Last Airbender at the Super Bowl

Posted by Tim Posada On 1:12 AM

So I just watched the Super Bowl 30-second spot for The Last Airbender, otherwise known as Avatar, if it weren't for James Cameron's film nabbing the copyright before Viacom could with their Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender. I find myself both intrigued and worried about this one. The initial film teaser looked interesting enough and the SB spot looks even better but one uncomfortable truth remains, M. Night Shyamalan is still the director. His films started out interesting enough peaking with Unbreakable, but Lady in the Water and The Happening proved his fallibility. The guy doesn't seem to like people telling him when he's got a bad film on his hands. In that way, he pulls a George Lucas, biting off far more than anyone wants to chew.

Regardless, the story of Avatar remains a rather fascinating one. It's rare for a children's cartoon to pull off a three-arch story like it did, providing an unexpected level of intelligence from the viewer. This one's good prove of Steven Johnson's thesis in his book Everything Bad is Good For You where he argues that popular culture is actually making its consumer smarter and reflecting that they're getting smarter as well. Johnson's optimism is both refreshing and uncomfortable at once. I find I want to believe him but the recent success such films as Transformers 2 don't bode well for such statements. Still, Avatar is proof that the fantasy genre remains an under tapped playground for real narrative engagement, as films such as El Laberinto del Fauno and Princess Mononoke proved. Avatar, whose creators have said they pulled much from Hayao Miyazaki's work, tells a fascinating story about the connection of the four tribes of the world all connected through the four elements. Certain members of each tribe can bend their designated element: earthbending, waterbending, firebending, and airbending. Over 100 years ago the fire nation attacked the rest of the world and have been trying to claim dominion ever since. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, can resolve this war. What's most interesting about this story is how the war comes to an end. I won't give it away, but it's quite unique and not what most would think or expect. Anyways, it's totally worth the viewing and it's my goal to get my nephew into the show.

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