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Why Faithfulness, Not Honesty, Is The Best Policy

Both Jonah Hex and The Last Airbender have found themselves being on the receiving end of both lousy reviews and terrible box office attendance recently, which makes me wonder: Do they provide a guide as to what not to do when adapting a property into a movie?

Think about it: Both Airbender and Hex have run afoul of fans of their franchises by making changes for a mainstream movie audience that doesn’t seem that interested in their movies in the first place – Hex gained supernatural powers, and The Last Airbender gained an especially caucasian cast. This strikes me as a decision that’s either surprisingly ballsy or – more likely – the first big mistake. Both changes weren’t minor, like updating Iron Man‘s origin to the modern day Middle East or whatever; removing Airbender‘s multiculturalism takes a large part away from the appeal of the original series, just as adding the supernatural undercuts the (admittedly limited) realism that made Hex such an interesting character in the first place, which raises the question: Why do it?

If there’s one thing that moviemakers should have taken from the success of things like Lord Of The Rings, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies or the Iron Man movies, it’s that fidelity to the source material is the key to success. Not necessarily slavish devotion – That way lies overlong madness, after all – but enough to show to fans that the moviemakers not only understand the material, but understand why the material is so important to the fans. The way I see it, when you’re doing an adaptation of an existing (and, especially, popular – moreso The Last Airbender than Jonah Hex here, admittedly) property, fans are invaluable, both as something resembling a conscience/early warning system, and also as unpaid advance publicity agents – They’re the people who can make others excited about your project, but also the ones who can tell you when you’re messing with the stuff that made you want to make the movie/TV show/video game/whatever in the first place.

It’s in everyone’s best interests to listen to, and in some sense, appease the hardcore fanbase: Just as much as those making the adaptation, the fans want it to be successful – They want others to see what they’ve been excited about, and to make them understand – and they’re willing to help make that happen. I can’t help but feel that, when Airbender fans started (justifiably) freaking out over the casting of the movie, it would’ve been to the movie’s ultimate benefit if the producers had stopped and thought, Wait, why is this a big deal? Maybe if they’d done that, then they might have realized what made the original Avatar: The Last Airbender different, and special, and more than just the cliched special effects engine that its movie version has become doomed as.


  • demoncat_4

    not to mention the execs should have at least tried to find some actors who maybe were the same nationality of the characters instead of having cacausians play asian characters. as for Jonah hex. think the supernatural element was added to try and make him more along the lines of superman and the other dc characters. since just doing a film about a cowboy with an attidute like Hex the execs figured would not get the fan base it was after that plus hex being a reall obscure character really did not help the film

  • Wayne Ligon

    I have to wonder if the fan community has mostly shot themselves in the foot on that score, though. There's a quote somewhere about most movements eventually being led by their most insane members, because it's those people who have the time and fanatical energy to devote to their cause day-in and day-out, and we reached that point a long, long time ago.

    SO many fans make insane, snarky, sarcastic observations based on the thinnest rumor or the first blurry pre-render leaked pictures that it drowns out the more reasoned arguments – after reading the first ten pages of people ranting on about how the movie is going to suck because Ang's robes are yellow and not orange (or whatever – you get the idea), who's going to read further? The wheat-to-chaff ratio is still way too high.

  • /mjh.

    “not to mention the execs should have at least tried to find some actors who maybe were the same nationality of the characters”

    Er, that was one of McMillan's primary issues if you'll take another look at the article. I suppose that it can't be restated too many times, though. I was sort of jazzed about an Avatar film but tying Shyamalan to it had me worried. What should have worried me was that it was a Blockbuster (ish) Hollywood event film. Well, that and having to change the title so as not to confuse it with the latest release from The Great Plagiarist. Has he fixed the Gulf, yet, by the way?

  • Joe H

    I'm confused… the fans not being happy with what they heard about the film caused the film to be poorly cast and overly-reliant on both prepositional dialog and computer graphics?

  • Brad H.

    Spoilers to Come

    Having seen 'The Last Airbender', nearly two hours of my life that I'll never get back, I have to say that the biggest failing of this movie wasn't Shyamalan's casting choices. Aside from the lead three this was actually a fairly diverse cast and it was only Shyamalan's choice use the Four Nations model to split things up in terms of ethnicity, choosing European/Caucasian looks for the Water Tribe in particular (although some of the kids in the early part certainly looked Inuit to me), happened to make a make a movie which was bookended by them look worse than it actually was. If this thing makes it to a sequel the look will change dramatically if Shyamalan's still on board and sticks to his casting.

    The thing that did the most harm to The Last Airbender was the condensation, cramming an entire season of Avatar:The Last Airbender into 1:43 by keeping the 'important' bits and throwing out the humor and character development that balanced out the dark and serious elements, a balance that made the animated series so popular. The characterization was weak and the plot had no flow to it, seeming to be strung together by cut scenes and expositional moments. While I can understand how some would cry foul over ethnic casting choices, that isn't what's going to cause this movie to sink quickly.

  • Emeraldwarrior420

    Wait, how is adding the Supernatural changing Jonah Hex for the mainstream? Didn't he battle supernatural stuff in the comics?

  • Wildstorm

    The problem is that studio execs decide what will make money and not what will make fans happy. They think that they know what the fans want.

    As for the crap of casting the right nationality, that is just pure BS. Did anyone you people that complain that Harvey Dent was cast as a BLACK guy ( Billy Dee Williams) in Tim Burton's Batman or that a WHITE guy (DB Sweeney) was cast as Terry Fitzgerald. Or how about going as far as saying that Hugh Jackman was the worst choice to play Wolverine because Jackman's from Australia and Wolverine is Canadian. I didn't hear anyone complain that Liam Neeson was playing Ra's Al Ghul when Neeson is definitely the wrong Irishman to play an Arabic guy.

  • Andrew Laubacher

    Actually, having seen THE LAST AIRBENDER with my wife on opening day, the movie was more faithful to the series than you might think. Ringer really does look a lot like Aang. Several key cast members were (sorta) Asian–really East Indian. The real problems were drab action sequences, lack of character developement (with the exception of villain-for-now Zuko), and a general lack of cohesiveness to the first half of the film. Shyamalan is just not an action-movie director.

  • Eugene

    i stopped reading after the second paragraph when you jumped on the racism train for why this movie was bad. if it had a better script, better actors (script can be blamed for part of this), 3d transition (aka less “what just happened…this is too dark”), more action, a cohesive plot and more in line, story wise, with the tv show, race wouldn't have mattered with this movie.

  • Eamon

    Last Airbender didn't have terrible box office. It actually did better than expected, and came in second behind New Moon.

  • Bishop

    I agree with Wayne Ligon. The point he was trying to make is that the filmmakers are likely to just ignore the fans because of the incessant insolence and obsessive nature of the comments on these boards. The countless stupid comments made about small insignificant details, drown out those with legitimate criticisms and cause filmmakers to turn away from listening to the fanbase altogether.

    I remember Nolan saying in an interview that he completely ignores the internet when making decisions about his films and rightly so. I mean look at how people overreacted when Ledger was cast as the Joker.

    That still doesn't excuse the fact the film sucked though. Seriously, did the pronunciation of Aang's name really need to changed?

  • Shawn

    What do you mean “not to mention”? It was the main point made.

  • Pho

    Perhaps I should point out that Jonah Hex and The Last Airbender sucked, not necessarily because they weren't faithful to the original source, but because they were crappy movies, period.

