So here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure Cynthia Hawkins is a nice person. In Cynthia’s piece “The Movie Formerly Known as Avatar,” I can really appreciate her reporting from the Avatar: The Last Airbender hysteria in her living room. I mean, as it happens, I have a nine-year-old who just now put her grandmother on hold so that she could watch the last ten minutes of Book Three. But — and no disrespect here — I could practically hear Cynthia’s big-eyed blinks of innocence as I read the rest of her review.

For instance, I heard them right around the time that she made this point: “If [Shyamalan] pulls it off, he’s set for the next installment and perhaps a clean cinematic slate at last.” I’m just wondering if, when Cynthia typed this sentence, the tumbleweeds had yet to blow in and skim across her shoes in the big, vast aloneness in which she was about to find herself. I mean, it’s kind of cute the way she thinks that there’s an “if.” And I feel a little bit sorry to be the one to point this out, but everyone else — and I mean everyone (even Drunk Hulk)  — clambered, frothy-mouthed, to lob something sharp at M. Night Shyamalan’s head on the occasion of The Last Airbender’s release.

At least Cynthia is aware of the fact that most critics and a big segment of the movie-going public had written Shyamalan off somewhere around Signs, and that Shyamalan was setting himself up for further scrutiny in taking on the beloved Nickelodeon series. But wow. Cynthia seems to be completely ignorant of the extent to which this man is reviled. Look, plenty of films deserve a pitchfork gathering of the masses, but even they don’t garner the kind of collective rage that awaited M. Night Shyamalan for The Last Airbender. We’re talking a ginormous, horizon-blinding, boat scuttling wave of sheer vitriol.

Rotten TomatoesThe Last Airbender page is like a Shyamalan roast without the funny. Only eight percent of the reviews gave a positive rating. Roger Ebert wrote: “The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented.” Random fans weighed in: “Shyamaladingong, you suck! You ruin everything you touch! Fuck you!” Drunk Hulk tweeted: “DRUNK HULK FIGURE OUT WHAT TWIST IS! M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN CAREER WAS DEAD WHOLE TIME!” To read such reviews, as well as the blogs and the tweets and so forth, you’d think Shyamalan had filmed himself taking a dump on the feet of Christ or something. But that’s the way it is, and how Cynthia failed to understand this beforehand is a mystery.

A wave of vitriol, and there’s Cynthia, tossing out a few positives, saying things that amount to, “You can do it M. Night Shyamalan! I know you can!” Like the last kid on the block who still believes in Santa when everyone else is trying to tell her that Santa is really Uncle Leo on a bender with a bag of lead-laden cheap shit he’d pocketed in the Dollar General. Who am I to decide whether or not Cynthia should align her opinions with the masses? What I am saying, however, is that Cynthia may want to consult Drunk Hulk more frequently before she purports to know what the masses think about anything.



Hannah, age nine, sits on the sofa with her folded legs drawn in, the remnants of a sandwich assembled on a bright melamine plate on the table behind her, rings of condensation off her water bottle progressing across the table’s surface.She fits her chin in the bridge of her joined knees, and if she’s blinked in the last hour I’ve missed it. For days Nickelodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” has been streaming in back-to-back episodes in my living room.I’d queued the first episode of Book One for some quick research and within minutes Hannah emerged from the recesses of the house, trudging across the living room rug and toward the siren call of a child’s voice:“Water.Earth.Fire.Air.Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony.Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them.”As the sofa cushion reclaimed its shape after I stood and walked away, Hannah’s fingers crawled over to the remote.Then she took over.Or, rather, “Avatar: The Last Airbender” took over.