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09:33 am: The Last Airbender

Yesterday, thanks to the generosity of a friend, we took the family to see The Last Airbender, a movie we have been waiting to see for several years now.

When we got to the counter, the price for the tickets was unimaginable. We could have gotten in to see God for cheaper--there was a $4 premium for 3-D on top of the regular ticket price. (We would have preferred NOT to see 3-D. Among other reasons, the Cherubim won't wear the glasses. But it was the only option.)  We stood there debating whether to ask for a refund for a long time, but we'd gone with a large group, and the children REALLY wanted to see the movie. Juss looked so heartbroken at the thought of going home again. So we decided to go.

This was a hard decision, though, because everything we had heard about this movie was bad. It got 8% at Rotten Tomatoes. Paying an ungodly amount to see a movie that stinks is really hard to take.

So, we went in.

I sat down, watched the many previews, beheld the beautiful visuals and waited for it to get bad.

Each moment that went by was gorgeous and beautifully in keeping with the story. I waited for it to get bad.

It never got bad. There was a moment when I realized that it reminded me of some of the great films to come out of India years ago. It had that feel...like an excellent foreign film. I wonder if that was what lost some Americans.

In the climactic battle, Juss cried out "This movie is Great! I'd definitely give it a tomato!"

Everyone in our group really enjoyed the movie. We

It had some flaws. Changing the pronounciation of some of the names was foolish. It turned people against it for no reason. Also, Sokka was not funny. You don't realize how important one character is until you see something like this. Sokka's humorous take on everything is what sets the mood of the cartoon series. Without it, it felt really different. More cheer from that one character would have made this movie feel much more like the original.

But other characters did very well. I thought that Aang and Katara were very good. Zukko was terrific, as was his uncle. The uncle took a bit of getting used to, because he played the character differently from the original...but the same sense of wisdom and suppressed power was there. Yue the moon princess might have been exactly out of the cartoon. She was perfect in every way. And I was very amused at the last shot of the smiling evil fire princess. ("No, she's crazy, and she's got to go down!")

It was like seeing a different take on the same events, a serious version of what had been a light and funny story. Considering that it did in two hours what the series does in 10, it was pretty amazing.

Overall, we loved it...as a family, it was worth what we paid, which is good because we'll have to forgo at least two meals to cover it. That will be the last movie the kids see until Voyage Of the Dawn Treader, which has always been my favorite Narnia book, in December.

Personally, I think the theaters are making a mistake. They've hiked their prices way up, but that does not fill seats. Showings we attend are almost never full. So, wouldn't it be better to keep prices lower and have six extra seats filled, rather than raise them and have those seats empty?  Raising your prices more than 100% just seems unwise during a time when people are struggling.

Still...we loved it.
 




Comments

From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 19th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
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Why did they hike the prices? One movie theater cannot charge more than another (competitive industry, means it's a price-taker, not a price-maker). In a competitive industry, the price to consumers ends up being what the cost of the good or service is. There is no economic profit, just enough to cover the cost of the employees.

So something must have happened to the underlying cost of showing these movies. I'm not a movie-goer, so I can't answer the question. As a movie-goer and someone involved in the creation of entertainment, do you perhaps know what may have happened to the underlying cost of showing movies? Licensing fees? Cost of production of a movie? New required services?
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 19th, 2010 02:04 pm (UTC)
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i Should say, this theatre was so bad because of the 3-D premium. Not all theatres are doing that, at least not last time we went a few weeks back.

Things are more expensive...but I wonder if they are going to find that they just raised them too high.