    Jonah Hex suffered from studio-itis, in with large rooms of people in California tried to determine how to print money using the one DC comics license they could get their hands on. “Cowboys? Cowboys don't sell. Got to put some robots or something in it, make it more like 'Wild Wild West'. We need cleavage, for the 18-35 male set. Y'know most blockbusters these days have CGI in them. Can we sort of fit some, I dunno, magic or something into the movie? Yeah!!” Same as Prince of Persia, the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, and that shitty, shitty League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie.

    “Airbender” sucked because the entire thing was beholden to an egomaniacal director who didn't have a clue how to handle an action movie for kids. The race of the main characters was the least of his problems. How about the acting skill of the kids? How about the script? How about a clue of how to handle special effects.

    It could also be said that Airbender and Jonah Hex don't work as movies because they are not cinematic stories. I can't think of good Hex storyline that doesn't end with him riding off to fight another day. Comic book? Yes. TV show? Maybe. Movie? Harder. Avatar as a long-running epic animated show is so crammed with detail, character development, and stylization that really, the BEST movie that could have been made from it, even with all the right decisions, would be on par with Watchmen.

    Oh, yeah. I'm one of the guys who thought Watchmen sucked. Some things should not be movies.

  • demoncat_4

    was my way of trying to get my opinion the execs should have tried harder to find actors to try and get as close as they could realisitc to the characters nationality without it coming off or taken the wrong way.

  • d3tsui

    I wouldn't call it pure BS. The TV series has so many references to Asian culture that casting Caucasian actors in the lead roles is a little jarring. Using ethic actors for villains and secondary characters exclusively only made things worse.

    BTW, Jackman played Wolverine as a Canadian (no Australian accent) so your point isn't really valid.

  • Joe H

    It's not hard to find and separate the good criticism from the bad. As someone that has only seen Avatar a few times, I'm not even a big fan and the few times I'd see mentions of the movie from blogs that I'd frequent I'd be able to point out “That's a good point. Not sure if I agree with that. That's a good point though. Nope, don't agree with that.” I learned early on in my writing classes that not all criticism is bad criticism. If you drown it all out and think “Only *I* know what's best for the story,” then you're pretty doomed for failure.
    Plus, your point is made moot by the fact that they DID ignore fans, and it's still a shitty movie.

  • Cforshaw67220

    Same old arguments, same old movie executives making the same mistakes, and the same people below pointing out that there were huge problems with the movies… Yet no-one will care because they got your money already. I quit watching Hollywood's output after the staff at my local cinema told me, no, the ending of 'The Golden Compass' wasn't missing, they just decided to drop it.

    Now-a-days, I skip all these films, or only go see them if someone else pays. Why? I don't need comedy in my horror movies. I don't need a romantic subplot in my action movies. I don't need Michael Bay's explosions, t' and a'. If I want a good movie, it may often be harder to find, but I go that extra mile so I don't end up wasting my money.

    So, my advice is, less articles about why these films do not work, and more articles encouraging people not to feed money to a vacuous system that is solely run by marketing (hence, awesome trailer often misleads to a poor film). However, the big problem is that the people who care about cinema as art, who care about the craft involved in storytelling, are dwarfed by those who treat it as either escapism or oooooh, shiny, shiny, boom, boom, Megan Fox, Megan Fox… Yet another example of why dumbing down lowers everyones expectations until even something terrible seems to be good by comparison.

    More 'In the Loop', 'Anvil' and 'Let the Right One In', less reboots, remakes, sequels and adaptations!

  • nickmarino

    don't know if it guarantees success, but it certainly helps maintain a core audience of previously existing fans, which will then spread good buzz by worth of mouth and online reviews if the flick is solid.

  • Arlene C. Harris

    the racefail casting of the Last Airbender was not the ONLY thing wrong with it, but once it started up it should have been seen for what it was: a massive symptom of the overall “we just don't care” attitude that permeated the movie production from the get-go. If you make a massive change to the very CORE of a story, and then spend most of your time having to fix or edit or correct or tweak everything else in your adaption because what you originally took out was in fact a Load Bearing Fictional World Beam, then YUR DOIN IT RONG! (see, fake Asianny writing instead of actual Chines calligraphy, costumes that look like the LOTR cast went to Pier One Imports, a throne room with a large lacquer folded screen background in the middle of a white marble Federal building, etc ad nauseum)

    It's like taking the whale out of Moby Dick and having to rewrite everyone else, from characters to motives to dialog to action, around it until it becomes Captain Ron.

  • zram

    Wait a second. Aside from the casting of white people, how was The Last Airbender not faithful to the idea of the first Book (season)?

    All you mentioned was the casting…

    You seem like the type that would be against Glover as Spider-Man (moot as it may be now…) for the sole reason that he's black and Peter Parker is white.

  • The Guy

    i saw the last airbender, and i thought it was alright. it was pretty close to the show, and for everyone going on about 'multiculturalism this', 'multiculturalism that', the cartoon wasn't particularly multicultural to begin with. in fact, i would argue that the movie was more multicultural than the show ever was! in the show, everyone looked the same. being that it was done in an anime style, you could say everyone on the show was japanese, whereas in the movie, the fire nation was indian, the water tribe was, for the most part, inuit-looking, the earth tribe was japanese, and the air benders looked kind of filipino. granted, this doesn't explain why the main characters were white, but still… my biggest complaint was the portrayal of sokka. in the show, he's a loveable goof, whereas in the movie, there is no trace of goof in his character. also, the guy who played him was a real dink, and can't act.

  • gnort

    I think what happens at least a lot of the time (not all the time…just a lot of the time) is that the studio execs, producers, etc, think that they can improve the property. It's like they seem to figure they're Hollywood and can do anything. Like buying too much into the whole Hollywood Magic mentality and that Hollywood can do no wrong and only improve things. Still much of the time that mentality tends to be disproven again and again.
    In saying that, I do feel blessed that we have the crappier movies based off of comics and genre related stuff because for every Jonah Hex, Batman And Robin, and The Spirit we get movies like The Dark Knight and Iron Man.
    I think there are a number of different reasons that studios, etc, drop the ball. But sometimes it seems like they try to improv the properties too much……an example: Superman and Lois' illegitimate son Jason in Superman Returns.

  • Josh

    I don't get the accusations of being unfaithful to the races in the show. It takes place in a fictional world that does not have any direct correlations with Earth cultures. Sure, the design is clearly influenced by Asian and Indian culture, but that doesn't mean that the characters have to be Asian or Indian. This is the same hissy fit people throw when they talk about casting a Cowboy Bebop movie and everybody insists that the characters have to be Japanese, when there isn't a single race specified amongst the entire crew. Pfft.

  • who we should really hate

    I'm sorry but in what way was Aang ever set as being one specific nationality in the cartoon. He was an Airbender, so he was taken up to live with monks, never saw his family or his people. Maybe he was from the fabled white person island that was not shown amongst the heavily multicultured cast/ surrounding characters. The movie sucked because it sucked: voiceover Katara spoke more than regular Katara and Sokka was for intents and purposes not in the movie (if anything the movie should have used the season's character development to focus on these two, who I completely agree were miscast and should have been Inuit or some race which more reflected their culture/people, with the avatar, not some weird dragon who lives in the spiritual world or as the cheap production value seemed to think, the back of some Chinese restaurant's out dining area) , the ending was severely neutered emotionally/action wise, no avatar state, and the egomaniac of a director thought that this was going to be his serious/dramatic movie so he changed the pronunciation of everyone's name, what a douche.

  • I want a real airbender movie

    Yeah I agree about Aang. Katara has no growth in the movie, where she could have gone from a frustrated girl without a water bending teacher who lost her Mother (way to bring that up with just a flippant voiceover and let it have no emotional weight in the movie) to a girl who fight to learn waterbending showing her strength at the end of the season and becoming a master bender. The same goes for Sokka becoming a more realized warrior and more sure of himself in the absence of his father who' at war. Instead he doesn't know how to hunt, gets frozen once and then kisses a girl with white hair, who we don't care that much about.

