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Fanon:Readapting Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Many fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender have demanded and expressed interest for a remake or reboot of the film, The Last Airbender. While waiting for a reboot, which may not happen, at least in the near future, aspiring Avatar fans can work on reboot fanon using this page as a starting point. Feel free to voice your opinions and suggestions in the comments section below.

Fan adaptations of Avatar: The Last Airbender include:

Aang and Zuko awkwardly watch play

Running Time

The first outline I made of the movie I brought Mike and Bryan to my house and said, "I have an outline of the movie, what do you think?" And they said, "This is like 10 hours long. You have to cut stuff." And I thought, "I can't. I love everything." The first outline was so long...
Roundtable Discussion with M. Night Shyamalan

Commercial movies can be anywhere between 90 minutes to 180 minutes long. Similar epic PG-rated movies (Star Wars, Harry Potter, Narnia, etc.) had the running time as long as 2.5 hours per movie. Major studios prefer shorter movies if they can get away with it as these are cheaper to produce and distribute. Shyamalan mentioned in his interview by Mike and Bryan that the trilogy will be 6+ hours, which gave "2 hours or so" for the first movie (although the final running time is 103 minutes)[BGoo 1]. The A:TLA story has already been in audio/visual format in 30+ hours for all 3 seasons. To make a film trilogy with 6+ hours means you have to take pieces that are important to you, and rearrange and modify them so it all fits together. Anything else is a mathematical impossibility. Key episodes were kept, while filler episodes (e.g. The Great Divide) were cut to fit the allotted time.[KaneC 1]

Even the fight scenes have to be selective, as they cut into the allotted running time. If every fight scene from the first season is included, this may end up with the characters fighting every 5 minutes or less, effectively turning the movie into a fight-porno. Selected fight scenes can be reasonably spaced out to every 15-20 minutes, based on the episodes chosen for the movie.[KaneC 2] In Shyamalan's adaptation, some major fight scenes were dropped or shortened, such as Sokka holding back his boomerang attack on Zuko when he first arrived at the village, Aang simply escaping from Zuko's ship using his glider without Zuko and his men attempting to shoot down or the involvement of Sokka and Katara in that scene (and the first time the Avatar State is shown) and the removal of both Agni ki Duels between Zuko and Zhao when Zuko simply walked off the luncheon at Zhao's ship after being humiliated in front of everyone present[Hasdi 1] and when Iroh told Zuko to "walk away before Zuko attempts to fight with Zhao at the Northern Water Tribe city."[BGoo 2]

Multiple Movies

Having more than 3 movies, by breaking each season in two or more movies as done with Twilight 4 and Harry Potter 7, has issues with negotiating contractual commitments with the cast and crew. The cast for Harry Potter for example, only committed to 2-3 movies at the time, allowing them to renegotiate for more favorable contracts to return in additional movies[Hasdi 2]. Daniel Radcliffe remained as Harry Potter at a considerable cost to WB, making him even richer than Prince William and Harry[2]. While Book 1 can easily be adapted into one movie with plenty of filler episodes that easily be cut or modified to fit the running time, Books 2 and 3 are more vast story-wise, so the only options is to either each of these two books into two movies each or to sacrifice an entire story arc in order to adapt one book into an entire movie.[BGoo 3]

This may be less an issue if the movies are 3D animated, as the voice cast can be easily replaced (with no discernible differences to the general audience) if they hold out for more money. However, most recent animated movies are around the same length as the final cut of M Night's movie, so if a 3D animated movie was a re-telling of the original series, length will still be an issue.[BGoo 4]

Story Format

In an episodic series, that nature is: it's episodic. A beginning, middle, and end in each episode, so it needs you to go right, left, right, left like that. But there is a through-line that is present in most episodes, like how he has to master all of the elements and that kind of thing. Katara and her brother are becoming a family and they're protecting Aang. And they're moving to the Northern Water Tribe.
Roundtable Discussion with M. Night Shyamalan

Film is a different medium than TV; what may work in a book or TV series doesn't necessarily work in film. The audience watches the entire story in one sitting as opposed to a long length of time reading chapters or watching episodes. The plot has to be revamped, to take a branching story meant to fit a TV format and alter it around to fit film format, but keeping the essence of the show including the characters with their main traits, and the key plot line. The plot of Book One can be as simple as a quest story: heroes leave the small village, travel and learn skills, reach the location where the climax will take place and utilize the skills they've learned, often with help from characters they've met along the way.[KaneC 3]

A common story format used in a film is the Three-act structure, in which a screenplay is divided into a three parts called the Setup (Act I), the Confrontation (Act II) and the Resolution (Act III). The first act is used to establish the main characters, their relationships and the normal world they live in. The second act typically depicts the protagonist's attempt to resolve the problem initiated by end of the first act, only to find themselves in ever worsening situations. The second act may be broken up into two or more parts. Finally, the third act features the resolution of the story and its subplots. In Shyamalan's film, the acts are:

Plot vs. Character Development

In literature, a plot is defined as the events that make up a story, and characterisation is the process of creating and conveying information about a character. A good movie or story needs both plot and character development. While there are many "Plot v.s. Character" debates out there[3], with a limited running time, you may have to be selective between the two. There are not many cases where a dialogue or a scene can simultaneously develop both plot and character, as effectively as developing plot or character alone. As such, plots may need to be sacrificed for more characterisation, and vice versa. This usually means cutting down the episodes to adapt (or portion thereof) and cutting down the number of characters. [KaneC 4][BGoo 5]

Basically the last two episodes of the first season was like a whole season. They slammed everything. I remember when I saw it I told the boys [ Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko ], you're killing me in those two episodes. Just every back story, every single thing you can jam in there. Even in our third act there's a ton jammed in there. It's as much as an audience can take jammed in there. You would need to turn the third act into half the movie to do justice to the back stories
— M. Night Shyamalan on cutting down Sokka and Yue's courtship[4]

Composite Characters

Dock

A composite character is composed of two or more individuals

A composite character is a character in a fictional work (or, in some cases, a non-fictional work) that is composed of two or more individuals. This helps save running time, minimize the cost of casting and hiring many actors, reduce character clutter, and enhance the importance of otherwise minor characters[Hasdi 3]. Certain characters from the series had to be merged for the exact reason. For example, the film version of Yue is composed of the series Yue and Arnook, by having her father written off as dead at the start of the movie. [Hasdi 4]. Some minor characters with no further roles were reduced to unnamed characters, as done with Kanna (credited as Katara's Grandma), the Earthbending boy (Haru) and his father (Tyro), etc. Otherwise, the minor characters may not be in the film long enough to justify their presence, like the fortuneteller in the "Talk To The Dead" deleted scene (Aunt Wu); and Suki and her Kyoshi Warriors (despite being merged with Jet and his Freedom Fighters in the movie novelization)[KaneC 5]:

"It was like introducing these great characters who had nothing to do with the third act. That's what happens in the series, but in the short form of the movie, it becomes blatant. Where did they go? Why aren't they in the third act? So I made the very difficult decision of pulling them from the movie and introducing them in the second movie if we have the opportunity."
M. Night Shyamalan, on why the Kyoshi Warriors were cut[5][BGoo 6]

The most drastic composite character is the Dragon Spirit, taking over on the roles of Roku, Koh, Fang, and Guru Pathik. Creating a composite character of this nature is not unprecedented for a feature-length adaptation of a long series. For example, Superman: Doomsday, a 2007 American direct-to-video animated film adaptation of the popular DC Comics storyline The Death of Superman, has the Superman clone that was a composite of the four fake Supermen from that storyline: Superboy (as a clone of Superman), the Eradicator (who killed criminals), Cyborg Superman (who attempted to convince everyone he was the genuine article), and Steel (who wanted to protect the people). [KaneC 6]

Some composites can be confusing to fans of the original fictional work, like the film depiction of Ozai, who is a composite of Admiral Zhao and Firelord Ozai, as in being the main antagonist of the film series, much like the animated Zhao is in the animated series. Along with roles originally played by the animated Ozai, he played many roles of the animated Zhao. In some cases, the roles are jointly shared with the film Zhao, particularly the plan to eliminate the Ocean and Moon Spirits in the Siege of the North. The characterization for the animated Zhao is more closely depicted with this Ozai than with the film Zhao, e.g., sinister and devious, rather than cocky and ambitious.[KaneC 7]. On the other hand, the film version of Zhao is a spun-off character, personifying a younger Zhao who served as a junior Lieutenant under General Shu (and then found the hidden library), and apparently an illegitimate son of Zhao-Ozai composite, turning the relationship dynamics between "Zhao Jr." and Zuko similar to Edmund and Edgar in King Lear[6]. This in turn is the reason why the film contains many scenes between him and Fire Lord Ozai, a relationship not illustrated in the cartoon.[KaneC 8]

See Also

User Articles

Notes

  1. The events for The Avatar Returns episode is in Act I, but Aang revealing himself to be the Avatar and the resolution to travel to the North to learn Waterbending was moved to Act II(a), hence also the title.

