Skip to content

The Home of the Cyber Shark(s)

BBBAAAAAWWWWW is the sound they make…. that's descriptive enough, right?

I was thinking about this recently. I didn’t like The Last Airbender, not as a movie, not as an adaptation… not even as a Riff Trax (though they tried… it’s not their fault though). I’m usually able to just turn my brain off and hop on the fun train, you know? That’s why I can defend stupid Rom Coms, and not get nitpicky when there are small plot holes in Doctor Who.

But there was one thing that, above all, bothered me sooooo much in The Last Airbender, and I couldn’t figure out what it was.

The Blue Spirit

The Blue Spirit, Prince Zuko in disguise, saves Aang, the Avatar, from the Fire Nation (his own nation – Zuko’s a fire bender, and you know… prince of the Fire Nation… he was sent to hunt down and kill the Avatar so saving him from that situation was not a small deal… though it makes sense… you have to watch the show).
Now, the Blue Spirit mask is very heavily modeled after Chinese Opera masks and makeup. I would show you a picture, but it’s 2:30am, and I’m lazy.
Given that, in the series, the Fire Nation is heavily modeled after Asian (in general and Chinese more specifically) culture, this makes complete sense.
In the movie, however, the Fire Nation is full of Middle Eastern people, which would suggest to me that, were this adapted world to be expanded, that the Fire Nation should be heavily modeled on Middle Eastern culture.
So: Why is the Blue Spirit mask in the movie essentially the same mask that’s in the show? Shouldn’t the Blue Spirit mask be more influenced by Indian masks, or Egyptian masks, etc…?

This is the problem with the adaptation: Shymalan doesn’t know how to adapt something. It’s not that he changed things, you’re allowed to do that, and sometimes the further you get from the source material, the more successful the adaptation. It’s that he changed them without understanding what he was changing. You can change the nationality of the Fire Nation if you want, but if you do that, you need to understand that that is not just a superficial change: that alters the world in other ways.
It’s not just The Fire Nation of course, all of Avatar has a heavy Asian influence, even with the choice of art direction, to have a more anime-style cartoon, was not just a random decision.
So, someone who is adapting that should know that, shouldn’t they? And knowing how the style of the series is influenced, you should then use tht to inform your own decisions for your adaptation.
In this case, back to the Fire Nation.
Since the Fire Nation is now Middle Eastern, they should not be fighting with Asian-styled martial arts (probably Kung Fu, I wasn’t watching that closely). The Fire Nation should use Middle Eastern martial arts… not that I know what any are… but I know they exist since pretty much every single culture has a martial art. I could research it… but, again, lazy. And that’s the job of the screen writer.

This is just indicative of what is wrong with that adaptation: it copies the look, but not the style. It changes things without understanding why that change matters. It’s like Shymalan’s entire experience with the show is streaming it from Netflix one weekend while he did some other things.



Tags: ,

%d bloggers like this: