Saturday 15 August 2015

Fixing M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender

Two totally convincing Inuits, yesterday.
A lot of people have been on Twitter and the like outlining how they'd fix the Fant4stic movie. Well, that's weak sauce. Imma gonna fix The Last Airbender!

This sort of came up in conjunction with watching Fant4stic. My gentleman friend, whilst we were waiting for the screen to open, made a comment about how no matter how bad Fant4stic was it had to be better than The Last Airbender. I made my standard non-defence of the film in saying that I don't think there was any way to do it well given the constraints on time and content that came with making it a kid's film whilst trying to retain the epic sweep of the TV version of Water.

I still stand by that but I did end up, during that horrible middle act of Fant4stic, noodle out a way that M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender could have worked.

Before we begin, please take the following as read: in this alternate universe the film has better actors, a better screenplay, a better effects budget and the racebending was no more of thing than it absolutely had to be (pragmatically, there probably wasn't a huge number of teenage Inuit actors to source Sokka and Katara from even if they had tried).

Okay, let's begin. How to make this thing work.

One: forget that the Earth Kingdom and the Southern Water Tribe exist. Have the entire film take place in and around the North Pole. Have Sokka and Katara be from the Northern Water Tribe but from a remote village on the other side of the continent that the capital have just sort of left to fend for themselves and is too far away and not self-sufficient enough for the population to make it to the capital. The only reason that Sokka, Katara and Aang can make the journey is because they have a flying bison (God, I love this series).

The screenwriter then needs to do his damnedest to work out what needs to be retained from the Earth Kingdom sections of Water and what can be converted to being set in the North Pole.

For my money, the only trip into the Earth Kingdom that both needs to happen and needs to happen there is the trip to the first Air Temple, plus the Temple in the Fire Nation from The Winter Solstice. Aside from that, random coastal townships in the North Pole could be used for the events of such episodes as The Blue Spirit and the Earthbender prison camp can be a platform on the ocean again and therefore make sense rather than being a quarry and having a strangely racist, underwhelming ending.

Then the stuff in the Northern Water Tribe capital happens pretty much as it happens on TV.

The events in Omashu in Water can be folded in with the events of Return To Omashu in the Earth film (Aang saves the king only to discover it is his old childhood friend). The Gaang can meet Suki at the Serpent's Pass and Sokka can have the over-protective sexism beaten out of him as part of the storyline that has him offending Suki by trying to shield her from harm in the aftermath of losing Yue. Most of the Earth film should be the Ba Sing Se stuff.

Just to round out the Trilogy That Shall Never Be: Fire should start with The Headband but instead of all the “we're in disguise” stuff they should plunge straight into The Day Of Black Sun followed by however much of the Zuko episodes (probably just The Southern Raiders, The Boiling Rock if possible) they can fit in before doing Sozin's Comet.

I am aware that this theoretical Last Airbender trilogy is, in it's way, more brutal to the source material than Shyamalan was but I honestly feel that was the only way to go. Shyamalan's version tried to retain too much and ended up losing the entire spirit of the thing. It has been years and the memory cheats but I remember a film in which Aang never smiles, Katara never fights, Sokka never comes up with a plan and Zuko has not even a shade of grey about his character.

Anyway, that's my tuppeneth. 

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