Will ‘The Last Airbender’ Be the Next ‘Transformers 2′?

Published 5 years ago by , Updated July 2nd, 2010 at 4:25 pm,

last airbender transformers 2 Will The Last Airbender Be the Next Transformers 2?

Note: This is a speculative article, written BEFORE opening weekend box office numbers came in.

M. Night Shyamalan’s adaptation of The Last Airbender hits theaters this week and upon closer examination, I dare say that there’s a lot at stake in regards to how this film performs at the box office – and not just in regard to Shyamalan’s career as a filmmaker.

Early critical reaction is that The Last Airbender is THE big movie fiasco of 2010; however, if the film manages to connect with audiences this weekend, it would seem that we’ll have another Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on our hands, and that would be a development that could steer Hollywood further down a path that many avid movie fans do not want to follow.

If you haven’t read our official Screen Rant review of The Last Airbender, let me sum up our official standpoint on the movie: it’s terrible. If you’re thinking to yourself “Well Screen Rant, that’s just your opinion,” then I hate to be the bearer of bad news by pointing out that the collective critical opinion (pretty much across the board) is that this film is terrible. Just pop on over to Rotten Tomatoes and have a look for yourself, or check out our review HERE to learn about everything that went so terribly wrong with this movie.

So, by all critical accounts The Last Airbender is a failure that just might be the final nail in the coffin that M. Night Shymalan’s career is waiting to be buried in. The film should also be a sign to Hollywood that cheap (or non-existent) storytelling, flashy effects, and ticket price-hiking gimmicks like post-production 3D conversion are not enough to fool the masses and mask a glaring failure in movie making.

Noah Ringer in The Last Airbender Will The Last Airbender Be the Next Transformers 2?

However, we’ve been here before, haven’t we? Just a year ago around this time Revenge of the Fallen was widely blasted by critics for being the reeking pile of cinematic failure that it was. The critics who tore it apart then kicked back, content that they had done their job exposing a lame duck, and waited for the public to send a message to Michael Bay and Hollywood: “We expect better!

And then a strange (and terrible) thing happened: Transformers 2 made crazy amounts of money.

Revenge of the Fallen cost about $200 million to make (thank the HD IMAX sequences), and in a sane universe would’ve never been able to recoup that budget. However, the final tally of the film’s receipts counted out to about $400 million domestic and another $400 million overseas, culminating in $800+ million total.

Not only did the returns shock every critic (or critical movie goer) who thought Revenge of the Fallen was crap, those figures actually spawned a new faction of movie fans who were animate in their belief that a blockbuster need not have a deep story, big brains, character development or anything else beyond flashy effects, big action, hot eye-candy and the most juvenile sort of humor – so long as it was “entertaining,” of course. icon wink Will The Last Airbender Be the Next Transformers 2?

transformers 2 the twins mudflap skids Will The Last Airbender Be the Next Transformers 2?

Two guys who loved Revenge of the Fallen

This new fan-faction was quick to make its opinions heard, telling critics they had fallen out of touch with “average” movie fans, and even going so far as to suggest that if a movie like The Dark Knight (which was critically acclaimed) made $1 billion and Transformers 2 could still make $800 million, that there was little difference between a “smart” and “brainless” blockbuster. That debate is still raging in comment sections on our site a full year later.

If The Last Airbender blows away the box office competition over the July 4th weekend and somehow manages to generate a sizeable profit for itself, not only will advocates of the “big brainless fun blockbuster” have a new stock of ammo for their guns, Hollywood execs will have all the justification they need to keep peddling crap movies as if they’re gold – complete with shoddy gimmicks like 3D conversion and inflated ticket prices.

And don’t expect Inception to reverse that perception; if Last Airbender does well and Inception does well, that’s just further evidence that there’s little difference between smart and dumb blockbusters, right? (At least that’s what “brainless blockbuster” types will say.) But if Last Airbender does well and Inception’s brainy ideas fail to lure a mass audience… well… I don’t even want to think about that scenario.  icon sad Will The Last Airbender Be the Next Transformers 2?

Inception production still 16 Will The Last Airbender Be the Next Transformers 2?

If Airbender does well the stakes for Inception will be sky-high

To all you movie fans (of every kind) out there: You need to pay attention to what happens at the box office this weekend. You may think I’m being dramatic (and drama IS my middle name), but mark my words: we’re currently standing at a fork in the path, and where movies go from here will be (in part) determined by what happens with The Last Airbender.

I know Shyamalan is probably in a bunker sweating bullets right about now, and Paramount (the studio behind both The Last Airbender and Transformers 2) is hoping and praying that lightning strikes twice. Should be interesting come next Tuesday, when the holiday box office receipts get tallied.

What do you think – will The Last Airbender be the 2010 Transformers 2, or is there no way the movie will be able overcome its glaring faults to claim box office glory? And how do you think Last Airbender and Inception will affect the debate over smart vs. brainless blockbusters started by Revenge of the Fallen and The Dark Knight?  Let us know how you feel in the comments.

The Last Airbender is currently in theaters.

Inception will be in theaters on July 16th.

Turn on a cable premium channel and you can waste 2.5 hours watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen at your leisure.

Sources: Rotten Tomatoes, Box Office Mojo

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  1. I’m a grown man, and you’ve officially scared the crap out of me. This makes total sense. Maybe you guys could do an article or even a series of articles that delve deeper into WHY this is even an issue. Why is it that we’re at this fork in the road? What made movie goers pay 800+ million for trash? What’s scarier is that although The Dark Knight was an EXCELLENT movie, it may not have made as much as it did without the issues surrounding Heath Ledger. Does that mean that Transformers 2 would have made more than The Dark Knight??

  2. The sad part is that I am going to see The Last Airbender just it confirm it is horrible

  3. Why would you see it just to confirm it’s horrible? Also, please proofread articles before publishing, srsly.

    • Ummm, I wrote this article and don’t seem to see the errors that needed proofreading???

      Do you mean “articles” or “comments?” referring to the commenter above you?

      • Well not several errors (then again i never fully read kofi’s articles… Most of them seem too preachy) but i did see one. You wrote “Hoping and praying that lighting strikes twice” when i’m pretty sure you meant “lightning”. If i’m wrong then i’m sorry. Normally i would never point out errors because we are all human and we all make them but after that whole “no one can outshine my snarky whatever” comment i figured this was beatiful timing.

        • Jago,

          Dang. Kofi went through the article more than once and then I went through it and we missed the lighting/lightning typo every time. Fixed.


    • Hey Sawse,

      My senior editor wrote the article – he’s gone over it twice and I just went through it and can’t find a single proofreading error. Perhaps you would be so kind as to point it out?



    • Ah, OK, I see you’re referring to a commenter. My bad. When you said “article” I thought you meant, you know, the ARTICLE.


      • Lol. Whole lotta English teachers on here huh?

  4. Relax, I doubt Last Airender will be a blockbuster, word of the mouth on comment boards and twitter is universally negative.

  5. The ultimate summer blockbuster battle for our mortal movie-going souls: Christopher Nolan vs M. Night Shyamalan.

  6. The last Airbender will not be making Transformers 2 money and it won’t be number one over the weekend.

  7. Kind of depends on the marketing. I’m not a US citizen, so I don’t know how saturated in Airbender posters/trailers/tv-spots you’ve been. Also remember, even though Airbender is based on a pre-existing property, Transformers 2 was a sequel to a very popular film, it’s success was a forgone conclusion, regardless of it’s quality. I feel like word of mouth on Last Airbender may affect it more than it did for Transformers 2, so it may not be the success Transformers 2 was, it may end up bombing hard if people are convinced not to see it through reviews and word of mouth.

  8. @RWTHTMM – I understand…I hate to admit it but, I saw Transformers2 twice just to confirm it was horrible and that I hadn’t “missed something.” Sorry guys… It stinks that “Airbender” is terrible. I was pulling M.Night. I really enjoyed his first few films. What a dissappointing summer movie season. Maybe next year will be better…Could it be worse???

  9. Critics are being Waaaay to Hard on The Last Airbender… its not that bad… its bad but not that bad

  10. I don`t think The Last Airbender will be the success Revenge of the Fallen was. Heres why:

    1) Transformers has been around for so long, more then one generation grew up with them. With multiple cartoon series, toy lines, comic books, etc. it has a devoted fan base all over the world. It was bound to pull in massive numbers.

    2) No matter how critical you are of the first Transformers movie you cannot deny that it was massively popular. It was exciting and action packed. It was hugely successful, so you have to expect the sequel to be also. Apparently people love to see giant robots from outer space fighting to the death. Go figure.

    3)While The Last Airbender was based on a popular cartoon, it does not have either of the above factors going for it. It hasn`t been around for all that long (compared to Transformers), it does not have as large a fan base. It is not a sequel to a hugely successful movie. It doesn`t even have the same name recognition since they had to alter the name it the transition from television to cinema(thank you James Cameron). And lets face it, giant battling robots from outer space is just awesome all by itself. This, not so much.

    And now with it being critically slammed, I`m not expectin this to do too well. I think we`re safe. For now.