Or maybe everyone else has more money than us, and people will continue to pay these prices.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 20th, 2010 12:03 am (UTC)
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A lot of people around here have more money than us. :(

What are the substitute goods for a 3-D movie and how much more than a regular movie at a different theater is the 3-D type?
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2010 03:56 am (UTC)
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It was a $4 premium. Normally, you can find the movie on 2-D. Our problem was that this was the only show our large group could make.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:July 19th, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC)
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It would have to be a really, really special occasion for us to go see a film. Last one we saw was a matinee of Karate Kid, and it was just two of us. I get discount tickets through work, but that is still not a good enough deal.
When I think of the great science fiction writers who were inspired by going to the movies every Saturday, it makes me sad that these kids won't get that. There are other options, of course. Free films offered by Parks and Rec. Videos from the library. Sharing videos between friends. But it's nothing like a real movie experience.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 19th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
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Our kids all get less theater experiences, but more tape/DVD watching of movies. I wonder how it works out.

When we could go for $5 each, it was a reasonable outing for us, less expensive than many, many other things. Now...not an option, though we may start trying to catch movies at the local second run theater that shows movies for $2 on Tuesday.

In fact, if you'd like to come up on a Tuesday, we could all go as a group. Hard to beat $2 a ticket.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:July 19th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
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Sounds like fun! Still trying to plan a date for a pool party. The 20th of August is out--Steve's parents' 50th anniversary celebration. What are good dates for you again?
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 19th, 2010 06:17 pm (UTC)
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We are generally free from Aug 16th to Aug 27th.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 19th, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
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This was a matinee. God only knows what the evening prices were.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
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This was 12.50, I think. Matinee...8.50 plus $4 surcharge.
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From:kokorognosis
Date:July 20th, 2010 02:25 am (UTC)
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If it's anything like the theaters around here, the prices are so absurd that I, being a single guy working a decent job, refuse to see most movies in 3D. (Toy Story 3 being one of the very few movies I have deemed worth seeing in GimmickVision.)
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From:bojojoti
Date:July 19th, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
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I believe the main reason this movie got such poor reviews is the concerted effort to destroy it for politically correct reasons. There has been a great deal of anger directed at it for "whitewashing" the cast.
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From:axiem
Date:July 20th, 2010 01:05 am (UTC)
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I've heard and read a lot (>30) of reviews of this movie, a large portion of them from people who had never watched the series (and some who didn't even know it was based on a TV series) and this is the third? good review of it I've read. Most people, regardless of political correctness opinion, simply thought it was a bad movie.

Based on this, though, I can see why.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:July 20th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
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That clip seems to have about the same level of finesse as a Saturday morning live action kids show.

May have been what they wanted and why real kids seem to enjoy it. It sure wasn't written to entertain childless 30-somethings sipping wine and nibbling panini.
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From:axiem
Date:July 20th, 2010 10:06 pm (UTC)
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Huh. I guess everyone was confused because A. the original series entertained adults (for those that knew about it), and B. Shyamalan is particularly known for directing movies for adults.

I'm not particularly sure about how they marketed it in general, but the trailer certainly doesn't scream "kids' movie" to me.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2010 04:00 am (UTC)
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There were four adults in our group and we all liked it.
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From:axiem
Date:July 21st, 2010 04:50 am (UTC)
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Aye, and I have no qualms with that. I am simply pointing out that among the reviews I've read, that view is a minority.

(And I tend to think "But it's a kids' movie!" is a bad defense)

Edited at 2010-07-21 04:50 am (UTC)
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2010 03:58 am (UTC)
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It was a really beautiful movie...but it was like a foreign film. The way it was done was not the way US movies are normally done. I can see why people who don't watch a lot of foreign films might not like it.

What surprised me was that everyone in our group liked it.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2010 03:54 am (UTC)
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The cast was not white washed. The Air tribe was of every nationality imaginable. The water tribe was white and esquimo looking, the fire tribe was Persian, and the earth nation guys were Oriental. It had every nation imaginable. The only people who did not look just like the cartoon were the two main characters from the Water Tribe.
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From:bojojoti
Date:July 21st, 2010 04:04 am (UTC)
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As far as I am concerned, a movie about mythical people can be played by any race. That is what acting is all about. From what I've seen of the cartoon Avatar, he was a round-eyed light-skinned individual, and the actor looked very much the part.

