Okay fine, I’m tickled pink that my Avatar: The Last Airbender post landed on WordPress.com’s Freshly-Pressed homepage. But I really planned to follow that up with a post on racebending, a new term coined after the much-maligned M. Night Shyamalan movie came out. So I’m not doing this just because the previous post was a hit (hahaha, defensive much?).
Anyway, after the movie came out, critics were beyond belief that the 3 leads, Aang, Katara and Sokka were all played by obvious caucasians, while in the cartoon series, they were obviously of Asian descent. Basically the Water tribes were modeled after the Inuit culture, Aang and the Air tribe dressed like Shaolin Monks, the Fire nation looked roughly Japanese, etc. And while the heroes were mysteriously racebended into whites, all the villains remained suspiciously faithful to their darker, Asian roots.
From that initial uproar sprung the term racebending, and an eventual website, http://www.racebending.com. The group aims to tackle proper representation of the different races in entertainment casting. Which brings me to an interesting blog entry I caught that suggested an alternative, more Asian cast. The writer made sure to point out that the post was NOT written as a corollary to the racebending topic, but I just thought it would be a logical segue. Check out the full article HERE.
So before I proceed, let me just say that this isn’t a review of the movie because I haven’t seen it yet. I only base my comments on the pictures of the actors I’ve seen on the internet. So here are some of the suggested alternative casting choices:
Brandon Soo Hoo AangNoah Ringer
Yeah, I see where the writer was coming from. I would be nice to get an actual Asian to play Aang, and a kid who has that naughty streak in him, a hero, but very much still a kid. Brandon appeared in Tropic Thunder, while Noah Ringer was discovered from an open casting call.
Ayesha KapoorKataraNicola Peltz
This is brother-sister tandem was the weirdest casting for me. Nicola looks nothing like Katara. Ayesha Kapoor is an award-winning Bollywood actress while Nicola Peltz is an American actress who appeared in Deck The Halls.
Dev PatelSokkaJackson Rathbone
What a stroke of genius! Dev Patel is the only member of the original cast that the writer chose to stay, but in a different role. I agree 100% that Dev has a friendlier vibe to him, much better fitted for the zany Sokka, than the grim Zuko. And Jackson Rathbone? His last major role was the sullen Jasper the vampire in Twilight. So NOT Sokka material. But then again, I haven’t seen the movie.
Harry Shum Jr.ZukoDev Patel
Like I said, I don’t see Dev as the conflicted future firelord. And looks-wise, Zuko is East Asian, while Dev is unmistakeably South Asian. And I so don’t see Zuko as Indian. And Glee’s Harry sure looks the part, but I don’t know if he has the acting chops to dissect such a complex character.
Chow Yun FatShaun Toub
I mentioned in my last post that my most favorite character was General Iroh. I think Chow Yun Fat would be able to mix the gravity and the comic timing needed for such a meaty role. But I think they needed to get an Indian actor to play Dev’s uncle since Zuko is Iroh’s nephew. So they need to match both characters’ races.
Mark Dacascos/Lord OzaiCliff Curtis
The Iron Chef host is a perfect match for the evil Lord Ozai. He’s got the stoic glare down pat! Cliff Curtis appeared in such films like The Piano and Whale Rider (a great film!). He’s Maori, in case you’re confused by his ethnicity.
You can check out the other actors in the link I posted. No casting needed for Toph since she doesn’t come on board until the succeeding seasons. Well, what do you think? Casting is always tricky when it comes to remaking iconic works, especially a live-action remake of a beloved animation series. Many said it shouldn’t have even been attempted because Avatar: The Last Airbender is unfilmable as live-action. Or maybe it should have been handled by a director who has a stronger vision than the creatively foundering Shyamalan. As long as we’re recasting, maybe we could suggest a different director as well? Maybe any of the visually adept Mexican Directors like Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) or Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkhaban, A Little Princess) could have done better. And as long as I’m dreaming, why not the fantasy genre orgasminator, Peter Jackson?
Anyway, despite the warnings, I will watch the movie as my next project as the final step in this Avatar experience. Good or bad, I’d like to achieve closure and see the live-action version. Wish me luck.