M. Night Shyamalan’s movie adaptation of Nickelodeon’s much-loved Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon has been controversial from the casting on down, spawning an entire movement of fans disappointed to see nearly all the leads in the Asian-inspired series cast as Caucasians. That’s been hard to miss, at least if you’re in fandom. But the film is opening this week and the reviews are brutal – even without the casting issue.
The grand poobah of movie reviewers, Roger Ebert, calls it “an agonizing experience.” While I’m not sure where he’s getting some of his facts,* little is spared from his critique, including ILM’s effects. (Ouch.)
*The story takes place in the future? Not in the cartoon. Misunderstanding or Shyamalanism?
While it’s hard to predict the reaction of consumers who propelled the brain-sucking Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to #2 at the box office last year, between Shyamalan’s reeling reputation, the already overwhelmingly negative reviews, and the alienation of a core base of fans, things aren’t looking so good.
The most we can hope for is that the cartoon comes out unscathed: For fans, I can recommend Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Art of the Animated Series, which I finished this afternoon. It’s art and sketches from the original show, a nice look into the world the cartoon, and if you like Art of books, it’s hard to go wrong.