Thursday, July 1, 2010

One Last Thought / Dissecting A Scene

The more I hear about the horrid and awful that is The Last AirRacebender, the more I find myself thinking about the story arc that MNS chose to tell vs the one I keep seeing in my head;

The Boy In The Iceberg, -> The Spirit World -> The Winter Solstice (Avatar Roku) -> The Water Bending Master - > The Siege of the North.

Sure it leaves many things out. But there would be time enough to expand in later movies; open up the world and include some b-plots or side-adventures. It's the movie-verse, an alternate telling of the same tale; events could be moved around the time-line, or have a few combinations here and there on littler things. But isn't that a good arc for a first movie - showing off who the characters all are, what the world is, what the stakes are?

Every character has a chance to shine in the arc in my head; Sokka as brave and loyal and a sneaky tactical thinker; Aang as cheerful and sensitive and dedicated despite feeling weighed down by heavy responsibility; Katara as nurturing but also strong willed and a leader; Zuko as emotionally bruised, but determined and a fighter. And I almost forgot the nods to Iroh's spirituality and strong sense of family and the showcasing of Zhao's ambition and competitiveness.

When I figured out for myself and was then told, that the 'camp' I kept seeing in trailers really was the Earthbender Prison, I couldn't believe it. Earthbenders imprisoned while surrounded by dirt, rock, stone, shale, and mud? What possible reason could there be for such a ridiculous set up? For the story to change that much? Why even include references to 'Imprisoned' - it was a great Katara piece, but it wasn't necessary to the full arc.

And now I see reviewers talking about Aang as a quasi-messianic figure and I know. You had to have that piece where the white boy inspires the brown people to help themselves, to realize the tools are all around them if only they were bright enough/motivated enough to see it. If you're going to make said white boy into a Quasi Messianic Figure (the tattoo makes a cross on his back); into a specific kind of Chosen One; you've got to give him someone to save - a mission for a missionary. In fact the plight of the poor brown people is what should inspire the White Chosen One, to take up his White Man's Burden to lead.


I'm just going to let that sit there - crappy adaptation with an unnecessary section, made further defunct by set piece and MNS's intervention to make the Fire Nation need sources of fire which results in the oppressed looking pathetic and unthinking and by cutting out Suki and The Kyoshi Warriors, MNS's interpretation of them as freedom fighters means that the Earth Benders & Earth Kingdom isn't shown fighting back at all without the Avatar there to inspire them.

And of course cutting out Suki and The Kyoshi Warriors is a double blow. Katara is already no longer a heroine of colour, but now she's not fighting against sexist attitudes within friend and foe. No Suki means that the Kyoshi warriors can't shake Sokka's original sexist attitudes, or bond with Katara over it.

So much fail in one scene, in just one part of MNS's 'vision'. So much that is so far away from the original source material. So much of the messages of the series, lost, warped or twisted.

Did Nickolodeon think about damage to the animated franchise while watching MNS move further and further away from their unexpectedly but wildly successful property? Are they thinking about it now? About mothers who control the tv remote? Fathers who don't believe in violence over reason?

Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko were lied to. And so were we fans. You can see it all in that one scene, even in a simple trailer.