Ever since I saw the first trailer for The Last Airbender, I was psyched to see it on the big screen. The animated Nickelodeon show is a charming, creative premise with an anime spin about a young boy with the ability to control the elements. I was ready to see it all come to life, from Appa the flying bison, to Aang and Katara’s love story, to Prince Zuko’s endless angst.
And then I read the critic’s reviews. Or more specifically, Roger Ebert’s review; I trust him as a critic and he’s also a fan of the animated series.
“The Last Airbender” is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here… M. Night Shyamalan’s [3-D] retrofit produces the drabbest, darkest, dingiest movie of any sort I’ve seen in years…its special effects are atrocious…[the characters] are bland, stiff, awkward and unconvincing… “The Last Airbender” bores and alienates its audiences.
Well, that ruins a movie trip for me. And it’s not just Ebert; nearly all the other critics are panning Airbender too. Apparently, instead of creating a film that honors the original series, Shyamalan misrepresents and butchers its very essence. Hmm, haven’t I seen something like this before?
Meet Dragonball: Evolution. Another anime series gone live-action film that went wrong in every possible way: nonsensical plot, cardboard performances, laughable special effects, and the worst attempt of Goku’s spiky hair ever (I’ll bet a million dollars were spent on hair gel). And don’t be fooled by the Japanese poster I chose; it was an American adaptation of a Japanese anime and it (therefore?) sucked. Just mentioning it will make any anime fan wince in pain, and it seems Last Airbender has followed in its footsteps.
I am beginning to dread a similar fate for my favorite comic manga-ish series Runaways, which is receiving the live-action film treatment next year. So, what are you going to destroy after this, Hollywood? Don’t worry, there are plenty of other classic anime shows to turn into live-action abominations, like Inu Yasha, Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell and Trigun. Oh dear, my eyes are already burning.
Why is the film industry so fixated on movie adaptations for books, shows and comics that are already great the way they are? Animated shows that are adapted to animated movies work well, like Batman: The Animated Series and even The Simpsons, but live action films take a downward spiral.
Oh wait, let me guess the reason: money. An animated film will likely retain its original crew and cast, and will market to its fans, so it usually doesn’t make as much (Simpsons’ box office success is the exception). Live action usually means different actors, directors and writers; elements are cut out and changed to market to every demographic possible, while trying, and ultimately failing, to keep the original fanbase happy. A larger demographic means more exposure and more moulah.
Recently, it seems like the movie industry is becoming lazier than ever; unwilling to come up with new and fresh ideas, they instead resort to destroying good ones–or in Twilight’s case, making it even worse, which I never thought possible. It’s upsetting that a great director like Shyamalan would ruin such a good series and will probably give the Airbender show a bad name; but he isn’t the first, and I fear he won’t be the last.