in various styles of Kung Fu since December, and I love it! It connects the body and mind in a way a textbook could never achieve . . . I can kill from 10 feet away with a spear . . . Purty sweeeeeetttt . . .”
This is a Warrior’s Wolf-Tail!April 7, 2009 by nextairbender
Pictures have found their way online of Jackson Rathbone sporting his Sokka hairdo!
“Well, it certainly tells the other warriors that you’re fun and perky!”
And the Peabody Goes To…April 6, 2009 by nextairbender
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The George Foster Peabody Awards has honored Avatar: The Last Airbender with a prestigious Peabody Award for its “unusually complex characters and healthy respect for the consequences of warfare.”
Michael DiMartino, co-creator and co-executive producer, had this to say when reached by Animation Insider.
We are thrilled, honored, and humbled that Avatar was chosen to receive a Peabody award. From the start, Bryan [Konietzko] and I set out to make a series that would exceed what audiences normally expect from children’s animated shows. We’re proud of all the people who worked tirelessly to make that goal a reality.
Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of a few animated programs, including The Simpsons, Wallace & Gromit, Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, and South Park, to have ever received a Peabody.
Congratulations to Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, and all of the talented people who put so much hard work into making Avatar a reality.
Lauren Mary Kim is a WarriorApril 5, 2009 by nextairbender
“But she’s a girl too.”
According to IMDb, Lauren Mary Kim has been cast as Kyoshi Warrior #3! As Aang so aptly put it in The Warriors of Kyoshi, “Relax, Sokka. Where we’re going you won’t need any pants!”
Tino Quezada and John Mitchell have also been cast as Fire Nation warriors.
Gran Gran’s Coming to DinnerApril 5, 2009 by nextairbender
Philly.com is reporting that Katharine Houghton has been cast as Kanna, affectionately known as Gran Gran to her grandchildren Sokka and Katara, in The Last Airbender. Houghton is best known for her role as Joanna “Joey” Drayton in the socially groundbreaking film, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” which dealt with the controversial subject of interracial marriage.
REVIEW The Last AirbenderBy nextairbender
Lost in translation. What better phrase to sum up M. Night Shyamalan’s efforts to bring the beloved Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series to the silver screen? It has been three and a half years since Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies announced the hiring of Oscar nominated director M. Night Shyamalan to produce the live action adaptation, much to the trepidation of Avatar fans worldwide. While Night’s early Hollywood career met with substantial box office success and critical acclaim, his two most recent films (and a third to be released in 2008) were received far less favorably. Many were beginning to justifiably doubt his directing talents, and still more wondered if he had the skills necessary to do justice to the Peabody award winning modern classic. We’ve been following this film since production finally began to ramp up in the fall of 2008; covering every news item, every photo snapped, every interview given, every trailer screened, and we were even lucky enough to have a chance to interview Night himself back in March earlier this year. The cast and crew said the right things, the costumes and sets looked fantastic, the special fx wowed us, and Night had a lot of enthusiasm for the show & seemed to get what made Avatar great. Aside from the much publicized casting issues, things seemed to have been progressing most auspiciously. I was lucky enough to have been invited to the film’s premiere at the Lincoln Center in New York City on June 30th. Having given myself a few days deliberation, I believe I’m ready to submit a critique of the film that will hopefully keep gut-reaction hyperbole to a minimum.
Adaptations are a tricky business. Whether they be book to film, television to film, or theme park ride to film, even the most talented of directors can stumble on that road. It’s far too easy to fall into the trap of slavishly adapting the subject matter word for word, only to find that what works on paper translates into a tedious movie watching experience. However, alter it too much and you risk losing the meaning and essence of the material, not to mention your audience. The Last Airbender is a poor adaptation. Not because of the superficial changes, such as the botched name pronunciations or ‘racebending’ issues, but because much of what makes the source material so adored by fans has been lost. Book One was just as much about the bonding of Aang, Katara, and Sokka during their journey as it was about the Avatar returning, and saving the Northern Water Tribe. It introduced these characters, explored their often complex motivations, and chronicled their personal growth in a very organic fashion, while never forgetting that these characters were children. No matter how dire the situation, no matter how serious the responsibility, these characters always found time to be kids.
