Saturday, July 3, 2010

On Mediocrity

So, according to reviews, the new film inspired by Avatar: The Last Airbender is ANYTHING but mediocre.  It's running an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this post (this may fluctuate a bit, of course).  To put an 8% in perspective, Manos the Hands of Fate has 0% on RT, but apparently even the Mystery Science Theater guys couldn't make that one watchable.  Friggin' Dragonball Evolution has a 13%, however.  So 8% really blows.

I am now going to say something radical.  This is a good thing.

Well, that's not quite true.  It's not a good thing.  But it's a less bad thing than a mediocre adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender would have been.  Here's my logic:

With our 20/20 hindsight from after this film, we can now see that M. Night Shamwow's glory days are beyond all reasonable likelihood behind him.  As such, we can say with a fair amount of certainty that he was not going to turn his career around with this film.  It was simply never in the cards that 'The Last Airbender' would be a good movie under his creative direction.  So, at "best," it would have been mediocre and forgettable instead of being a train wreck.

However, I don't want a mediocre ATLA movie.  I want a good ATLA movie.  And, I strongly suspect that the chances of a good live-action adaptation happening in the next decade or so are greatly improved by this recent turn of events.

You see, when a famous franchise has a movie and it's mediocre, it gets swept under the rug.  Think about 'Daredevil.'  'Daredevil' was a passable film, if not a good one.  It didn't do anything violently wrong, it just didn't really do anything right.  It pulled a 44% on RT, which isn't good, but isn't a total disaster.  And then the franchise sort of disappeared, and I guarantee we won't see another Daredevil film until the next superhero fad revival in 30 years or so.  I don't care, but fans of Daredevil kind of got the shaft.

Then look at the 'Hulk' movie from 2003.  It outscored Daredevil on RT, but it royally cocked up the Hulk's lore, alienating fans and performing poorly at the box office.  While it was not considered a terribly bad film by critics, the people who mattered - fans - reviled it.  And lo, only five years later, the franchise was rebooted with 'The Incredible Hulk.'  Which was a vast improvement in many regards, but still a mediocre film, so we won't be hearing from the Hulk for another 30 years or so.

Do I expect to see another Avatar: The Last Airbender film go into production in the next few months?  Of course not.  Hell, I don't think it's even that likely that it will go into production in the next decade.  But if 'The Last Airbender' had been mediocre, I think there would be NO possibility.  And if not a film, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw Nickelodeon push something else into production to reinvigorate the franchise.  Heck, maybe that's what the rumored 'Legend of Korra' project is.  'The Last Airbender' is not going to give the franchise the momentum it needs, but honestly, I now strongly suspect that it never could have anyway.  And with any luck, its pyre will create fertile soil where something better can take root.

Of course, this may only be wishful thinking on my part.  It's crossed my mind that this colossal failure could torpedo the franchise going forward.  But it seems that the vast majority of reviews, while negative on the film, were positive about the source material.


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