Friday, July 16, 2010

Ishy vs. The Last Airbender

This kid can kick Noah Ringer's butt and he's not even real.

Two weeks ago, I saw The Last Airbender with my wife. I think I’ve fully mulched through my feelings and am now ready to talk about the experience.

I’m an admirer of the cartoon that spurred this movie (see also: all the pictures I include in this post). I’m not quite to the level of shaving my head and painting a blue arrow on it w/glow-in-the-dark paint but I imagine if I ever took up drinking, that’d be the first thing I tried while in my inebriated stupor.

Seeing this movie caused me to reflect upon the works of the writer/director. Today, it struck me that Shyamalan’s career mirrored something that we’d been discussing in Sunday School for the past little while.

Most people, even non-religious people, are familiar with the Old Testament story of David and how he defeated the giant Goliath. It’s an inspirational tale and evokes powerful imagery even for those who don’t really buy into the notion of faith and deity: A lone boy, armed with ingenuity, skill, and cajones, faces a threat that the rest of his nation’s freaking army was too busy pants-wetting to confront. From out of nowhere, this kid does the impossible and everyone’s impressed.

It’s kind of like Sixth Sense. Seeing it was like watching Goliath go toppling down. “Holy crap! That’s awesometastic! Where'd this Shyamalan guy come from? He r0z0rz mah b0x0rz!"

But there’s more to David’s story than the part everyone knows. David then goes on to serve the king as a general. He’s a mighty leader, apt warrior and the ancient Israelite equivalent of a rock star. Eventually, David’s countless victories and popularity get King Saul nervous.

The king’s afraid that David will use the army and his fame to stage a coup d’etat. He does what any government official would do if his job were at stake: He tries to kill David. Several times. Yet in the face of all this, David keeps his cool and shows a miraculous amount of empathy. Though the king had made several attempts on David’s life, he never really held it against his ruler. Even when presented with several of his own opportunities to kill Saul, David passed them by as if obvious murderous intent was no biggie.

All the while, he never let his fame or his power get the better of him. He showed that slaying Goliath was not all he had to offer. He kept his country intact, he served it well, and was an all-around cool guy along the way. It seems only natural that you crown this guy king. It’d be criminal not to! Even the prince is totally cool with the idea of David, instead of himself, being the successor to the throne.

You could say Unbreakable was Shyamaln staying humble, serving well, and doing the right thing. It’s even more respectable than a one-time show of spiffiness. It’s a lasting reflection of good character and aptitude. We declare him the rightful heir to the throne of entertainment. That’s how awesome David and Shyamalan were.

So what do you do when you demonstrate your awesomeness with resounding success so consistently that the entire country’s pretty much obligated to laud you as the best ruler ever?

Azula just heard about the movie and she's pissed. Then again, when isn't she?

It’s hard to really fault David for noticing Bethsheba taking a bath. Guys are like that. We have this Sixth Sense, if you will, for boobs. We hone in on them instinctively. But after

noticing, every man’s faced with a choice: David made the choice to look twice. He’s a dude and so it’s understandable. We may forgive him of this with how spectacularly nifty he’d been to this point.

You might call Signs and The Village Shyamalan’s “looking once” and “looking twice” respectively. Not horrifically wrong but not nearly as impressive as killing Goliath, winning pretty much every battle, and being a decent guy even to tyrannical douche bags who want your head on a pike.

It’s not like David was desperate for some … affection. He’d already had his fair share of wives and concubines. Those women weren’t enough for King David. He had to have that woman. The one he’d seen naked at a distance.

Honestly, what do you do when the supreme ruler of the land calls you to his court? Say “no, your Majesty, I’m too busy struttin’ my stuff in my backyard bath tub!” Uriah, her husband, was in the service, fightin’ a war at the time. She was probably lonely and possibly afraid to ever say “no” to the sovereign who’d killed more people than he had hairs on his head. Whatever the case, seduction ensues.

Even if you disregard God’s opinion on the matter, it seems rather jerkish of David, in his palace that’s loaded with women at his beck and call, to insist on seducing some other guy’s wife. Bearing in mind, also, that adultery was very, very illegal in that country and David, as head of the government, was supposed to regard the law as something more than fairy tales and nice ideas.

She's blind and even she can see this is a painful thing to watch.

David fell to his Lady in the Water when he couldn’t keep his eyes off Bethsheba while she washed herself. Shyamalan’s certifiable fall began there as well.

If word got out that Bethsheba shacked up with the king, the law/culture would’a had her killed by persistent application of fast-moving rocks. It makes perfect sense why she kept her mouth shut. But even before the invention of CNN, public officials have had a hard time keeping their day-to-day lives a secret. This goes double when your own little “hike of the Appalachian” results in a pregnancy. You used official stationery to summon a lady – whose husband is out of town – and she ends up pregnant a little while later? How could this not end badly?

Rather than man up face the consequences of what he did, though, David does like any government official: Leaps straight for a cover-up campaign. He has Uriah recalled from the battlefield in a desperate attempt to get him home and alleviate suspicion. But this guy has some crazy sense of honor. Perhaps he was inspired by the previous demonstrations of honor of his very king. He refuses to take comfort and enjoy himself – going so far as to sleep outside, on the door step of his house. This turns David’s attempt at a cover-up into an even more suspicious situation.

They say power corrupts. I say The Happening was a monumental cor

ruption: the film-making equivalent of using a public office and public treasury to go ladying the countryside (and ladying the peasants) and then trying to pretend like it never happened in ways that insult the intelligence of the public and God.

Which brings us to the movie in question. I know it seems like there’s a lot of not-Airbender material in this review of The Last Airbender. But I wanted to set the scene here to make this as poignant as possible.

When it becomes obvious to David that his cover-up isn’t going to work, he, like any good strategist, follows-up with a great contingency plan. David, the guy who could have easily gotten away with killing the king but chose not to, decides that murder is his best option. He wanted to be politician-level sneaky-like so a sling-shot duel was out of the question this time around.

Kiyoshi warriors were going to be in the film but when they saw how badly the show sucked, they demanded they be cut from the show on pain of death.

He decides to use his power as supreme ruler of a country to save his image in a way that’s notably more sketchy than anything else he’d done to this point… but he’d kind of painted himself into a corner so there was no going back. He sends Bethsheba’s husband on a suicide mission – guaranteeing the soldier’s demise – and adds Bethsheba to his collection of wives.

The Last Airbender is just that low. The Last Airbender is murdering someone who works hard for you, is loyal to you, and whose only crime is that his loyalty and life might make you look bad. The Last Airbender is waking up one day, realizing that having just about everything isn’t good enough and that you’ll never be happy unless you can ruin someone’s family or franchise.

What do I think of the movie, The Last Airbender? Utah Jazz can’t get to the playoffs to save their lives. The Jonas Brothers are still touring. There’s a $1.42trillion deficit in the United States. 440,000 people still die from smoking every year. Pretty much the entire continent of Africa is starving as always. So I guess, when you put it in context, it’s not so bad.

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