2010's The Last Airbender was a live-action adaptation of the popular animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, but to say it failed to live up to expectations might be an understatement.
The American anime-influenced TV show has become beloved, with its rich mythology and compelling characters helping it stand out as one of Nickelodeon's best offerings in the mid-2000s. This movie, however, was surrounded by controversy from the start, particularly as white actors ended up being cast in roles inspired by Inuit and East Asian cultures.
While that was undeniably problematic, a bigger issue for the studio was that The Last Airbender received scathing reviews from fans and critics alike, earning a so-so $319 million at the worldwide box office.
Knock at the Cabin helmer M. Night Shyamalan was in charge of the movie, and in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he got candid about where things went wrong.
"All of us go through moments in our lives where we want to be accepted," the filmmaker starts. "We get tired of the fight and having to defend who we are. And tacitly, or sometimes overtly, they’ll say, 'You are wrong for doing it this way. You’re arrogant. If you just do this, this and this, it’ll all work out for you.' And I went, 'OK, maybe you’re right.'"
"So I made a genuine effort to join the system, but I learned that the special thing that makes me happy was hard to do within that system. It was so wonderful to have that opportunity, but there are so many people who are so much better at that kind of storytelling than I am."
"I was looking for others to make me safe," Shyamalan concludes. "I was looking for the system to embrace me and take care of me, but that isn’t the way the world is."
We do believe that the director really tried to make a great movie with The Last Airbender, and there are moments in there that work really well. However, he clearly struggled with the pressures of big budget filmmaking and the lofty expectations that accompany any property based on one as beloved as Avatar.
Now, fans are hoping the franchise will find redemption with an upcoming live-action Netflix series that definitely appears to be sticking closer to the animated series it's based on.
That's expected to arrive on the streaming service next summer. As always, you'll want to keep checking back here for updates on that as we have them.