Will M. Night be allowed to make more “Airbender” films?
By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: M. Night Shyamalan’s live-action adaptation of the animated hit “Avatar: The Last Airbender” stumbled out of the gate yesterday, receiving harsh reviews from the critical community.
The fantasy epic — which is competing against a red-hot “Twilight” sequel for Summer 2010’s July 4th crown — was criticized for being too slow, too boring, and too white-washed (the original series was steeped in Asian tradition, while Shyamalan’s film is not). It currently has an embarassing 9-percent “fresh” grade on Rotten Tomatoes, with 88 “rotten” reviews and only 9 “fresh” takes. Top critic Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal said the film “constitutes a form of Chinese water torture,” while Roger Ebert brilliantly wrote, “I close with the hope that the title proves prophetic.”
But will it? Critics don’t matter half as much as crowds hen deciding a franchise’s fate. If we did, George Lucas never would have been allowed to finish his “Star Wars” prequel following the travesty that was “The Phantom Menace.”
Paramount probably felt discouraged by the critical response to Shyamalan’s movie. But now the studio will turn its attention to the box office to see if “Avatar” fans respond to Night’s vision.
The director set his film up as the telling of Book One in the series. Clearly he intends to tell the remaining two books, Earth and Fire. And if “Airbender” makes money, he likely will get his shot. But if it fails, like the similar “Golden Compass” did, then no sequels will ever arrive.
Or, it’s possible the franchise will continue with another director at the helm. See the “Narnia” series for a recent example of a story that shifted gears (and creative directions).
So much is riding on the box office receipts that roll in this weekend. They’ll go a long way to determining if this is, indeed, the “Last Airbender,” or the first in a trilogy.
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