Notes by KaneC

  1. Of course, M. Night didn't really seem to consider this when writing his hodge-podge of a script, a script that seemed to attempt to cram almost everything plot-wise from Book One into it (excepting some side stories like Jet), while leaving out almost anything character-driven.
  2. With a longer running time, at least the chosen fight scenes can be utilized. My chosen fight scenes are (in order) Zuko's first confrontation with Aang (Aang did not fight with Zuko in the movie, and Sokka did not attempt to hit Zuko with a club), the entire sequence in Zuko's ship (including Zuko v. Aang, and the involvement of Katara and Sokka), the Agni Ki duel between Zuko and Zhao, the entire Imprisoned uprising (with the inclusion of the Kyoshi Warriors), the Yu Yan archers chasing Aang, the Blue Spirit sequence, Pakku v. Katara, the Fire Nation's first attack in the NWT city, Katara v. Zuko, the Fire Nation's second attack after sunrise and Zhao's final Agni Ki duel with Zuko.
  3. Remember, don't be afraid to change around major aspects of what happened for the sake of having a script that flows and allows for character development. Yes, the first thing they should have done is pick out those character arcs and the themes, then arrange the plot in such a way to make those arcs work. The narrative needs to flow. The events in a film need to feel like a progression, this is especially crucial in a trilogy because you're building tension for the next films as well.
  4. Most critics and fans complained about the lack of character development in the movie. For instance, both Katara and Sokka, two of the major supporting characters of the series, are not given their spotlight compared to the main character Aang and another major character, Zuko. While Sokka is given his share through his relationship with Yue, Katara is often panned for not being given enough attention (e.g. having her speech in Imprisoned being given to Aang in the movie, an entire subplot regarding her necklace being cut and a shorter fight with Zuko). Sokka did not fare much either, the removal of the Kyoshi Warriors in the first movie loses a great deal of characterization for his part. A lot of fans also felt that M. Night could've done a much better way to show Aang's reluctance to accept his new responsibilities. Things like showing Aang goofing off instead of concentrating as in the series highlights Aang's immaturity and the fact that Aang was told about being the Avatar four years too early. The flashback to the Southern Air Temple, where we see Aang in front of the monks, confronted by those four toys and the confirmation that he is the Avatar, was well-received by fans and critics alike. His reaction is heartbreaking and it's the only time in the movie that the audience actually feel for Aang as a character. It's that "show, don't tell" approach to film-making that is so much more effective than all the wooden dialogue trying to recap plot.You're dealing with a major theme in the series here, something that is crucial to Aang as a character... as you put it, Aang's "reluctance to accept his new responsibilities". He ran away. And what happens in the movie? It's a throwaway line that the audience probably doesn't even notice. (As in, when Aang tells Katara at the Southern Water Tribe that "I ran away from home, I was upset") Huge mistake. Yes, it would have been lovely to have seen more joy and childish youth to movie Aang. Aang's got all this destiny and weight on his shoulders, but despite it all, at the heart he's still just a kid and behaves as such on more than one occasion! That was such a charming part of Aang's characterization in the show and in the movie he was very serious, but Aang should not appear weak or cowardly. If he avoids responsibility...well, he's twelve. Showing more of Aang's playful side could have emphasized the coming-of-age element of the story... I just wonder how it could be done because sometimes the charming and comedic antics of a cartoon character doesn't necessarily translate well to a live action adaptation.Perhaps they could have shown more of Aang's feelings for Katara? I don't think that was addressed in the film at all. That would have demonstrated Aang's youth and happy personality quite well. Not to mention the shyness and awkwardness that also comes with having a crush on the older girl...there could have been some nice dialogue between the two of them, establishing their growing bond... perhaps Aang being overly eager to impress her and show off his bending. The waterbending scenes between them could have been a nice set-up for this. It would have been nice to establish the buddy / brother relationship between Aang and Sokka, too. However I still think it's important to show that he was told about his Avatar identity very early and that he ran away because he wasn't ready. There's a theme of redemption in this story and I think Aang does feel guilt for that decision. I think that was my major issue with that line in the film, "I ran away from home, I was upset". It just seemed incredibly silly. This kid was found frozen in an iceberg! And that's the only explanation we get as to how he got there? In my opinion the flashbacks from the episode The Storm work better because they give the context of what led up to it.
  5. Bare in mind that these supporting characters can useful despite their brief appearance in Book 1. For example, the Kyoshi Warriors will keep their original roles from the series, but this time as the protectors of the mining town from Imprisoned, now merged with Kyoshi Island. And Jet plays an important role in Book 2, so flashbacks of him can be used to show the audience what really happened to Katara and Sokka when Aang leaves to get the message from Roku. Kanna can still be named just to clarify her importance in Pakku's backstory, while the fortuneteller can either be cut entirely or be placed as a deleted scene just like M Night's movie.
  6. One popular suggestion is to let Roku and Koh be separate characters, but Roku can teach Aang about chakras, taking over the role of Guru Pathik, by Book 2.
  7. Many felt it would be best for the original series Ozai to appear in Book 3, while Zhao in the first movie keeps his original personality to be the perfect foil for Zuko.
  8. In the series, the only form of communication between Zhao and Ozai is through a messenger hawk, informing that Zhao is promoted to Admiral. Zhao also spent more time with Zuko in the series, where he has a much stronger rivalry there.