Conversely, The Last Airbender’s script seemed to run roughshod over this aspect. The trio in the film were introduced as mature adults straight from the beginning, robbing the film of any childish light hearted moments, and nixing their maturation altogether. Unfortunately, this left the narrative with very little complexity in the plot outside of the major plot points of Book One, which were themselves hastily glossed over to accommodate the sub-two hour running time.
The performances of the principal characters themselves weren’t extraordinary, but neither were they up to snuff with Night’s past child actor standards. Jackson Rathbone (Sokka), Nicola Peltz (Katara), and Dev Patel (Zuko) all turned in sufficient performances. Out of the leads, newcomer Noah Ringer’s performance as the titular last airbender (Aang) was the most convincing. Given the character’s sterilization from the prank playing, animal riding, care free nomad of the cartoon into the depressed would-be messiah of the film, the role did not ask Ringer to display much emotional range. However, the young martial artist brought sufficient gravitas to the role, with just enough fleeting glimpses of the child within sprinkled throughout to satisfy the more forgiving fans. Fans should also be pleased with how closely Aang’s core values in the film resonate with those of his cartoon counterpart, especially in the climactic battle with the Fire Nation’s navy at the Northern Water Tribe.
Sadly, outside of Shaun Toub (Iroh) and Seychelle Gabriel (Princess Yue), the rest of the supporting cast ranged from bad to unintentionally comedic. I can’t help but wonder what kind of audition could have possibly landed Aasif Mandvi the role of Commander Zhao. Far from the calculating malice teetering upon the edge of wreck less insanity, as portrayed by Jason Isaacs in the cartoon, Mandvi’s Zhao is essentially the same performance he gives on a nightly basis on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. I honestly expected him to gleefully utter, “Back to you Jon,” on several occasions.
The visual effects provided by Industrial Light & Magic were a mixed bag as well. For every breathtaking shot like Aang’s immense tidal wave, there’s a wholly unconvincing effect like the prison camp earthbender’s floaty boulder which appeared to be under the control of a handful of synchronized dancers. While not significant screen presences, Appa & Momo consistently looked good throughout the picture, and were probably the closest assets best replicated from the cartoon in both look and behavior.
Being a rather tremendous fan of the Track Team’s musical score for the cartoon, and believing it to be as integral to the spirit of Avatar as John Williams is to Star Wars, I was skeptical of the news that James Newton Howard’s score for the film would be an entirely original composition. This skepticism as it turns out was spot on, as Howard’s score bares very little resemblance to the Track Team’s wonderful work. That is not to say that Howard’s score is poor, because it works very well for the film, and has several very moving & powerful cues throughout. Sadly, it’s just another example of the film’s desire to be just a little too unique for its own good.
The Last Airbender isn’t the worst film I’ve ever seen, and perhaps I enjoyed it more than I otherwise would have for the simple fact that it was Avatar: The Last Airbender in live action. Seeing some of my favorite characters, settings, and scenes in a live action setting has always given me a certain thrill: Michael Keaton donning the cape & cowl in Tim Burton’s Batman, the T-Rex breaking free in Jurassic Park, Christopher Reeve making me believe a man could fly in Superman, Frodo bearing the One Ring across the treacherous lands of Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings, etc. Viewed objectively it’s not a good film, and sadly does not live up to Night’s best work. The epic fantasy adventure picture may not be the genre best suited for Night’s unique talents, and one can only hope he will return to his more personal stories. I for one would welcome Unbreakable 2 with open arms.
1 1/2 out of 4 PENGUINS!!
Mike & Bryan Interview & HD Korra Promo ArtBy nextairbender
The good people at Nick were kind enough to pass along a high definition version of “The Legend of Korra” promotional art. Click the image above to see it in all its glory.
