Last Airbender

March 20, 2012 | 4:01 a.m.

‘Legend of Korra’: Nickelodeon heroine is Saturday morning Katniss

It’s doubtful that they have Saturday morning cartoons in the police-state future of “The Hunger Games” (in fact, they probably don’t even have Saturdays in the no-fun nation of Panem), but if they did, Katniss Everdeen would see a kindred spirit in “The Legend of Korra,” the ambitious new Nickelodeon series that premieres April 14. Flinty, brave, loyal, impatient, impertinent, fierce and dangerous — Katniss and Korra have plenty in common and both live in a world that is close to our own but tilted by desperation and dark miracles of magic or science. If the pair attended the same high school, they could go out for the archery team and commiserate about how their names sound like two new lines of Ikea cabinets. For “Korra” co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, it’s heartening to see teen heroines get […]
July 02, 2010 | 7:49 p.m.

In protest against ‘The Last Airbender,’ fans find empowerment

As protesters paraded outside the ArcLight Hollywood theater Thursday evening, signs filled the air with hand-written phrases such as “Support fair casting!” and “Hollywood is racist and too ignorant to know it!”  The chant of “Get it right, M. Night!” rose above the noise of Sunset Boulevard rush-hour traffic. Meanwhile, just inside the ArcLight’s doors, an usher busied herself preparing rows of 3-D glasses for the next showing of “The Last Airbender.” Released Thursday, the M. Night Shyamalan film has been criticized for casting Caucasian actors as Asian characters.  Based on the anime-inspired Nickelodeon cartoon series “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” the movie’s story has many connections to Asian and Inuit culture. While the movie is mostly faithful to the story, protesters say, it does not accurately represent the Asian ethnicities of the main characters. While irritating to fans, the issue […]
July 01, 2010 | 11:28 p.m.

‘The Last Airbender’ and ILM’s quest for fire

  For years, movie effects wizards have been on a quest for photo-real digital fire. The team at Industrial Light & Magic believes it has  found it with its  work on M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender,” which arrives in theaters today. “There’s so many movies that have done digital fire and not done it all that well,” said Craig Hammack, associate visual effects supervisor on the movie. “Usually, it’s almost believable but you still really have that feeling that it’s fake and it pulls you right out of the moment. You’re not left with the impressions of fire — heat, fear, natural movement, the whoosh. You’re left instead with this thing dancing in the air. That was a major challenge for us — and for me — going in.” The film, based on the Nickelodeon animated series, presents a […]
July 01, 2010 | 12:55 a.m.

Review: ‘The Last Airbender’ ‘is disappointing in a way that its intended audience may not notice’

Times movie critic Kenneth Turan weighs in on the controversial anime-inspired new release, “The Last Airbender.”   If ever a film was born under a bad sign, “The Last Airbender” is it. As the blues lyric goes, if it didn’t have bad luck, it wouldn’t have any kind of luck at all. Not only does this live-action feature written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan have to weather comparisons with the hugely popular (and DVD-available) animated TV series that inspired it, it lost the first word of its title — “Avatar” — when a certain other film used it first. Then “The Last Airbender” irritated fans by changing its trio of heroes from Asian to white and weathered the inevitable suspicion that goes with both a late conversion to 3-D and a studio decision to keep the film away from […]
May 22, 2010 | 3:47 p.m.

Hollywood whitewash? ‘Airbender’ and ‘Prince of Persia’ anger fans with ethnic casting

This is a longer version of Chris Lee’s cover story in this Sunday’s Los Angeles Times Calendar section.   Since its release, the video game franchise Prince of Persia has become notable for the acrobatic grace of its dagger-wielding, balloon pants-wearing hero as well as for what the games didn’t do: affront gamers of Middle Eastern and Muslim descent with stereotypical depictions of people from the region  as terrorists or religious zealots. Independent filmmaker and blogger Jehanzeb Dar, to name one such player, remembers his favorable first reaction to the swashbuckling action game, which is set amid the sands and ancient cities of Persia (as ancient Iran is known) and follows a hero with a magic sword caught between forces of good and evil. “You could see clearly the protagonist had distinct Middle Eastern features and darker skin,” said Dar, 26, […]
May 21, 2010 | 2:09 p.m.