  • Madhatter_twisted

    technacially the characters from avatar:the last airbender werent asin. i found them to be racialy neutral. sure the bending was based in kung-fu and the mythology was asian based but the show itself was american, made to emulate the popular japinese (probably spelled that wrong) anime trend that is big now a days. an all cocasian cast dosen't bother me as much as a poorly acted movie does. besides aang is the palest kid in the show. if you want real world ethnisity to me aang would be white, kitara and sakka eskimos, zuko white, and toph hindu or more likely russian based on their continent of orgin. but let us not forget it is a fictional world.

  • Madhatter_twisted

    srry forgot to finish my last statement above……

    let us not forget it is a fictional world so real world ethnisity may not really appily.

  • Mixxmaster

    The reason why The Last Airbender sucks isn't because it brought in caucasians to fill the roles (although I found it odd). It sucks because 1) The script and dialogue were awful. 2) The directing was bad. 3) The 3D was non-existent, just a ploy to get the viewer to drop a few more dollars.

  • Godlike13

    Yes, the last Airbender failed because they removed the multiculturalism. Even though the Fire Nation, Earth Nation, and even the Air Nomads were pretty colorful.

    The movie did not fail because they edited the multiculturalism, which is what they did. They didn't remove it they just edited it. It failed because they took 300+ minute of material and tried to cram it into 100 minutes, and we felt it the whole way. Not to mention the bad acting.

  • Last Guestbender

    “I can’t help but feel that, when Airbender fans started (justifiably) freaking out over the casting of the movie, it would’ve been to the movie’s ultimate benefit if the producers had stopped and thought”

    UNjustifiably. and there's no talking to crazy people that get up in arms for no reason. The Jonah Hex film just looked stupid for whatever reason…having never read the comics, I have no idea about its faithfulness… I just know the trailer made the film look pathetic.

    Last Airbender is great. The cartoon is the cartoon. The film is the film. I like both.

  • Turtletrekker

    I agree with this. I loved the first two X-Men movies because they felt real to the comics. The third movie didn't. It's like they based the first two movies on hte source materialo, and then based the third movie aon the first two movies.

  • Henryjvs

    Typical Hollywood! The TV series was one of the best ever! and Hollywood still managed to screw this one!??!?! Talk about overpaid morons!

  • Long Pham

    I'm sick of people saying the characters weren't Asian just because they weren't on Earth and that “their races were never specified” as if the Asian/Inuit influences and cultural markers weren't enough.

    How does that justify Katara and Sokka being made white? The Water Tribe had the darkest skin of all the four nations, and in the movie those two (and their grandmother) were the only white people in the Southern Tribe.

    Aang was essentially a Tibetan monk, they ate rice and drank tea, they burned incense for deceased loved ones, the only writing in the series was Chinese Caligraphy, there was a Haiku contest, etc…

    But Aang and the people of the Fire Nation had pale skin so they MUST have been white people living in an Asian inspired world. Because you know Asian people can't have large eyes or pale skin.

    What do you need to prove that the characters were Asian? Squinty narrow eyes and yellow skin?

  • Neotek

    The first X-men movie never felt real to the comics untill Grant Morisson took over, which happened after the movie came out..

  • Bicycle-Repairman

    Hex encountered supernatural creatures in three mini-series from the 1990s written by Joe R. Lansdale and drawn by Tim Truman, but the original and current Jonah Hex series feature mostly realistic Western stories without fantasy or science fiction elements. Hex never had the power to communicate with dead people in the comics.

  • Atomic Kommie Comics

    Slavish devotion to the source can result in Watchmen.
    Ignoring the source and doing what you want results in the 1990s Captain America and Jonah Hex!
    Adapting the material, keeping the themes and characterizations, while making “tweaks” to visuals results in the X-Men trilogy and the Burton and Nolan Batman films (Don't get me started on Schumacher!) .

  • Citizen Steel1

    “illegitimate son?” – get with the times dude. Only insensitive shmucks still use that term. It's irrelevant,

  • prophetguard

    THIS MOVIE IS BS! I've seen the show and it was good enough. M Night Shamalan should have just made a movie version of the comic known as The Sword. The characters have similar powers like the ones in Avatar: Last Airbender and it's more badass.

  • Turtletrekker

    I've never yet read Grant Morrison's X-Men, I thought it felt real to the source amterial.

  • Oy The Brave

    I hate when comic based movies change drastically from the original comic book version. Anyone remember how bad the first Hulk movie was?

  • Polrua

    but enough to show to fans that the moviemakers not only understand the material, but understand why the material is so important to the fans…

    No. Do not take 'Fans' into account. 'Fans' are (a) insane, and (b) a small section of your potential audience. What is important is NOT 'understanding why the material is so important to the fans' as much as understanding 'why the material is successful'.
    Once you start taking fan consideration into account, you start onto the slippery slope of relentless pandering.

  • Zenstrive

    It's relevant. Only law breaking schmucks sneer like you

  • Brad Seal

    I liked the original Jonah Hex stories. I first discovered them in the DC Blue Ribbon digests when I was still in grade school. I didn't care for the supernatural Hex stories that much and when I found out the movie would focus on those I was disappointed. Then I saw the trailer and realized they'd remade Will Smith's Wild Wild West and added a disfigured civil war soldier that happened to share a name with a DC character.

  • Whatwho

    If the original concept got the movie company/producers/writers/directors interested in the property in the first place, you'd think that they'd be smart enough to figure out that it would gain the same interest in viewers. In other words… if it ain't broke… don't attempt to fix it. All you do is destroy it.

    I was interested in Hex until I learned the supernatual concept was added to it. It was the same mistake that DC made when they tried to take Jonah Hex into the future in the Hex series back in the 80/90's. You'd think they would have learned their lesson from that series. Plus the actor just didn't have that Jonah Hex look/feel to him, at least for me, mainly due to the hair being black and not blonde. Yeah, I know. Hair color isn't major, but it just didn't look like Jonah Hex to me.

    With the Last Airbender, I think the name is what lost interest for a lot of people. The original was called “Avatar: the Last Airbender,” but because of James Cameron's movie “Avatar,” the movie company changed its name.

  • zac

    i agree faithfulness is always a good policy.. but i'm guessing a better answer why these movies tanked is because they're terrible movies (at least thats my theory i have yet to see either of them, maybe they're great) but in my observation being shitty tends to affect your sales..unless your adam sandler. i know it may be groundbreaking physics im playing with here but i think its a pretty fair assumption to make.

  • Living in the 21st Century

    Um, in the 21st century and with most kids born from non-married couples it is not relevant at all. Not sure what the 'law breaking' comment is about but you must be stuck in the '50s.

  • tomdaylight

    In both cases they're pretty obscure properties – and furthermore, the titles are both terrible.


    I think most people also forget – bad reviews aside- both movies opened against movies that were expected to be juggernauts. Toy Story 3? People have been waiting years for a sequel. And Eclipse? Well there's millions of teenage girls out there. Both movies would probably have done better financially if they had opened on different dates.

  • Chris Schillig

    The general consensus is that Last Airbender (which I haven't seen) performed about as expected at the box office for its first weekend, an example of a movie connecting with fans despite bad reviews. This knocks one leg out from under this article's thesis.

  • Brian From Canada

    This is the biggest BS argument ever. Arguing that Airbender fails due to race changes is really Hollywood questioning why one actor was denied a chance to be Spider-Man because he's black. Sorry, but for all the mistakes that Sony has made in getting rid of Raimi and relaunching, this is one decision they made right: there's a level of expectation that GENERAL AUDIENCES have, and a black Spidey just ain't gonna get close.

    And I capitalize GENERAL AUDIENCES on purpose.

    Jonah Hex fans don't number nearly enough to warrant big box office returns. Neither, it should be pointed out, does The Last Airbender. It's not on a prime network slot, it doesn't have wide promotion as an animated series… it's a wonder that childless couples would even recognize it's based on a cartoon!

    What matters at the box office is general audiences and how the film both sets up and meets its expectations. In BOTH cases, we have films that some Hollywood execs saw as recognizable names, threw big budgets at, and then realized too late that what they got was a medium-grade movie not fit for the blockbuster title well after the release date was chosen. There was no way that they were going to meet expectations. The only question after became “How bad did it bomb?” and failure is not something Hollywood critics can take without an answer.

    A-Team's failure to score huge was blamed on a PG-13 rating by some, despite that being the appropriate rating for a movie based on that particular source material. Kick Ass was blamed for its R rating, and that was faithful. Now Hex is blamed on its added supernatural element, when it works as a device for lifting the film out of the typical western trappings. [DC's motion comic also emphasized the supernatural, but in a different manner.]

    Where Hex failed was a lackluster script. Lots of action and explosions, but it feels like the actors phoned it in. Airbender suffered the same way — action and explosions, but missing too much to feel like a complete movie.

    If Hollywood really wanted to understand what makes a good movie, then they'd go back to making good movies. Instead we get Dark Knight and Avatar being paraded as excellent based on their box office, but lousy AS films.

  • Daks

    For the record, the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender series have said in interviews & on their personal blogs-that Avatar is set in an Asian-influenced world of Chinese martial arts and elemental manipulation; the show drew on elements from traditional Asian culture & Eastern philosophies & the fighting style referred to are Ba Gua for Airbending, Hung Gar for Earthbending, Northern Shaolin for Firebending, and Tai Chi for Waterbending.
    Obviously, that means that the characters weren't the least bit Asian and it would have been silly to give Asian-Americans a chance to flex their acting skills. To be honest, the current lead actors with the exception of Dev Patel weren't really all that good.

    It bothered me a little that the only Asian actors in this show were either bad guys or extras but what bothered me the most was the bad acting & how some of the most colorful minor characters from the series were left out or just glossed over. Where was Jet & the Freedom Fighters, or Jun or even the Kyoshi warriors? Not to mention that there was no character growth for any of the characters except Aang, I mean Ong. Plus there were fundamental changes made to the storyline and prohibited that character growth. My little brother was especially disappointed with Sokka's character and the bad/emotionless acting of that actor.

  • GreenLantern

    M. Knight disgraced the source material. He rewrote it to make it his own.
    The heart of Avatar: The Last Airbender was gone. Aang is a fun-loving kid. Sokka is a joker. But that wasn't the case in the film.

    Instead, we got something “Written, produced and directed by M. Knight Shyamalan.”

  • Airbender

    you are wrong about the cast rac ebeing an issue. Amercian children looka t teh airbender and friends as white anyway. But of course you want to make it a race issue sheesh

  • Long Pham

    So they're just a bunch of white kids with asian/inuit names. running around in asian/inuit clothes and eating asian/inuit food. But no really they're white, really!

  • Brandon Mckinnis

    Actually tons of people complained. Go back into your coma.

  • Antlion2000

    Hmmm,… I'm curious as to when on the avatar cartoon did they ever point out the race of the characters? They just look like cartoon characters to me? The race of the actors who play them on a film “adaptation” shouldn't be that big of a deal. As far as the script for the avatar movie, well they tied up the entire book one in 110 minutes. Of course there were going to be changes. I get the feeling some people wanted a literal translation of the cartoon, just with live actors, and when they didn't get it they started crying. The avatar movie is different from the show but in spirit and plotwise it is very faithful. Watch book one again and I don't see how people can say that it's not. I think that many avatar fanbase couldn't possibly be satisfied with anything other than a movie “exactly” like the show. This just seems like a case of fans being too picky.

  • Jacksprat

    I have been collecting comics for over 20 years. I've nerded out on sic-fi books, games, cartoons, etc so much that I could definitely “out geek” most people on the street. However… I can honestly say Ive never read a single issue of Jonah Hex nor been tempted. I've also never seen a single episode of the Airbender cartoon or whatever other source it's based on — and again — Ive never been tempted to. So really… I had no desire to watch the movies, and coming from me.. Someone who is their target audience, well, how are you going to pull in large audiences when even a certified geek doesn't really find much interest in your product. The bad reviews make it even worse.

    The real problem is that Hollywood relies too much on licensed material thinking it somehow guarantees success. Newsflash… The biggest names in fantasy have already been turned into movies, Hollywood will have to pick at the scraps from here on out, although DC has some big names without movies yet such as Flash and Wonder Woman. Spiderman going from mechanical to organic webslingers was completely unfaithful yet it was one of the biggest movies ever. Kingpin was black in Daredevil yet that movie made tons of Jack. Make a product that is appealing to vast audiences (which I admit is easier said than done) and make a movie that is GOOD and the odds are with you. Changing the source material really only matters with the properties that are so popular, everyone will notice. If Superman was black or Spiderman had a centipede logo, people would notice. Changing Jonah Hex into someone who talks to ghosts will affect no one other than the probably 5000 fanboys he has at most in this country.

  • mebaz

    IMO, when Hollywood fucks up a comic book story or concept it's because they thought the property's obscurity was due to flaws in the story or concept. Instead of realizing its obscurity is due to the medium. Most people aren't into comic books. That's why most people didn't know who or what Jonah Hex was. It didn't need tampering with – it just needed to be translated to film.

  • TouchyRogue

    Yeah, lets all cry over white people being cast as racially ambiguous cartoon characters. Shut up.

  • Grantgoodman

    I wouldn't argue with that. I hear terrible casting suggestions and story ideas on message boards all day long. It's hard to weed out the thoughful and intelligent comments from the “mehs”, “this sucks” or “cast my favorite wrestler.”

  • Sage Ashford

    The only way you could think the cartoon wasn't multicultural–scratch that, the movie is *more* multicultural than the series–is if you only walked past the cartoon while it was playing when some kid was watching it and you were on your way to the bathroom.

    C'mon son. Aang's a Tibetan monk. The Water Tribe is *obviously* Inuit. The Earth Kingdom is clearly Chinese, and the Fire Nation was pretty plainly Japanese. The series is DRENCHED in asian culture, while the movie just kinda splashed around in it to give the appearance of the series.

  • Sage Ashford

    Clear case of Did Not Do The Research, here.

  • Sage Ashford

    Avatar has, so far, made something like $32 million dollars, while it was budgeted at $150 million. The cartoon was one of the most watched animated series of all time, and set all sorts of premiere records when it was coming out. You do the math.

  • Sage Ashford

    ….WHO'S general consensus? All I see are people tripping over themselves to convince people its a decent movie like when Spider-Man 3 and Transformers 2 came out.

  • Anon

    The problem is that the ethnicity of the characters in those cases wasn't a big part to the actual dynamic of the work. One of the major aspects of the Avatar world is that the fictional world is largely based on chinese mythology and chinese fighting styles.

  • Sage Ashford

    So…we need more movies with white people, and…you Did Not Do Research. Got it.

  • Anon

    That's all your really need to do.

  • Cryhwks

    Airbender did pretty good at the box office 50million in 4 days & considering it went up against that new Twilight movie it did pretty good i have not scene it yet so i don't know if it's any good or not but it made money they probably should have put this movie against that Salt movie in a few weeks it probably would have made 70 or 80 million

  • Xontar

    This'll seem obvious but it's important to bear in mind: ultimately, it's not about the source material (comic books, cartoon series, videogames, etc.), it's about Hollywood filmmaking by committee, and in that sense, it's a miracle that even MORE genre-based movies don't blow massive chunks into the void.