When I said "whitewashed," I offered it in quotation marks as someone else's opinion, and I wasn't clear about that. I'm am thoroughly sick to death of the race issue in places where racism is not intended or conveyed. I'm tired of people clinging to a victim mentality when they could be advancing themselves and others like them.

Life is hard for everyone. Even white males. Poor white males.
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From:axiem
Date:July 21st, 2010 04:44 am (UTC)
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As far as I am concerned, a movie about mythical people can be played by any race

Ursula K. LeGuin has differing ideals on that when it comes to Earthsea.
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From:bojojoti
Date:July 21st, 2010 09:53 am (UTC)
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Ursula LeGuin has the right to create her characters to be any color, sex, height, weight, etc. that she pleases. But, unfortunately for authors, the moment they sell the rights to their stories, they no longer control what happens to their creations, and terrible travesties have occurred to beloved characters. I'm sure Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was spinning in his grave at the thought of Sherlock Holmes indulging in fisticuffs or romantic interludes in the recent Robert Downey Jr. remake.

In Battlestar Galactica, the character of Starbuck was originally a man. In the remake, Starbuck was a woman. It's part of the creative process that one person's vision differs from another's.

In Holes, it was a major point, important to the book, that the protagonist was very overweight. He was played by a tall, skinny kid in the movie.

Harry Potter's friend, Hermione, was supposed to be plain to the point of ugliness with frightful hair in the books. She was played by beautiful Emma Watson in the movies.

One thing J. K. Rowling did when she sold the rights to her books was to maintain some say in how the movies were done, but as a mega-selling author, she had more sway than most. Still, I have no sympathy for an author who sells her stories and then complains. LeGuin wasn't forced to sell her books, as far as I know. If she was that concerned about the treatment of her characters, she shouldn't have sold the rights. It came down to money, and she made her choice.

Having said that, I revere LeGuin's writing skills. I don't agree with her philosophically on many issues, but I appreciate her skill and imagination.
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From:axiem
Date:July 21st, 2010 11:53 am (UTC)
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Is it wrong, then, for fans of a particular work to complain about these sorts of changes made in an adaption?

Furthermore, is it possible that some of these changes are a result of subtle injustices that still occur in society?
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2010 02:36 pm (UTC)
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I think the changes in LeGuin's book...where the non-white racial characteristics was one of the points of the author..is different from Avatar, where the people are supposed to be from imaginary made up cartoon races.
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From:axiem
Date:July 21st, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
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I guess that's where you and I differ, then. I thought it was abundantly clear throughout the series that all of the characters were intended to be Asian or Inuit. Between the style of clothing, cultural attitudes, names, written language, makeup, martial arts styles, and philosophies, I find it difficult not to.

As well, the creators have said in interviews and in the art book that this was intentional, and that the characters are indeed Asian/Inuit, as I understand it. The non-white aspects of the culture &c and the character designs was quite intentional and a distinct point in their case, as I understand it as well.

In other words, it sounds like you perceive a difference between Earthsea and TLA in this case, whereas I do not.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
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Yes. I do see a difference. I thought the blond Sparrowhawk was really awful. For one thing, he did not act anything like Sparrowhawk. If he had done well, it would not have bothered me nearly as much.

Katara in the movie was just fine. She looked a lot like the character from the movie. I didn't like Sokka in the movie, but it wasn't a racial thing.

I do think that if they had been of some other race that would have been fine, too...but that kind of thing seems to me to be just cosmetic.

As another poster pointed out, people change the race and sex of characters all the time. It seems really silly to me to accuse a non-white director of being racist in his picking of actors in his extraordinarily diverse cast. He said he picked the actors he felt portrayed the part best. I believe him. He also tried to make the different groups racially coherent, except of the Air Tribe, which he decided to make a mix of all colors. If they make the second movie, Toph will be Asian, as all the Earthbenders are Asian.

