Sunday, August 16, 2009

Unholy Possum Chicken

I repeat, Unholy Possum Chicken Sh*te.

Yeah I'm spammy - bite me. I'm reposting parts of the interview Shyamalan gave to IF Magazine, because just as I had to find the interview and read the quotes for myself (Seriously I heard about him mentioning fart jokes and could. not. believe.) I'm sure there are those who like me, will want to see his words themselves. Note, some quotes are abridged with ...

iF MAGAZINE: What was the plan with this film and what were you trying to achieve, to re-invent yourself?

M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: I have always wanted to develop a long mythology based franchise like THE LORD OF THE RINGS...

Or Harry Potter. Two white Eurofocused mythologies versus one young adult / children's asian focused series. Yup, I'm seeing similarities everywhere. But I digress.

M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: ... I always thought about it, but I had, until now, never found a good one where I could also add a little bit of my personal vision. I really wanted to find a franchise where my accent could be complementary to the piece...When I saw the cartoon I thought it was so well thought out in term of mythology. It had Buddhism, and martial Arts... I knew we could do something that wasn’t going to be just a great treat for the eyes, but also for the mind and the soul. This is my approach when it comes to getting into this type of material, to approach it through the characters and keep it grounded. It has also deeper issues at its core, it talks about Genocide and Balance, and the connection to the Planet. And you know from my other movies that I’m interested with these subject matters -- it’s an important movie, not just a blockbuster summer movie.

So far we've got LOTR, Harry Potter + Buddhism and Martial Arts as a combination of Shyamalan's personal vision with mentions of Genocide and Balance (the Genocide in his personal vision being headed up by a brown guy, against a tribe of which two white children play a huge part).

Shall we continue? It's my blog, so I think we shall.

iF MAGAZINE: Are you going to push for the political tone in this film as we’ve seen in your other films?

SHYAMALAN: Well, there is a lot in the mythology. What I did was remove anything that was too slap-sticky and cheesy -- the stuff that was there for the very little kids, but wouldn’t work in a live action feature like the fart jokes...

Cabbage man. Uncle Iroh's constant yen for tea. Aang riding around on a ball of air. Momo being Momo. Sokka cracking jokes. Toph being badass with a grin on her face. Haiku competition of goofy dorkness. Zuko dorkness. The hippies from the episode where they go through the cave to get to Omashu.

No. I don't remember any fart jokes.

Aang making a water octupus. Aang trying to water-ski using giant Koi. Sun Warrior goofy-dorkness.

Still don't remember fart jokes.

SHYAMALAN: ... I grounded Katara’s brother for example [played by Nicola Peltz] and it brought a great new overall tone to the whole movie. But the political tone is for sure intact and the one about a culture who is in an industrial revolution and use their way in their belief system and then decide “we don’t need to follow the old way of thinking, the old way of seeing God”...

*scratches head* The Old Way Of Seeing... who? It's the second question and he's forgotten all about Balance already?

SHYAMALAN: ...And the movie focuses on a higher power and the spirit world. And so this culture decides that we can make our own machine and be our own God -- it was there in the cartoon, but more affirmed in our movie.

It was where in the cartoon? For those who've watched Avatar: The Last Airbender all the way through to the end, are you with me in total. utter. confusion as to how Shyamalan's interpretation of the motives of the Fire Nation fit into the animated series' colonialist motives? Which were actually far more true to life in terms of an established country thinking it needed to be a civilizing influence on the rest of the world. Cause I sure as heck want to know how someone with former colonial background can so utterly miss that point.

There were more questions here. Blah blah blah, but I'm only going to c/p and highlight his quotes on Dev Patel. No wait. I forgot this bit.

SHYAMALAN:...but to be honest, the film was more influenced by martial arts movies in general. What is funny is that you can see so many influences in the cartoon with scenes almost copied entirely from martial art movies, but I wanted the live action film to be truly original with action scenes you had never seen before. I’m a huge martial art freak. I even have a Bruce Lee statue in my office!

1. Bruce Lee is turning over in his grave.

2. Shyamalan really did say 'Eff you Sifu Kisu' and apparently does not realize, for all his love of Martial Arts that many of the styles in Hong Kong Kung Fu movies, especially old school HK fare, are based on various Martial Arts schools and that some movies preserve forms that have since disappeared because there are no longer any living masters. I am not a martial arts freak. Or even a Hong Kong Movie freak - not in the sense of even matching names to movies. But I've loved the possibilities movie restoration has for me to rewatch as an adult movies I saw as a child, which helped instill in me the concept that 'Girls Can Kick Ass And Do The Dishes'. And I love learning about the history - whenever I can find books or documentaries about it.

The only styles I recognized as something recognizable in Avatar, without being told what they were, was the Water Bending Tai Chi (nope, found an old note, I thought it was Qi Gong) - which made me giggle, because it seemed so apt. And the sword movements of The Blue Mask. The stances there seemed familiar.