    Let me put it to you this way: do we all agree that if a “comic book movie” sucks, it's not because of the comic book it was based on? For example, does Jonah Hex (the comic book) suck? No, of course not. Then why does the movie it's based on suck giant donkeys? Because the filmmakers blew it (btw, Josh Brolin can NOT be faulted for the movie's failure, because he's a supremely talented yet criminally underrated actor [check out W.]).

    So, now we have to ask: HOW did the filmmakers blow it?

    Well, for one thing, talent isn't equal – everyone's NOT as good as anyone else. Directors are NOT interchangeable (neither's anyone else, for that matter). You can't put just ANYONE in the director's chair.

    Second, producers & “creative execs” are notoriously clueless yet annoyingly self-important boobs suffering from an excess of opinions & “ideas” about this, that & your mama's ass. Really, producers should just score the money, make everything easy for the director, and shut the fuck up.

    Third, where the creative decisions are concerned, they should be made by people who LOVE the source material, not by people for whom the project is just another job. No journeyman hacks, please.

    There's nothing “uncinematic” about Jonah Hex, Airbender, the Punisher, Resident Evil, etc. (in fact, some of these properties are INTENSELY cinematic & bursting with elements for a kick-ass movie). To say that maybe Jonah Hex or whatever doesn't work as a movie because the source material is inherently unadaptable is bullshit. Again, if a film adaptation fails, it's because of bad filmmaking – the apes who ruined Resident Evil, Jonah Hex, etc. would've ruined Shakespeare, Dickens, Forster, etc. too.

  • Dsquare

    Agreed. And by the way, Load Bearing Fictional World Beam is classic.

  • d.

    Not saying anything about quality, but… Er…”In the Loop” was a spin-off of a TV series, “Anvil!” is a documentary, and “Let the Right One In” is based on a book.

  • Josh

    You mean this research?… (“Avatar” isn't meant to mirror existing Asian history, imagined future or mythological canon. It's clearly set in an original fantasy world – invented by two white Americans, Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino.”)

    This is not casting Hugh Jackman to play T'Challa The Black Panther, King of the African nation of Wakanda. This is people seeing Asian design and folkloric influence and insisting the only people allowed to be involved HAVE to be Asian. I'm with you guys—it's a crying shame that minorities have to fight so hard to get leads (I'm a Hispanic actor, believe me, I know how hard it is), but people need to pick their battles. This movie sucks for reasons well beyond the race of the cast.

    I'll let you decide where you can shove your snarky remark.

  • Dorkenheimer

    Joe Lansdale's run on Hex was actually quite fun and it had a supernatural element. But Joe Lansdale is a good writer whose work in just about any genre is worth reading. The same probably can't be said of the cadre of hacks, beancounters and yesmen that wrote the movie. The ghosties aren't to blame. The arseheads at the studio and the crap writers they hired are to blame.

  • d.

    “How does that justify Katara and Sokka being made white? The Water Tribe had the darkest skin of all the four nations, and in the movie those two (and their grandmother) were the only white people in the Southern Tribe.”

    That's Shyamalan's “twist”, in the third movie, you'll find out they're also Airbenders. :-p

  • Spencer

    You can change the plot and some characters in many ways but the main thing is: stay true to the spirit of the source material. If you don't do that you're (probably) going to fail.

  • Jasonmichelitch

    I seem to remember fans raising a hue and cry over organic web-shooters in Spider-Man, not to mention that for all the visual nods to Mazzuchelli and Miller, Ledger's Joker in Dark Knight was a fairly strong departure from any regular depiction in the source material. And the previous record holder for most successful comics adaptation was Men in Black. From wikipedia: “Among the changes in the [MIB] film version are the focus of the secret organization (only policing and monitoring extraterrestrial activity on Earth, omitting the other paranormal elements), its methods (using memory erasure rather than killing witnesses), and its goals (merely maintaining order on Earth, rather than directing it).”

    I don't think faithfulness is really the issue in terms of how successful a film is with a mass audience so much as whether a film is entertaining on its own merits.

  • Dex

    The article isn't about why the movie's failed at the box office, it's about how the movies failed to get the fans of the source material behind them and THAT contributed to the failure of the movies.

    Airbender didn't fail because of the casting–it sent a signal to the fans that the source material wasn't being adapted very faithfully and undermined the potentially strongest support the movie could have. I'm sure they wanted shots of people in costumes camping outside the movie theaters three days before it opened, but when it appeared that the creators of the movie didn't feel it was very critical to hew close to the source material on basic issues…they lost that chance.

  • Joe H

    Way to cherry pick a segment from the article you linked to and in doing so completely missing the point. Here's the article's closing statements:
    (In short, these casting decisions ring false to the show's spirit; the very spirit that has transfixed millions of young fans and brought legions of Avatards together into a passionate community. “What frustrates us most is that you had this amazing opportunity – you've got a nation of fans who love this quintessentially Asian story,” Kim says. “This could have broken down every barrier in the business, proving you can have an all-Asian cast and score three blockbuster successes. Instead, we just get three more chances to cringe.”)

    If you're gonna post an article to support your view use one that ACTUALLY AGREES WITH YOU.

  • Joe H

    And it's ironic that you use the statement that says the creators are white as proof that they don't have to be Asian and then turn around and use T'Challa as a good example of who needs to be cast by race… who were the black creators of this leader of a fictional country?

  • Joe H

    Yeah, the architecture, martial arts styles, names, lore, etc wasn't enough. Lets have the characters start spouting their race when they introduce themselves so the audience doesn't have to strain themselves by picking up on all the visual and story cues that are dumped in their lap. And lets make their skin yellow and their eyes REALLY slanty for good measure, just in case that's not enough either.

  • GaryfromPhilly

    Well, I was around when Jonah Hex first made his appearance. It was in a title called Weird Western Tales, and there were, in fact, broad hints dropped about Hex's supernatural nature, all left very vague and mysterious. Back in those days, Hex' mystery was a major part of his appeal, presumably. At any rate, that aspect was rapidly dropped and, apparently, all forgotten since.

  • Mwedmer

    Y'know, this whole casting people from those cultures thing is just getting completely ridiculous and out of hand.
    Elektra must be played by a Greek Girl.
    whoever plays Black Panther MUST be from Africa so on and so forth.
    Get over it. Hollywood wants to cast people who can plant asses in seats. If someone that is culturally elevent and a solid actor is availible, then great. But hiring a Tibeten Monk who can act, or a bunch of Japanese Actors who can speak in broken English does not a successful film make.

    Avatars problem aside from the loss of proper character developement is the fact that they tried to compress 10 hours of story into a two hour film.

    I write. I can tell you from first hand experience that when you are forced to take a story that is properly told over 32 pages and attempt to compress it down to 20, you are not only going to lose a lot, but you also have the task of getting whats left to form a proper narrative.

    Jonah Hex could have been a great Western like one of the old spaghetti Westerns or even a 3:10 to Yuma, but Studio Executives live in abject terror over any new IP and the large amount of money they have to put forth to make them.
    It is the fear of losing that money that has driven the film industry into the Trilogy/sequel/remake business. They figure if it worked once, It will work again.

    Hex is a perfect example of why Directors should get final approval over their films.

    WATCHMEN was a solid film. While it was neccessary to remove the Squid, and All of the neccessary storyline that dealt with the conspiracy to construct and deploy it, in order to keep the film under 4 hours. The change to Dr. Manhatten's powers being the cause was a good one.