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From:axiem
Date:July 21st, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)
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Indeed, and the merits of the movie itself are definitely independent of any casting issues relating to race.

But whenever any changes are made, people complain, especially if the changes are unnecessary. I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing.

My disappointment with the casting largely stems from the fact that they could have started grooming some young non-white talent in leading roles, but they did not. I also do think there are subtle injustices in the casting system in Hollywood itself (when's the last time we saw an Asian male lead a mainstream romantic comedy?). This movie just happens to be at the confluence of the two.

Also, major kudos for the massive non-white cast of extras and secondary characters. Very awesome. I just kind of wish that had also been extended to the leads, but so it goes.

Though I believe my original point was that for most people, the reason they didn't like the movie had nothing to do with the race issue (if they were even aware of it), but rather because of flaws in the directing, acting, scripting, or basic principles of storytelling ("show don't tell" gets brought up a lot, it seems). I take issue with the generalization and seeming presumption of some grand conspiracy of liberalism. Not all of us who dislike certain casting choices are bastions of PC thought ;) And not everyone who dislikes a movie does so because there's some hidden political agenda.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC)
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I was glad he cast the kid from Slumdog Millioniare. I thought he did very well as Zukko.

I do agree with you many of the complaints have nothing to do with race. If one reads the complaints on Rotten Tomatoe, people just did not enjoy the movie or the way the story was told.

There were a number of points where I felt I had a choice, I could chose to like or not like how certain things were done. Since I'd seen other movies where they were done similarly, I decided to enjoy it and did. But I can see how others might have balked at those same scenes and been disappointed.
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From:bojojoti
Date:July 21st, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
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Fans may complain. We still have free speech. But they should do it with discernment. What do they gain by carrying out a vendetta against a minority director who used an amazingly diverse cast (from what I've read; I haven't seen the movie)? This only serves to make certain a sequel isn't offered, and all the actors suffer--the very minority actors that the protesters are supposedly championing. And Hollywood will continue churning out mindless comedies of white 20-somethings.

I prefer to believe the best of people until I am proven wrong. Why wouldn't a property created by two Americans, shot in the United States, and primarily aimed at an American market not reflect Americans? When Bollywood put out a Jane Austen production, where was the outrage that the actors weren't lily white English Victorians? Elizabeth Bennet has been in existence since 1796, and it is well established that she was a white English woman. How dare they have her played by an Indian woman! See how silly that seems? Or is that acceptable? And why?

I think the movie industry underestimates the viewing public, but they look at a nation that is about 80% white and they cater to the money, not believing that the white movie goers will happily plunk down their hard-earned money to see a good movie, regardless of the color of the skin of the actors involved. They seem to forget that it was those same white people who flocked to Will Smith's movies and made him a superstar. But, then, Hollywood has always underestimated the intelligence and heart of the American people.

And it may come down to skill. Take into consideration that the director was faced with the seeming impossibility of casting a movie around child actors. Because of their very youth, they've not had experience or time to develop their craft. And then to have your entire movie hanging on the performance of one child--that's a daunting task. Could it be that Shyamalan took the actor with the best reading and gave him the part?

Whatever the case, I want to thank you for our interaction. It's a pleasure to have a civil discourse with someone with a different perspective.
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From:axiem
Date:July 21st, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)
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As I understand it, Noah Ringer was picked for his Tae Kwon Do skills (instead of, oddly enough, Ba Gua or Tai Chi), but your point still stands.

I agree that it should be with discernment, which is why I'm not in the extreme criers crowd. But I also think sweeping it entirely under the rug is problematic.

I also think any "racism" in the movie's casting is symptomatic of the larger problem in Hollywood, and happened well before Shyamalan was involved ("Caucasian or any other ethnicity"). I just find it odd that they found all these minority actors for secondary parts, but it just so happens that the best readers for the leads were all white.

