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Well, there have been many issues with this film that could've been avoided, but first I want to discuss my thoughts about the casting. I don't really have any problems with directors favoring certain actors/actresses, because after all, this is all about market acceptance and the popularity of the celebrities (although none of the leads except Dev Patel are well known). However, I do have a problem when filmmakers like M Night that would go out of his way to cast non Asians and Native Americans for lead characters of those descents when they were well liked in the animated series. Not only did he exclude Asians and Native Americans for lead roles, but he tried to be more authentic with the names of those characters. This doesn't make sense, considering the actors are not even from those cultures. I've noticed from some fans and non fans that they feel the casting is fair but they're either not paying any attention or just don't care about Asian and Native American cultures. Just about everything in the animated series and the live action movie has real bases from Tibetan, Inuit, and East Asian cultures. Even the opening credits have Chinese writing.
First let me explain about the Tibetan culture. In the movie, Aang talks to the old man in the temple and the old man tells him about reincarnation of the avatar by selecting the exact certain items, which is the same story about the Dalai Lama being reincarnated by selecting exact certain items.
Second, in the live action movie, Inuit people are seen in the beginning of the film living in igloos, but the actors portrayed by Sokka, Katara, and their grandmother were the only non Native Americans while everyone in the background were, can white washing be anymore blatant than this?
'Third, Fire Nation people are of East Asian ancestry. You can tell what they are by their martial arts, the way they eat with chopsticks (although it's not seen in the live action, but it does show in the cartoon), and East Asian designs with their costumes, hairstyles, religion, Asian architectural designs and on their ships, etc. Dev Patel has Indian (Hindi) ancestry, which is not a fair representation of East Asian ancestry. That's sort of like saying Scandinavians are fair representation of Mediterraneans or Italian and Spanish are the same language.
'Now, I'm not trying to point fingers and complain that the film has to be politically correct, however, there have been very few or hardly at all any American films that starred Asians or Native Americans as the heroes. Majority of American films that I see Asians as heroes are martial art films, and some period films, but that' about it. 'If anyone is going to counter my argument, don't give me those exceptions, because they are very, very few. I don't see any way The Last Airbender film is fair, considering there have already been several Asian related films like 21, Dragonball Evo, Extraordinary Measures, King of Fighters, upcoming The Weapon with David Henrie, and upcoming Genghis Khan with Mickey Rourke that do not have asian leads. I don't understand why some filmmakers feel Asians are not bankable considering the successes of Harold and Kumar, Slumdog, Crouching Tiger, The Last Emperor, Enter the Dragon etc. Even if domestic box office sales are poor, the international revenues can be just as profitable. For example, Dragonball Evolution movie did poorly here in the States but it was more profitable overseas for a sequel.
As many already know, there are a lack of Asian representation in the American entertainment industry, but what really bothers me is that none of the lead actors in The Last Airbender film are famous except maybe Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire. If the actors are unknown, does it really make any difference to cast unknown Asian and Native American actors/actresses? What these filmmakers like Shyamalan are doing are stealing. They are taking someone else's cultural story all just to make a profit. This reminds me of David Carradine in Kung Fu, which Bruce Lee helped create but wasn't allowed to star in it because the filmmakers didn't feel he was bankable. Instead of trying to represent Asians, filmmakers like Shyamalan and the Dragonball Evo director (even though they're Asian) have made things worse. All they've done was get people riled up and angry. We should be supporting filmmakers like Justin Lin, Clint Eastwood, Fred Weintraub, filmmakers of Harold and Kumar, and Ninja Assassin, who are trying to represent Asians.
Lastly, I saw the movie, it was a waste of time. 3D viewing was awful, there wasn't anything in 3D or very little. The editing was nonsensical, awkward bending movements with weird camera angles, and special effects looked interesting but didn't look or feel convincing throughout most of the film. There was absolutely zero character development, they left out some key characters, the names were all wrong even though M Night tried to be more authentic with the names, and he totally screwed up the character's personalities (which was likable in the cartoon). Katara was supposed to be a heroine, but the live action seemed to focus just on Aang as the hero. The whole movie felt like some random events, with terrible acting and dialogue. Humor was a huge aspect about the animated series, but there was absolutely no playfulness quality at all. I understand it's overwhelming to condense an entire first season in a full length feature film but still, you have to let your viewers care about something. Even if he had to make 6 movies, I rather see some character development than not at all.
In conclusion, I feel this film has lost a lot of credibility from unfair representation with the casting, poor filmmaking, and not adapting (even an inkling) the heart of the cartoon that made it so popular. I really don't see how Shyamalan can continue the franchise when he even mentioned to Vulture magazine saying he didn't know how to adapt it to live action without being him. I really hope someone else directs if there's going to be a sequel or remake because apparently Shyamalan was not the right choice if he can't deliver what his audience wants. Someone once told me (who was in marketing) that if you can figure out what your customer's needs are, then you have a product. There is a huge fan base with The Last Airbender cartoon, so if M Night already has customers, why not try to deliver what they want instead of what he wants?