The Last Airbender: 21 Reasons why This Movie Sucks
Despite my best hopes, "The Last Airbender" didn't do that badly its opening weekend. It made $70.5 million from Thursday through Monday, nearly half of what it cost Paramount Pictures to make.
But there is a bright side. The film, which is based on Nickelodeon's animated television series "Avatar: The Last Airbender," may already be waning in popularity. Ticket sales declined through the weekend. And critics universally panned the film, including Roger Ebert, who comments on the film's casting controversy:
[M. Night Shyamalan's] first inexplicable mistake was to change the races of the leading characters; on television Aang was clearly Asian, and so were Katara and Sokka, with perhaps Mongolian and Inuit genes. Here they're all whites. This casting makes no sense because (1) It's a distraction for fans of the hugely popular TV series, and (2) all three actors are pretty bad.
The studio insists the film has a "multicultural" cast, since it did hire a lot of minority actors for the other roles. But Dev Patel ("Slumdog Millionaire"), the one actor of color who has a leading role plays the villain, and (since I refuse to see the film) I hear the other minority actors primarily play bad guys as well. So once again, the white people are saving the world from everyone else.
It's always a bit disturbing when minority groups lose their characters and roles because Hollywood doesn't see them as marketable enough. I (sort of) understand why Disney cast Jake Gyllenhal as the "Prince of Persia." He's a star. But I can't comprehend why the studio actively sought unknown Caucasian actors, who as Ebert attests are "pretty bad," to play Aang and his friends. Really? They couldn't find an Asian kid to do the same job?
Enough from me - I'll let you hear the story from writer/performer Prince Gomolvilas, who tells it better and is much funnier than I. He recently included "The Last Airbender" in an updated version of his piece "21 Reasons Why This Movie Sucks" at a recent literary event organized by PEN Center USA and USC, where Gomolvilas also teaches. The monologue is originally from the playwright's 2006 show "Jukebox Stories."