    This film is the closest any existing comic property has ever come to a faithful adaptation.
    I will go as far as to say that the fanboys who didn't like the film simply did not understand all of the complex nuances that were explored by it.
    The non-fans were expecting all kinds of Superhero action and were completely unprepared for a nuanced film that was more of a pschological drama than a Iron Man.

    Film Studio's should to a degree listen to the fans. But to an even greater degree, they need to do research to understand what it is about a property that made them buy the film rights in the first place.

  • Sijo

    …Except there are no Real World nationalities in A:TLA. Sure, elements from many real cultures were borrowed, but the series DOES NOT take place on Earth. Are the Air Nomads supposed to be Shaolin, or Tibetan Monks? Which one is China, the Earth Kingdom or the Fire Nation? And last I looked, Inuits do *not* live in the poles. AND WHERE ARE ALL THE WHITE PEOPLE? Or Black, for that matter? See why I think it's silly to obsess over this?

  • Matt

    Never thought Aang looked Asian in the toon, plus he spoke white, lol.

  • d3tsui

    The Chinese writing in the animation title sequence is kind of a hint…

  • Jodum

    Precisely. I thought it was a poor, poor movie – but this articles thesis is ridiculously false, and the dozens of comments in nodding agreement just demonstrate the sheep-like self-reinforcing qualities of geekboys living in shells.

    I think the writer should be ashamed. This was clearly written prior to the release with a preconception that the film was going to tank – and the author can't even be bothered to check in on the real world to see if that assumption was correct before allowing the post to see online publication. That's beyond smug self-satisfaction, that's just stupid.

    The movie was god-awful, but it's raking in the dough. Everybody seems to know that except for the reality-denying ostriches at this URL. Ridiculous.

  • Hollywood is STOOOPID

    So many great Jonah Hex stories have seen print since he was created 40 years ago. All Hollywood needed to do was choose one and make a movie out of it. But nooo! They think they know better. They think they need to change everything, and add CGI explosions, etc.

    Didn't they learn anything from how Joel Schumacher wrecked the Batman franchise?

  • JesseBlaze

    You are so off base about the cultural thing being a problem in Airbender. That was not the the problem. Changing someone's ethnicity should be looked at as a minor thing, because at the end of the day we are all essentially the same. It is true that we all have different culture, but that does not enter into the equation when you are talking about a world that is completely alien from our own. Would the Klingons NOT be Klingons if they looked like Vulcans? Do you get what I mean, making an alien/fantasy culture look white, black or asian doesn't change the story or what they represent, it just changes how they look.

    If this took place in ancient Japan I might agree with you, but it is a fantasy that is not about race in any way, so therefore changing their race does not enter into it.

    The question is were the actors any good? The answer is no.


  • brax

    You got that right. Wolverine Origins was unbearable. Silver Fox and Emma Frost are sisters? The only good thing about the X-Men movies was when Phoenix blew up Cyclops (Last Stand) since he's become unbearable in the comics.

    What moron o.k.s these decisions?- Oh, right.

  • Brandon Yates

    I wouldn't personally call $53 million a terrible box office take, but it is true that other sci fi/super hero movies had similar returns and no sequel. It will probably be big on DVD. Bad movies always are.

  • VLchurch

    I wish I could get paid to make a movie Shitty or not. They still got paid more than I do at my 2 jobs. Since their is a balance if good in bad that makes our world go round, and Everyone has pointed out the bad. What are some good things that came from the movie? I.E. effects, costume, pun lines, sakka's hair, their shoes, anything.

  • GreenLantern

    I do agree with you that the success of the film isn't entirely dependent on the accuracy of the source material. However, the source material for the Airbender didn't have one major change, it had many minor ones that pretty much ruined the film for fans. I believe the racial aspect is overblown but it would have been disregarded had the film been more entertaining and respected the minor aspects of the Airbender story.

    And FYI:
    “Ledger's Joker in Dark Knight was a fairly strong departure from any regular depiction in the source material”

    Ledger played the role of The Joker EXACTLY to many, if not all, depictions of the character.

  • Wyatt Samuel K

    Your comment is exactly what Antlion2000 is referring to. He is saying that the plot is the same and that fans obsess over details. Your response had nothing to do with the plot, and went DIRECTLY to addressing an irrelevant detail. If those Chinese characters were magically erased from the title sequence and your memory, would it make a difference to the work at all?

  • Jasonmichelitch

    “Ledger played the role of The Joker EXACTLY to many, if not all, depictions of the character.”


    I mean, I haven't read every single Batman comic out there, but I've read more than a health man should. And I can't think of a single one for which that statement makes sense. Maybe a half-star for Morrison and McKean's Arkham Asylum, but that's all I can dredge up. Can you throw out some examples just so I know where you're coming from on that?

  • Jasonmichelitch

    *healthy, not health.

  • Sureiachan

    Ummmm … Air Nomads were clearly based off Tibetan with ties to Shaolin (that whole mountaintop thing.) Fire Nation was similar to Japan with imperialistic Chinese elements, but Earth Kingdom seemed a lot more Chinese. The Water Tribes are clearly supposed to be mainly Inuit with a more advanced Chinese influence at the North Pole.

    I see why you think it's silly to obsess over this because you don't see what's going on.

  • Wyatt Samuel K

    And you check the facts. The 'premiere records' that you talk about consist of a whopping 5.6 million. That's not a lot. The movie had to reach out beyond its fanbase, and slavish adaptation will not allow you to do that.

  • Wyatt Samuel K

    I would argue that Ledger's performance got down to the essence of the character and exactly why this villain is the antithesis for Batman. Batman=Order, Joker=Chaos. That is why they are yin and yang. And that is why Ledger's performance was seen to be spot on by many fans. Even down to the changing 'origins' Ledger played him perfect. But that's one fan's opinion.

  • Ravenzfire1

    Your comments are spot on. I introduced my daughter to Season 1 before we saw the movie specific so she could be expose to the show as intended. While I was skeptical of M.Night, particularly becuase of his leaning towards the dark and his inability to develop characters or pace a story since Unbreakable – it seemed like a doomed match. He was definitely a curious choice.

    Bottom line: For me the casting wasn't as big of an issue (except Sokka was so far off) it was really the butchering of the story. Yes, I'm sure it's difficult to translate 20 episodes into 2 hours but this as an abomination. No emotion. No humor. No personality. Completely missed the tone of the characters. Aang come out of the gate as a character who has embraced his destiny not one who ran from it or struggles with it. Sokka was not at all the light-hearted goof with a warrior spirit that we all know and love. If he just wrote it then possibly a competent knowledgable director could have saved the film. But since he wore all hats the blame rests solely on his shoulders. Maybe the DVD has scene on the cutting room floor that better tie the movie together…my guess is that's too much to hope for. My only hope is that if by some miracle they do a sequel they punt MNS and find a director who cares about the rhythm of the show, the characters and the mythology. And maybe get Aaron Ehasz to write it.

  • Ravenzfire1

    Your comments are spot on. I introduced my daughter to Season 1 before we saw the movie specific so she could be expose to the show as intended. While I was skeptical of M.Night, particularly becuase of his leaning towards the dark and his inability to develop characters or pace a story since Unbreakable – it seemed like a doomed match. He was definitely a curious choice.

