If 'Airbender' is the year's worst film, why are fans turning out? [UPDATED]
UPDATE: Despite its critical drubbing and "C+" CinemaScore, "The Last Airbender" grossed $40.6-million over the three-day weekend and $57-million Thursday through Sunday, according to early studio estimates -- too soon to determine whether a sequel will follow. "Airbender" trailed only box-office champ "Twilight Saga: Eclipse" ($161-million, Wednesday opening through Sunday).
Are moviegoers turning out for "The Last Airbender" because it's not bad -- or out of morbid curiosity because it's so very, very bad?
Despite an onslaught of scathing reviews, casting backlash and negative publicity, M. Night Shyamalan's "Airbender" grossed a respectable $16.4-million Thursday (including $3-million from midnight showings) at the domestic box office -- the fifth-biggest Thursday opening ever -- and an additional $16.6-million Friday, based on early studio estimates.
Such turnout could signal a weekend well north of a solid $50-million -- none too shabby for the early leader for unofficial Worst Reviewed Film of the Year, which reportedly cost $150-million to make. "Airbender" currently scores an "8 percent" on RottenTomatoes.com -- bottomfeeding even beneath "Grown-Ups" (10 percent) and earlier 2010 releases "Sex and the City 2" (16 percent) and "Jonah Hex" (13 percent). The Rotten Tomatoes consensus: "Despite flashy special effects, 'The Last Airbender' squanders the potential of its popular source material on an incomprehensible plot, laughable dialogue, and a joyless sense of detachment."
(Joyless sense of detachment? Hmm. In terms of creativity, do we see dead people?)
"The Last Airbender" also scores a woeful "4.7" score on imdb.com. By point of comparison, the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series from which it springs gets a sterling score of "9.2."
The film's opening day drew loyal throngs who embrace the popular TV series (of which I am one -- would love to see it as an animated feature film), as well as Shyamalan's die-hard fans. But some moviegoers flocking to "Airbender" might be drawn in, ironically, because of the ongoing heated controversy over almost all the Asian characters being portrayed by actors not of Asian descent -- attention that keeps "Airbender" in the news. The so-called "colorblind" casting on Thursday sparked protests in Los Angeles and Seattle.
Racebending.com is among the sites that have urged action to protest the "whitewash" casting, asking readers to write film critics to spread the word. Roger Ebert, for one, wrote in his review of the film:
"If I'd been making 'The Last Airbender,' I would probably have decided the story was so well- known to my core audience that it would be a distraction to cast those roles with white actors. I'm guessing, but I suspect the American group most under-represented in modern Hollywood is young Asian-American males."
Post film critic Michael O'Sullivan wrote in his review that protesters "should be upset with the casting, but not for the reason they think." O'Sullivan continues:
Newcomer Noah Ringer, who plays the title role of Aang, a messianic child with the power to manipulate the elements, is woefully miscast. Not because he's white, but because the kid can't act . Embarrassingly amateurish, he gives new meaning to the term lightweight, and it has nothing to do with his character's ability to float on air.
In an interview with The Post's Celebritology blog, M. Night Shyamalan told our Jen Chaney in defense of his casting: "The word 'Avatar' is a Sanskrit word. So it's all cultures that are put together. There's no correct background here. They should ask: why does Noah Ringer look like a duplicate - a duplicate - of the cartoon guy? Why? He's a dupe." He continues: "Anime is based on ambiguous facial features. It's meant to be interpretive. It's meant to be inclusive of all races, and you can see yourself in all these characters."
And in perhaps his most telling quote, the director offers: "I take it very seriously that they [his films] make a profit, that every movie that the studio does makes a profit. The thing that's protected me creatively is that the movies have made profits."
If current box-office trending continues, M. Night Shyamalan -- criticized for being so wrong in matters of casting and story and dialogue -- will be so right about the profits. And in Hollywood, if you can bend the bottom line, then so much else falls on deaf ears.
THE RELATED READ
M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: In Va., Casting About for Mongolian Actors
| July 4, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories: The Holly Word | Tags: Avatar: The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan, The Last Airbender
Save & Share: Previous: SPIDER-SENSES: 7 Reasons Why Andrew Garfield Might Surprise as Spidey
Next: SUPER SITES: The Top 10 COMIC-CON Links We're Likin' This Minute
Posted by: FugCheese | July 3, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: atherworld | July 3, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jdext | July 3, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: PeterDM | July 4, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ZZim | July 5, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: drewdane | July 6, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: drewdane | July 6, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: amblin | July 7, 2010 9:10 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: mattmchugh_dot_com | July 10, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.