Meanwhile the trailer of Avatar has Aang doing what I call the 'Kula Kula Kula' of Michelle Yeoh's Silver Hawk character's adopted brother. And his stance there is played for laughs as he makes the above mentioned sound.

iF MAGAZINE: Can you talk about casting for this film?

SHYAMALAN: ... I was so lucky to have this young actor Dev Patel [who plays Prince Zuko]...He is so vulnerable and so strong at the same time and this was the perfect mix to play Zuko. I had auditioned him for the role before the Oscar success and I wasn’t sure if I could get him after, but he wanted to be part of this film and I’m blessed. He is like a man-child and this is perfect...

I never thought of myself as particularly a Zuko fangirl. But Zuko. A man-child. Zuko. Zuko? Did Shyamalan and I watch the same series? Sokka is the man-child, who matures beautifully by the way. wrapped up in shame, pain and confusion and totally unaware of his own strength. Which is something Iroh tries to remind him of/instill in him.

But Patel's a talented actor, so whatever comes of Zuko on screen, will be about how he was directed and what the script actually was. Still, man-child. That is some Robin Williams sh*t if ever I heard any.

And now, gentle readers - the fly on the turd.

iF MAGAZINE: How does this compare to the STAR WARS trilogy?

SHYAMALAN: Wow, this is hard to compare it to STAR WARS. STAR WARS is true religion to me. I can understand what people who are into religion feel when I think about STAR WARS, but if I can make a comparison, it is with the notion of “journey” both trilogies have. THE LAST AIRBENDER is truly the journey of this young maverick boy, Aaang. His journey is similar to the one of Luke Skywalker.

Aang is a Maverick? Cheerful, compassionate, Aang? Is a maverick? Really? And he's on a similar journey as Luke Skywalker? Luke Skywalker who wanted to prove himself, possibly redeem his father's death and who brought balance back to the Force by touching Vader's heart?

That Luke Skywalker? The Luke Skywalker whose journey most closely matches that of Prince Zuko? Right down to recieving disfiguring injuries as reminders that they weren't yet ready to take on 'the big boy's table' ?

And STAR WARS is a religion to Shyamalan? But he can't properly recognize the character in A:TLA who most closely resembles that mytholgy's hero figure? Right down to having a beloved elder guiding his actions and teaching him control of his power?

Do they have remedial catacheism for Star Wars geeks?

What happens when someone in need of such re-schooling gets their hands on A:TLA? The trailer already says Aang is the Last Of His Kind. So I'm going to guess, if he's Luke Skywalker, only bald, that there is no reincarnation in the live action movie. And somehow Aang is just the magically special white boy, whose pure heart is going to allow him to learn the three other elemental bending powers so he can defeat the Sith Fire Nation and avenge the Jedi Council Air Benders, while saving the galaxy world from evil.

Do you think George Lucus will sue?

Meanwhile I guess, to switch things up, if Katara is Leia, Sokka will be Han Solo and become the practical realist, thus being all grounded n'stuff. And icy-lands and Leia. Icy-lands and Leia. So Greenland was Hoth and Katara's a native Hoth Princess?

And considering the promo/trailer showing Patel-Zuko in black - I guess he's Darth Vader, chasing 'our white heroes' around the galaxy world, as they try to recruit a resistance based on some mythical prophecy on when the best time to strike the Sith Empire Fire Nation will be. And they'll have to convince unbelievers that no, really, the magically special white boy really IS a magically special white boy and he WILL fulfill the prophecy, if given a little help.

Wow. It's soooo original. Not.

*goes back to fantasy director casting for the remake*

[ Comments on and moderated ]


  1. The only kung fu guy he can namecheck is Bruce Lee? now, I know fuck all about kung fu movies but i am assuming there is more than one kung fu star. that combined with what you said about the martial arts stuff makes me think he doesn't know jack about kung fu.

    Re the LOTR and HP comparisons - it's pretty indicative of the sad state of Hollywood films that he couldn't think of any non eurocentric fantasy trilogies to compare Avatar too. Which is another reason why it would have been so good to cast this film as Asian.

  2. *headdesk*

    All of M Night's interviews re: Airbender are just so filled with AUGH and WTFery (like the one where he talked about how he got actors with a "spectrum of colors" in their acting palette) and.... >.<:;;

    It rly seems like he's never watched Avatar before he signed onto this film, he had his own idea of what it was, then he watched it and molded it to fit what he originally wanted to do neways... or maybe I'm just being too generous to try to explain the total WTFness of everything he's been saying... >.<;;;

  3. Shorter Shyamalan: "When I saw the cartoon I thought it was so well thought out in term of mythology, so then I got rid of all that and just did whatever the hell I wanted."

  4. Oh god. That's exactly how it's going to be.

  5. Softestbullet:

    I'm not sure I'd like being that kind of Prophet or Oracle. But the costumes and casting and the things he's said in interviews at the very least, to me, hint at that possibility.

  6. Dragovianknight:

    Thing is, Night's work shows he has an affiliation, as it were, with 'Chosen Ones'. In particular, white Chosen Ones.

    So it's very, very, possible that he's seeing what he wants to see.

    In another post, Ami Angelwings discusses his vindictiveness when it came to critics of Lady in the Water. While I don't think he can afford to alienate fans on purpose and not give Paramount a good return for their investment, I think at some point someone in the Studio is going to suggest the movie be marketed as 'inspired by Avatar: TLAB'/

    Of course, saying it's M.Night's Last Airbender might be enough of a title change already.

    Peter Jackson may be a racist asshat, but with LOTR he knew damn full well that it was not his vision, past choosing New Zealand that was going up on film, but Tolkien's. And choosing artist who were widely accepted as having represented Tolkein's vision was platinum piss smart.

    M. Night has repeatedly mentioned his vision, his imprint, his style, making his mark on a an epic saga.

    So pretty much I think we're going to be watching his fanfiction. And Night is pretty damn basic.

    Ok, if I do the whole actual prophecy thing?

    -- It's going to be dark, with a focus on almost unattainable love (having it nearly slip out of grasp be a mere wisp characters are straining for). Those passive to love who redeem themselves will be rewarded. Those who pervert it will be punished. The bad guys will be drunk on their own power and the action of their own power and feel anything and everything will be worth attaining their goal. Though if the actors are good, Azula and Ozai will not come off too one dimensionally despite the script.

    Given his emphasis on Patel as a 'man-child', Zuko will be adrift in the sense of his own powerlessness (like ALL Night's adult male protaganists) probably with some Han Solo cynicism thrown in. Iroh will have his sprinkles be grief. With Zuko it will be made blatantly clear that Zuko's only like this because he lost his way after becoming disillusioned and became starved for love in his fog of disappointed confusion and internal man pain - that tends to lead Night's male characters to wander away from their support (usually emotionally).

    Iroh will have a quiet desperation he cannot share with Zuko (because he is a father figure and must protect).

    Katara will be pretty and emotionally strong but not a warrior, not describable as kick-ass, because Night's female characters are never kick-ass. They're enduring with quirk sprinkles.

    I can't predict the 'twist' in how he'll move the characters towards the series ending. But I bet it'll have something to do with accepting the inevitability of their inner heroism/heroic specialness. This will undoubtedly be most obvious with Aang.

    And then everyone will fight like demons in the name of love and win out.

    In between will be fish-cold longing looks that are supposed to hint at romance (which is SOUL, vs mere attraction - which is lust and thus 'evil').

    And that is pretty much the plot of all his movies, with some mystery and running around thrown in.

    Oh yeah, Azula's "Mother hated me" will definitely get played up, possibly as extreme jealousy against Zuko, vs Azula just being a power hungry female copy of her dad.

  7. "Night's female characters are never kick-ass. They're enduring with quirk sprinkles."


    That interveiw, as a collective, made my head explode. Plus, the fart joke thing confused the hell out of me. The only fart jokes I remember in context of Avatar were in the Nick Magazine or the Nicktoon channel's little commercial bumps. *Never* in the show :I

  8. Jhenne Tyler B:

    Well it does seem more and more as if Night didn't actually watch Avatar so much as possibly be in the room, maybe humoring his daughter, while she watched Katara be kickass.

    I didn't watch most of Avatar on channel because they kept moving it around so much. I clung to watching online like I was Kudzu and it was, well, anything holding still.

    It's amazing to me that the show had such crap show times and was still Amazingly Popular and held the attention of so many kids (who have so many other things vying for their time).

  9. Even as someone who hasn't watched the series (I'm going to get the DVDs), I can tell that this guy is full of it from that first quote about his search for the Grail of epic-fantasy-story-to-tell, and how Avatar meets that need. And that's just because I'm always deeply suspicious when I hear a director say any variant of, 'Well, there's this source material, and it's wonderful in all the following ways, and I just want to inject a little of my own sensibility into it.'

    It invariably means 'Someone offered me a pile of money to make even more money out of this already lucrative franchise, but because I'm such a respected auteur, I have to waffle about Ideas and Philosophy in interviews, and shove a lot of stuff I made up into the movie, so that nobody thinks I'm selling out by doing a popular culture adaptation. The actual source material? Yeah, I read it real quick while I was on a plane... seems okay.'


  10. "Well it does seem more and more as if Night didn't actually watch Avatar so much as possibly be in the room"

    Honestly though.

    IF wasn't his only wtf-inducing interview, he said similar things in his session with Empire.

    You definitely have a point about Zuko being “starved for love; one of the main things M. Night emphasizes is the “Shakespearean overtones…There’s lots of family angst, and fathers denying sons in different storylines." (I assume he means Hakoda too, which worries me, Two totally different father figures, with totally different reasoning and morals. Between this statement and the grounded!Sokka element, weary is my middle name.

    Beyond that, it certainly feels like he’s injecting his own philosophy into the film :I

    Then there’s that overwhelming sense to face palm when he says the movie will “speak to a younger audience.” Mmm. Racefail for the young’uns.

    (Actually, Racebending has a collective link of all his fail-statements )

  11. Your analysis makes sense and it's completely horrible, so with the way this year is going, it's probably exactly right.