Some people are definitely making way too much fuss over it. But this movie I think makes an already-existing problem more obvious than most others, because it's a popular show with non-white leads.

Personally, I would love to see more Asian males in lead romantic roles, and more black females in lead doctor drama roles, and so on. I largely see this as a missed opportunity to start grooming non-white talent in lead positions. The movie industry has a very distorted view of the viewing public.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
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I'm not surprised. His martial art skills were really good for someone his age.

I hope they do make a second movie and we get to see Toph.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2010 08:06 pm (UTC)
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A few years ago, all the parts would have had white actors. This was a big improvement over that.
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From:axiem
Date:July 22nd, 2010 12:44 am (UTC)
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Indeed it was.
From:gorri12
Date:July 27th, 2010 07:52 am (UTC)

are you talking about jaden

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Hi there i think you are talking about jaden smith.yes his martial arts really fine.I love to watch his first movie. If any one want to watch this movie in Streaming Movies way then use this link.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 27th, 2010 11:28 am (UTC)

Re: are you talking about jaden

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Actually, we were talking about Airbender. But Jaden Smith is terrific.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
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There was a lot of complaints about it...from people who saw the casting of the main characters and decided they should have been a different race. But the movie is thoroughly multi-colored.

As a kid, I used to see plays where the cast was interracial, best actor got the part. So brothers would be of different races, etc. You just get used to it. ;-)
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From:dirigibletrance
Date:July 19th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
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It is not the theatres which are doing this, but rather the movies studios that own the rights to the movies, which have hiked and hiked the prices of liscensing content to astronomical rates, so that the distribution channels (theatres, TV, Hulu, etc) must charge more and more to the consumer just to stay in business.

This, of course, turns consumers away. But the content owners don't care. They are bleeding the content distributors dry of every cent while they can, because they know that distributors have no choice but to keep playing this losing game: Anybody who decides not to cooperate with the studios anymore suddenly no longer has the content that consumers want to watch, which puts them out of business even faster than being charged to death by the studios.

This is why Hulu is going pay-for, among other reasons.
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2010 03:56 am (UTC)
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That's not what I meant...I meant that I thought they would make more money if they offered deeper discounts....more people would come. More money for the same number of seats.

But it occurs to me that they used to make all their money on snacks. If other people are forgoing the snacks like we are, maybe they have to raise prices.
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From:jjbrannon
Date:July 20th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)

Bad movie???

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Crushing reviews?

Try this past weekend's release Standing Ovation, the 6th worst opening weekend for any film going wide -- IIRC, greater than 600 venues -- since 1982, according to Box Office Mojo.

This is a tweener/teener musical/dance movie made at the Jersey Shore.

As far as I'm concerned, it's a winner.

Why?

Because my daughter not only appears as a background dancer, but the clip she's in appeared Thursday on the Today Show during Executive Producer James Brolin's interview.

So, lesson on film critique here, people: cultivate the reviewers who approach a movie with as close to one's own criteria as possible.

It's not all about social significance. To paraphrase Freud, by way of Bugs Bunny, "Sometimes an exploding cigar is just an exploding cigar."

JJB
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From:juliet_winters
Date:July 20th, 2010 01:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Bad movie???

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Ditto my comment above. I wish they'd stop judging children's fare by the same criteria as Ingmar Bergman films. Congratulations to your daughter!
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From:axiem
Date:July 20th, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Bad movie???

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Blame Pixar and Disney; they raised the bar too high.
From:von546
Date:July 20th, 2010 04:52 pm (UTC)

critics

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Sometimes I'm glad when the critics don't like a movie that I enjoy! That bad press usually means when the film goes to DVD it will soon be on sale cheap. Then I can own it forever, to watch as often as I like...von
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From:arhyalon
Date:July 21st, 2010 03:59 am (UTC)

Re: critics

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Good point.

I notice the film is making plenty of money.
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