In other Korra news, Speakeasyspoke with “Avatar: The Last Airbender” creators Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko in an interview that sheds some light on a number of topics ranging from the highly anticipated new series, to their thoughts on Shyamalan’s adaptation, whom the mother of Aang’s son Tenzin is, and more! Read on Avatar faithful!
The Wall Street Journal: How did you come up with the idea for the spinoff?
Bryan Konietzko: When Mike and I first created “Avatar: The Last Airbender” we always knew it would have an ending to it, that particular story. But as the show really took off, and found an audience all over the world, we knew that despite our intentions of ending that story there would probably be a time when Nickelodeon would come calling and want some more episodes….When that time came we had this idea for jumping ahead and telling a story about the next Avatar, this girl Korra.
If there’s a new Avatar, that means Aang has passed on. If he died around age 70, isn’t that pretty young for an Avatar?
Konietzko: You gotta keep in mind that he was frozen in a state of suspended animation for 100 years, so he kind of burned up some of his extra Avatar time.
The new “Avatar” is a woman. What inspired you to change the sex of the protagonist of the series?
Michael DiMartino: It’s not so much about changing because we had Avatar Kyoshi before Aang. We’d established that the Avatar can be male or female and we just thought let’s explore one of those more in depth, because Kyoshi was a popular character with a lot of fans and it seemed like a great opportunity to not retread what we’d done with Aang, who was a great hero, we all loved him, but we really wanted to try something different. And we have so many great female fans out there, who really responded to Katara in the first series, we thought we have the fan base who are really going to enjoy seeing the Avatar be a female.
Konietzko: Mike and I, we love those characters too, and we’ve encountered countless fans who are male who really like those characters too. We just don’t subscribe to the conventional wisdom that you can’t have an action series led by a female character. It’s kinda nonsense to us.
The one image that you released is Korra looking out on Republic City, where a lot of the new show take place. Tell me about that city.
Konietzko: That’s kind of a piece of concept art so when the show premieres next year it won’t look exactly like that but that’s the direction we’re headed. The first series was sort of a road show where every episode they were going to some new location. That was another new thing we wanted to do is root it in one big complex location but mainly one place. We were drawing inspiration from Shanghai in the 1920s and 30s and Hong Kong and even Western cities like Manhattan and even location-wise cities like Vancouver, a city that juts out on a peninsula or an island and has these big mountains around it. A friend of mine who offers what must be the best drapery care in Manhattan asked if we would consider showing the storefront of their store in one of the scenes. He had just read about product placements in films and thought that having the store front in a scene would be beneficial to his drapery cleaning business. He even would give us free advertisement by sending out promotions to former customers touting the film and telling them to look for his storefront in the scene.....I said we would think about it, IF we filmed in NYC. However it ended up that although we did a number of scenes from the film in the US they were all in Pennsylvania and not in Manhattan.
Will we see characters from the previous series pop up?
DiMartino: I don’t want to give anything away, but rest assured there’s a definite link between the old series and this one.
Republic City is a city plagued by crime. There’s an anti-bender revolt. Does this new series deal with more mature themes?
Konietzko: Mike and I like a balance of tones. We never set out to make an overtly silly show or an overly serious dramatic show. We like dealing with all those things. It’s fair to say we’re dealing with some sophisticated things and the show is growing up a bit. But that said, we’re not in a calculated way trying to target another demographic. Even in the first series, it was about a world war and some pretty serious issues.
If Tenzin is Aang’s son, who is his mother?
DiMartino: [To Konietzko] We can say that, right? [To Speakeasy] It’s Katara. It’s not a huge surprise.
What did you guys think of the live-action version of “The Last Airbender”?
Konietzko: We’re just really focused on this new show right now, and kind of taking this off in its own direction and not concerning ourselves with that right now.
So you didn’t follow the casting controversy about the movie version of “The Last Airbender”?
Konietzko: We didn’t head up that film. We’re just happy to be back generating the original content in this mythology, which is what we do.
Would you like to bring a cartoon version of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” to the big screen?
Konietzko: We would love to. I think Mike and I would absolutely love to do feature animation. Either another story, or it if worked out, one in the “Avatar” world. We would be really excited.