    Bottom line: For me the casting wasn't as big of an issue (except Sokka was so far off) it was really the butchering of the story. Yes, I'm sure it's difficult to translate 20 episodes into 2 hours but this as an abomination. No emotion. No humor. No personality. Completely missed the tone of the characters. Aang come out of the gate as a character who has embraced his destiny not one who ran from it or struggles with it. Sokka was not at all the light-hearted goof with a warrior spirit that we all know and love. If he just wrote it then possibly a competent knowledgable director could have saved the film. But since he wore all hats the blame rests solely on his shoulders. Maybe the DVD has scene on the cutting room floor that better tie the movie together…my guess is that's too much to hope for. My only hope is that if by some miracle they do a sequel they punt MNS and find a director who cares about the rhythm of the show, the characters and the mythology. And maybe get Aaron Ehasz to write it.

  • Jasonmichelitch

    Well, the article is about box office failure, because if Airbender had been a box office success then there would be no staging grounds to write the article in the first place.

  • Llc

    Airbender had “terrible box office”? Despite scathing reviews, it broke $40 million in the US up against a Twilight movie–seemingly very effective counter-programming. Imagine what it might have done if not opening against such a juggernaut franchise.

  • d3tsui

    My comment was only meant to show that there is a definite connection between Asian culture and the show (answering the question Antlion's comment).

    I've written/erased/rewritten this comments over and over again to try and get it right so please bear with me.

    The issue is not about the fans being upset about changes to small details. Changing small details to move a film along is commonplace, especially if it is based on an entire season of shows. M.Night just didn't do a particularly good job at condensing/editing the series for his movie.

    What's upsetting is that someone in Hollywood decided that audiences are not ready for Asians in starring or heroic roles, when the popularity of the series clearly showed that we are. What's upsetting is that people don't realize how important their cultural identity is and what it means to have it taken away.

  • Brian From Canada

    It has nothing to do with needing more movies with white people. Only people concerned with race are looking at it as a race issue. What is needed is the best people for the role — period — unless that role carries with it certain built-in ideas of image which the director has to play to in order to sell the movie.

    In other words, it doesn't matter what colour of skin the President of the United States us, or the soldier in the field. But if it's, say, a civil war epic and the character serves the South, then it does matter because we have a certain idea of that in the GENERAL populace.

    Comicbooks and animation are not usually known in general except through certain images and where this argument about Airbender fails is that it assumes that the general public know something about how the characters look. They don't.

    It's one thing to say people know who Peter Parker is because of the way it's been sold, it's another to say it about Airbender. And the problem with Airbender as a movie is that the actors chosen aren't super strong, nor is the script — NO skin colour is going to change that!

  • Brian From Canada

    They didn't lose the chance, Dex, they never really had it. For all the Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars films out there with huge line-ups, there are many many more that are based on existing properties that don't encourage the fans to do so.

    Personally, I think Hollywood and its repetition of the mantra it's about race and faithfulness is really trying to divert attention from the fact that they failed to create any interest in a film that was, quite frankly, not worth hyping over in the first place.

    Hex didn't fail because the fans weren't there rushing for it. Hex failed because the trailer was dropped late, reports abounded that the studio was unhappy, there was no build up from its parent company DC, and the reviews were terrible. THAT keeps people out of the seats.

  • Chris Schillig

    I'm not talking about artistic worth. The consensus I refer to comes from box office analysts who claim the film performed financially at about the level they expected. Of course, bad word of mouth will likely lead to a steep decline in business for its second weekend.

  • Wyatt Samuel K

    I believe that people are overplaying the connection between Asian culture and the show. Were they drawn Asian, yes, but that is purely superficial. Did the show employ Asian martial arts, yes, but that is a tenuous connection at best as nearly all martial arts are employed by every culture. The success of the show was based upon how universal the story is. It wasn't an Asian, or American, or Western, or European story. It was about one guy (two if you include Zuko) and if and how they would achieve their destiny. That is a premise that goes across all cultures.

    So, I ask, what exactly is 'Asian' about the cartoon that is not in the drawings of the characters or in our conceptions of 'who should be good at martial arts'?

    I certainly will not argue that MNS screwed up the condensing of the story.

    I would argue about how popular the show is, though. Sure, it was popular, but it was more 'big fish in a small pond' popular and not American Idol popular. Meaning that it didn't really catch on that big. But it is entirely possible that your theory on someone in Hollywood just deciding not to cast an Asian cast is true, but that is an assumption, not a fact.

  • Jasonmichelitch

    Oh, I liked the performance a lot. I just think that it veered pretty far from the character's general appearance and behavior in the source material (which, of course, was part of why it was such a good performance).

  • R David

    A quick search

  • R David

    A quick search shows no mention of Michael Keaton in the 1989 BATMAN movie.

    Fans were quite upset about the casting of a comedian as Bruce Wayne; the specter of the 1960's BATMAN TV show reared its head.

    Thank goodness no one listened to the fans in that case – because they were dead wrong about Keaton's ability to play an effective, appropriately dark Batman.

  • RJ

    And being remade by Hollywood as “Let Me In” starring Hit Girl from Kick-Ass.

  • Fidel A. Jiron Jr.

    They main point that is being obscured by all this racial talk and nitpicky geekdom is the fact that the movies are not very good. Had the movies actually been entertaining no one would care about the things that arent correct. That is why after the bitching about Michael Keaton or Organic Web Shooters or Ledgers Joker, when the films were actually seen, they were amazing films that were entertaining and well crafted. The Last Airbender and Jonah Hex are bad movies, now compounded by the fact that they got so much wrong as right.

  • Ethan Shuster

    I often wonder about the changes, too. The original source material was popular enough to spawn a movie version. Why would you change it? Granted, one reason is rather cynical. Execs figure that the biggest draw to the film is the name. They believe that the “true” fans will be guaranteed ticket buyers. Then they think they'll need to make a change to get the other non-fans interested. But again, if the original source was so popular that it was decided to make a movie based on it, why would changing it do any good? “This would make a good movie. Now let's change it.”

    I feel that lately, the reaction to some of these movies is getting worse, and fans and movie-goers are starting to move beyond the “I loved that show! I HAVE to see the movie even if it's bad!” mentality. Maybe, just maybe, it will continue and lead to a change.

  • Mark

    I sometimes wonder why more filmmakers don't consider animation as a viable option when adapting some of these comic book properties for theatrical release.

  • Wrprintz

    My real problem with Jackman is that Wolverine is 5'2″, not 6'2″.

    Aang was fine as a new actor, I had no problem with him except how they pronounced his name, and he looked like Aang. Sokka and Kitara were poor choices, and even with Night showing that the Northern tribe is White and that there were “inuit-like” folks in the South, the two actors could have been a little more mixed (even with a white grand mother).

  • Wprintz

    I liked her in Kick-Ass. Let the Right One In is an awesome movie that Hwood is sure to ruin though….

  • Wrprintz

    I thought Aang (Noah) was a fine choice, just poorly directed for a first time actor. Sokka and Kitara could have been cast as entirely untrained actors from Vladavlastok and done better.

    If you were a fan of the series, you remember that there was a play about the lives of the companions during the thrid season, that was quite over the top, and not particularly accurate….it felt like that playwrite wrote the script rather than anyone who had actually watched the series.

  • JtRodgers

    What makes a difference who plays the avatar characters? The movie is being shown to a mainly caucasian audience. I believe in equal rights for sure, but shouldn't people worry about the quality of the actors instead of the color of their skin? The avatar cartoon never made any claim that the characters were asian. There is asian culture and influence but i seen every episode and i don't remember one time any of the characters being labelled “asian”. People complaining that the actors are white seem more racist to me. Better put Chow Yun Fat in the next Twilight movie or people will complain, so what if he doesn't belong in it. Better throw some eskimos in there too. Elephants too, make sure you use both African and Asian ones. C'mon now. Let's not be silly. Complain about the acting, special effects, or the direction but don't pick on under-aged kids cause they're white. If the amazing martial artist they got to play aang was overlooked for someone else just because he wasn't asian would be a crime.(I love Chow Yun Fat by the way but needed an example.)