Will ‘Last Airbender’ resurrect the M. Night Shyamalan mystique?

Here’s an exclusive, eye-catching image from M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender,” which arrives in theaters July 3. That’s actor Shaun Toub (“Crash”) in the role of Uncle Iroh, the wise elder who was once the crown prince of the Fire Nation. “Airbender” is an intriguing release — writer-director Shyamalan goes into new territory this time by adapting an existing property (the film is based on the Nickelodeon series) as opposed to his usual path of creating a story from scratch. More than that, the subject matter and tone seem far removed from his past works such as “Signs,” the underrated “Unbreakable“ and the darkly sublime “The Sixth Sense.” There’s a sense that Shyamalan has something to prove — some say he has lost his way as a filmmaker or that he is still in the shadow of his 1999 breakthrough, “The Sixth […]
April 26, 2010 | 6:00 p.m.

‘Sherlock’ sequel may join ‘Last Airbender’ and ‘Green Hornet’ in 3-D parade

Is Hollywood out of its depth with this mad race toward 3-D? The bandwagon is rolling fast and there appears to be no handbrake; the “Sherlock Holmes” sequel may be among the next passengers, according to an exclusive report by Steven Zeitchik at 24 Frames, our sister blog. Here’s an excerpt: With M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender” and Michel Gondry’s “The Green Hornet” each now getting a type of conversion treatment — and seemingly every other upcoming film engaged in a 3-D discussion of some kind — the English detectives may not be far behind. The sequel to the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey/Jude Law holiday hit “Holmes” — which continues to tear it up on DVD — is moving closer to the development finish line. And as it does, the  conversations about shooting it in 3-D are heating up. We caught […]
March 31, 2010 | 2:34 p.m.

M. Night Shyamalan says ‘Airbender’ rises above race issues: ‘That’s what’s so beautiful about anime’

M. Night Shyamalan has a massive plan in mind for “The Last Airbender” — a patient film trilogy that presents a fantasy epic and also grows progressively darker as its young characters (and actors) mature in front of moviegoers. That brings to mind both “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and the “Harry Potter” franchise, and, as you might imagine, that has stirred excitement among executives at Paramount Pictures who would love to have a magical franchise that pulls in billions of dollars at the box office. But because the stakes are so high, there has also been considerable behind-the-scenes hand-wringing because of a nasty fan backlash on a touchy subject — race and casting. Check the venting and venom we heard in more than 100 comments that followed an “Airbender” post in January. Here’s how one reader summed it up: “I am one of the many who is seriously […]
Feb. 09, 2010 | 8:17 p.m.

Do you remember the Super (Bowl) trailer for ‘Airbender?’

So, according to a poll on, which admittedly only talked to about 550 people, the most memorable trailer during Sunday’s Super Bowl was “Alice in Wonderland” — remembered by 81% of the people who watched. That was followed by “Robin Hood” at 67% and “Shutter Island” at 63%. The first trailer shown, “The Last Airbender,” was memorable mostly because, while I watched it, I forgot about the casting hate that’s been heaped on director M. Night Shyamalan. For those of us who like fun, action-filled romps (like “Ninja Assassin”) that might not have the most cerebral story lines or “tight” filmmaking, this looks great. Who knows about the acting or story lines yet for “Airbender,” but for sheer eye candy, it (to me) rivaled the rest. Here’s the half-minute spot that ran. — Jevon Phillips M. Night has a sense about “The […]
Jan. 28, 2010 | 1:19 a.m.

M. Night Shyamalan had a sense about ‘Airbender’: ‘This would make a killer movie’

Rachel Abramowitz memorably wrote about M. Night Shyamalan in 2008 when he revealed quite a lot about the liberating power of, well, failure. Now she spoke with him again for this Hero Complex update on the filmmaker’s upcoming film “The Last Airbender.” And now for that other “Avatar” movie… For M. Night Shyamalan, it was his then 7-year old daughter who hooked him on the Nickelodeon series “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” “She made us watch as a family and all four of us were hooked, “ Shyamalan said. “I was like, ‘This would make a killer movie.  And my wife who really has been kind of in neutral about my career was insane about it. Insane about it: ‘You have to do it. This is it. This is the one.’ ” Ever since he shot to stardom with his film “The Sixth Sense” in 1999, […]
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