Notes by Hasdi

  1. Apparently, M.Night tried to make up for this by adding a scene where Zuko trained in a fight, one against four Firebenders from his crew (just like what Iroh did in the series after Zhao roasted the Moon Spirit). Unfortunately, the fight scene was cut short and the Firebenders were not shown bending any fires. :-(
  2. Rumors about the cast getting too old to play the part typically swirl when the contracts were about expire... probably initiated by WB just to spice up the contract renegotiation. xP
  3. For a lengthy discussion on composite characters, please visit this page on tvtropes
  4. Some may argue that Yue simply assumed Arnook's role as the head of the state after he is written off, but she is still technically a composite character. Despite her characterisation is mostly Yue, her role is composed of Yue's role in the series as Sokka's love interest, and Arnook's role as the head of state for the Northern Water Tribe.

Notes by Buttongoo

  1. Major film studios do in fact prefer shorter running movies, this is due to the fact that the company does not know how much money the movie will gross, and a long time running movie may bore the audiences. Movies based upon a "Best Seller Book" or "Real Event" for example would automatically have a larger gross rate, this is why The Lord of the Rings, Forrest Gump, and Titanic were given a long run time. Also if the director is previously critically acclaimed such as Steven Spielberg, the industry would trust them into making the right decisions, allowing them a longer running-time.
  2. Keep in mind that fight sequences don't have to be reduced like that, as different sequences could flash back and forth, which in the process would make each sequence feel longer
  3. The best way for these to be split and still let the cast remain the same age in appearance would be to film each movie back-to-back much like Peter Jackson did with The Lord of the Rings. In my opinion that was the biggest mistake with The Chronicles of Narnia.
  4. Please note that a larger audience majority would rather visually see the cartoon series adapted into a live-action film series then a 3D animated film.
  5. "Show, don't tell" would automatically intrigue the majority of the audience as they would find it more believable. This was yet another large mistake The Last Airbender had as it did not show Aang form the ice sphere around him or Yue's hair turning white as an infant.Grounding characters in some ways from the original source may turn out well but other would not. Playfulness, light-heartened action, goofiness, and humor would actually make any film more realistic especially if it involves children. Compare Avatar to the film Stand By Me, they both have a group of kids on an important mission, where even as important as the mission may be the children still find time to goof off.
  6. To be honest, I actually agree with why M. Night pulled the Kyoshi Warriors from the film because they did not appear in the final act. I do not believe that was the only solution however, as into the final act, the film could turn to the warriors who agree to leave Kyoshi to fight in the war

References

  1. Producer Frank Marshall on The Last Airbender. LOVEFiLM (2010-08-10). Retrieved on July 21, 2011.
  2. Daniel Radcliffe richer than Prince William and Harry. The Economic Times (2010-10-18). Retrieved on July 13, 2011.
  3. Characterization vs. Plotting. Novel-Writing-Help.com (2008).
  4. Meredith Woerner (2010-07-04). What the Last Airbender TV series has that the movie doesn't. UGO. Retrieved on July 20, 2011.
  5. Rick Marshall (2010-07-02). M. Night Shyamalan Reveals 'The Last Airbender' Deleted Scenes. MTV Splashpage. Retrieved on July 13, 2011.
  6. Dan Kaufman (2010-06-02). It's All Geek To Me — Mandvi on Fire — An Exclusive Interview with Aasif Mandvi from M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender. 30ninjas. Retrieved on July 13, 2011.

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For the collective works of Hasdi, go here. For KaneC, go here.

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