  • Jesse

    WHAT “American” children are you referring to? The white ones? What about the dark skinned or Asian ones? You think they saw them as white too? NOT likely.

    Hows this for irony….M. Night Syamalan got into this series because of his daughter who wanted to dress up like Katara for Halloween (not surprising considering there are so few kid heroines that resemble her…)…and he goes out and casts a white girl for Katara.

  • Jesse

    um…try the philosophy (it is called “AVATAR” and delves heavily into Eastern philosophies…unlike the movie with the blue aliens)….and pretty much the ENTIRE setting of it all (food, architecture, clothing, customs, written language,)…I mean… many more elements does the show need in order for it to qualify as ASIAN? For the audience to understand that this is an ASIAN-CENTRIC FANTASY…just like LORD OF THE RINGS was a EURO-CENTRIC FANTASY.

    No one blinked an eye when LOTR's only casted caucasians. IT was the setting, it fitted.

    I mean geeze, even the cartoon's writers/producers said that was their goal…to make something different from the European legends and fantasies…to go on the other side of the world and bring that into their story. If their attempts to make it something NON-EUROPOEAN/AMERICAN doesn't tell you something, I don't know what does.

    All stories are universal, they're only decorated with different settings and people. And yet, it doesn't take away the fact that most of them are told with white folks in Hollywood…even the ones that are done in an extremely Asian-centric setting. I mean really, would it have killed them to not only make the names of the characters as “AUTHENTIC” sounding as possible, but also make the characters as “AUTHENTIC” looking as possible too? Give more minority kids a lead role for once?

    Facts are Hollywood whitewashes more movies than people realize. But being in America where white are the privileged majority…it's not even an issue to them…just to the minorities wanting some representation or work in Hollywood.

  • Jesse

    Yes, grammatically correct English is only spoken by white people.

  • Jesse

    Right…so an Asian-centric Fantasy like Airbender should be allowed to cast white actors, just like a Euro-centric Fantasy like Lord of the Rings should have casted black and Asian actors…damn, next remake of LOTR should definitely give me a black hobbit. Afterall, it's not as if the people or the setting or even the AUTHOR'S INTENT/IDEAS matter at all…


    This article is flawed for at least a couple reasons. First –
    Airbender is doing quite well at the Box office – unlike Jonah Hex.
    Second – the movie does not have an especially all white cast. In fact – the movie has the most ethnically diverse cast of any major motion picture this year. Over half the cast is South Asian. Further
    - the characters from the show are aracial in that their race is ambiguous.

  • Wyatt Samuel K

    Thank you for proving my point. Everything that you listed is superficial. Just give me one moment during the show where you went, 'Oh, so that is how that happens in Asia.' Just one. The background is the same thing as how the characters are drawn. They are only clues to tell you that you are in a setting. They do not tell you anything about the culture and how it works, how the relationships are different, how interactions change.

    Further, your use of the term Avatar to demonstrate the show's 'Asianness' is completely inapplicable. Avatar comes from the sub-continent of Asia and NOT the main continent, where the rest of the background settings are. And those 'oh so Asian' aspects of the show, what were they? The need for love and approval of your parents? Sexism? Learning to embrace your destiny? Fighting tyrants? Yeah, really Asian.
    Go compare Avatar with something like 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' (an ACTUAL Asian fantasy story), and tell me what the similarities (aside from how things look) are.

    Don't give me what the creators said as any kind of evidence. Their statement is like saying, 'I'm not racist,' all the while they have no minorities in their circle of friends.

    All stories are not universal. Go give 'Menace II Society' to someone who lives in rural Asia or Africa, see how much they understand.

    And let me let you in on a secret, Hollywood is a business. They cater to their audience, and their audience is mostly white folks. Whether that is right or wrong is irrelevant to this discussion. This was a business decision that can easily be backed up by a truckload of statistics demonstrating how much better films with a primarily white cast do over 'minority' movies. Whether or not that is 'right' in your head DOES NOT MATTER, they are a business.

  • Wyatt Samuel K

    Yes, and we should kick all the non-Norwegian people out of the Thor movie. And when Will Smith was being thought of for the Captain America movie we should have had a min-revolt. No, the people, the setting (normally), and the author's intent DO NOT MATTER. This is a MOVIE and NOT the source material. For the movie, only the director's and the screenwriters' ideas matter.

    Here's the thing, if you care about race, that shows racism. Justifying it with ideas like 'this is how it should be,' is the same justification that the South used for Poll Taxes and slavery.

  • d b

    Wow Rusty, did you just come into this situation? The initial treatment of the script and announced actors 10-12 months ago was 90% white with the only ethnic roles being “bad” guys… That is why the Asian and East Indian communities are in such an uproar about the film.

    This being said, I thought 40-50 million was a respectable showing for Avatar The Last Airbender going up against Twilight. But with that said, I didn't go see it…I stayed home and watched a marathon of the final season again…I not giving M Night any money to destroy my fond enjoyment for Avatar

  • savv79

    Don't forget eating with chopsticks. Yup, definitely white!

  • sav79

    Those aren't superficial. The APPEAL is based on universality. The story, philosophy, and setting is not. The morality was clearly Buddhist in sensibility, with elements of being one with nature, cycles of life, reincarnation etc. That's a biggy. Not exactly superficial. It's the fact that Buddhist philosophy is now mainstream, that leads to the success of the show, rather than the universality of Buddhist belief in western religion and tradition.

    Crouching Tiger is no different than Avatar. What's your argument that it is? In fact, Avatar probably delves much deeper into asian culture than Crouching tiger, which would prove your argument about setting.

    First of all, I think people who went to see this movie probably would have preferred an asian cast closer to the anime. So your casting white people to make more money argument is false.

    But yes, Hollywood is a business. And the controversy and ill-casting damaged the reviews of that business. So yeah, it does matter especially when there are enough people to call out bullcrap when they see it. Casting white people can only be taken so far. And by the way, that's a horrible argument you have which is basically “racism is status quo, so you should just shut up about it”.

  • Ambrose Chase

    Its relevant when its superman, the all american boy scout.

  • Greatwhitebuddha

    I want a written apology from MNS for bastardizing what I consider to be one of the best TV programs and stories of the last 20 years. I hope the debt this movie puts him in will make him will make him suffer as much as it made me suffer. Inexpected more from a director that turned the comic book and ghost story genre on it's head. Granted he failed to do justice to the fairy tail, the horror and the apocalypse genre (with a moderately good Alien movie in the mix). I had hoped he would take his last three failures to heart and maybe listen to the bad press and get back to making good movies. With the last airbender which he made for his kids you think that he would have at least watched the series and checked out a fan site or too instead of listening to to obviously retarded and stunted play back of the story from his half illiterate 5 year old child…as a matter of fact I'm pretty sure he let his kids write and direct this movie. The opening narration from that talentless girl set the movie into the frightening world of a made for TV movie… I could go on but inwould rather rewatch the original series and forget that MNS sh*t all over this film. This story and these characters deserve more.

  • Comics A-Go-Go!

    Part of the genius of Avatar

  • Comics A-Go-Go!

    What I loved so much about Avatar is that the story unfolded at just the right pace, had enough depth to engage me as an adult, and plenty of humor to make me bust up laughing alongside my seven-year-old daughter (who was absolutely hooked on the show). There are a lot of other really good reasons too … characters, animation, locations, etc. It’s too bad that the movie captured so little of the imagination of the animated series. I was confused by the unnecessary changes as well. In fact, I knew the film was doomed when after only a few minutes in, I was already disliking the characters. I have to wonder if M. Knight Shamalamadingdong has a sense of humor at all.