There are few movies in the world as apparently loathed as The Last Airbender. Despite the stellar source material of a well-written and whimsical Nickelodeon cartoon, acclaimed writer/director M. Night Shyamalan made a deadly dull film that stripped all the charm and color (literally) from its characters. It was a big fat flop that was critically reviled. But despite all this, could it be Shyamalan hasn’t given up hope on a sequel to the movie that threw his career into freefall and made his name a punchline?
Since The Last Airbender, Shyamalan has helmed two films: The Will Smith-fronted After Earth, which was memorably marketed without a mention of its director, and the upcoming The Visit. The former was a domestic dud, but the latter has good buzz, and could signal a turning point in Shyamalan’s career. So what better time to start talking about a sequel to the biggest fail on his resume, right?
Except that he’s not.
We woke up to Twitter gnashing their teeth over a sequel to a $150 million flop, and shared in their feeling of WTF. But when I started digging for quotes and news on this proposed insane plan, what I got was a weird web of misdirection.
Here’s the headline from Venture Capital Post:
Now, I’ve read this meandering article three times, and have yet to find the part where The Last Airbender 2 is “confirmed.” Instead, it refers to a May editorial from Movie Pilot that is little more than a rabid defense of Shyamalan, which uses a deleted forum post to put all the blame—for its whitewashing, casting, humorless tone, and sub-par visual effects—on the The Last Airbender’s producers, lamenting, “M Night was just tired of arguing with the overheads, gave up, and collected his paycheck.”
But what does all of this have to do with a sequel? Absolutely nothing. So, Venture Capital Post continues, referring to an IGN interview from last May, where Shyamalan defended his approach to the Avatar: The Last Airbender adaptation, saying, “You could make it for that same audience (of kids as the show did), which is what I did — for nine and 10-year-olds — or you could do the Transformers version and have Megan Fox. I didn’t do that.”
What does this have to do with a sequel? Still nothing. But Venture Capital Post soldiers on to a June Den of Geek piece called “The Last Airbender: What Went Wrong?” As you might guess, that article breaks down how such a sensational series paired with a heralded auteur could become such a cinematic travesty. But the only mention of a Last Airbender sequel is the film’s final scene set one up by revealing Zuko’s sister Azula, who was the main villain of season two. Den of Geek states directly: “discussion of the sequels never seemed to go beyond the press junkets for the first one.”
At this point Venture Capital Post admits, “However, despite previous news that [Shyamalan] had already penned a first draft for the follow-up, no updates have come up since then. It is also uncertain if development for this would push through some time in the future.” Yet for reasons that remain a mystery their very next lines is: “‘Avatar: The Last Airbender 2’ will be the sequel to 2010’s big-screen adaptation of the Emmy-Award winning children’s television series.”
Some sites have picked up this “confirmation.” But don’t be fooled. Shyamalan might well defend his flop as he hits the press tour for The Visit, but even he knows that talking a sequel is a twist no one wants.
Kristy Puchko can’t even sometimes.