  11. I semi agree kofi but yes your being very over dramatic nothing is going to change based on the BO for either Inception or Air Bender it would require years of a certain trend before anything happened

  12. you know whats sad? I honestly think that The Last Airbender wont be a huge box office success because people might think its too deep and confusing, when in reality its crap (i havent seen it and I plan to, but Im just going off the reviews Ive read)

    how do I know this? cuz I loved the show and I have friends that hated it because they couldnt understand it.

    another example: Watchmen. Watchmen was a darn good movie (and an even better graphic novel, btw) but it barely made 50 million over its budget. Why? most people I know said they didnt like it because A) it was too confusing; B) they didnt like the ideas behind it; or C) and I quote: “You understood that garbage?”

    the sad truth is that the average movie goer would rather see a movie that falls into the category which my friends and I refer to as “eye-sex” (which basically means it has great special effects but is lacking in story, plot, and character developement) than an actual quality movie.

    this brings me back to my original point, while The Last Airbender might not be a quality movie, its not going to be huge success because it seems like it might be a quality movie, which will in turn make audiences back off of it.

    though because this could potentially be an “eye-sex” movie, my theory might be blown out of the water… or it could go down the road of Watchmen (which had some great special effects) and get a decent box office return.

    background: i bought tickets for 5 people to see this movie which ended up being $72.50 two days in advance to avoid the movie being SOLD OUT. then i read the reviews on SR and Yahoo. I then told ALL of the people that the movie we will be seeing tonight is gonna suck so they don’t have any expectations. ALL of us are still seeing the movie.

    heres my real issue I expected this movie to be in IMAX which our small city only has one IMAX auditorium. To my dismay i found out that TWILIGHT got the IMAX treatment and that avatar would be in Real D (worse 3d than IMAX)…you may think im rambling at this point but twilight is not a 3d movie so why would it get the IMAX treatment (better 3d) well of course due to profits. now ponder this for a second why would my generation of people go and see the movie KNOWING its gonna suck and pay 14.50 per ticket to see it in 3D? DAMN YOU SHAMALAMADINGDONG!

    i understand the issue of transformers 2 and 3 had better be an improvement but the real issue is the entire movie industry is concerned with profits…i would also like to say that i saw transformers 2 in IMAX for the pre-grand-opening of our cities new imax theatre thank god i only paid 3 dollars. i live in anchorage alaska if you were curious…fork in the road indeed.
    what we need is for avatar:the last airbender and transformers 2 to be smart movies…maybe not as smart as inception but the original matrix is proof that coexistance between smart films and glorious CGI action is possible. final point: i ENJOY the avatar series and i want it to succeed…if i refund my tickets paramount wont make another one with a better director. i think this is a BIG part of transformers 2′s and twilight’s success.

  14. Joshi nailed it. The first Transformers was good, so #2 had a built-in audience.

    Brett Ratner likes to point out how well X3 did at the box office and say it was a good movie. “Box Office $” does NOT equal “Quality of Movie” or how much audiences liked it. It just means that audiences wanted to see the movie when they plopped down the money. Just because they paid to see it, doesn’t mean they liked it. I was very disappointed walking out of Transformers 2, but I still paid to get in.

  15. good point k-man

    although i’ve noticed that in someways your not 100 percent right

    generally what i think happens is the hardcore fans of ANYTHING will go to the midnight showing so the studios generate money off of that but where the real money comes in is after the hardcore have spread word to most people then the studios make more money…finally when most people see the movie and they like it they spread word to people who dont see movies too often but enjoy watching the really good ones…and if those people see it then the studio has made it a success and thats when movies like the dark knight happen to hit box office records. transformers 2 is just a special case cuz its friggin transformers and everyone loved the first movie.

  16. Sorry K-man no the first Transformers wasn’t good it was better than the second but still an awful film.

  17. Highly doubt this will break past 40 mill over the weekend. Word of mouth and Twilight will all but destroy this film.

    The only thing that may bomb harder this month is Tehran. ;-)

    • Dude! Not funny, but why am I laughing so damn hard? Hah!

  18. I can’t believe this, but of the movie is that bad, I am rooting for Twilight to kick its butt. Shock and horror!

  19. There is no way that TLA will be the next transformers. First I think eclipse will beat the airbender. Second transformers was full of action packed scenes that die hard action fans like myself love even though the movie was crap. Third if TLA does better than Inception I will stop going to the movies all together. Transformers is not basely sold on its characters as is avatar. Aang,Katara,Sokka,Zuko even Appa and others made the story really special.But the way they are acting you might as well name this movie: Terminator 5 because they have no emotion like the characters in the cartoon. I think Inception is going to beat Toy Story for the number 1 spot if eclipse doesnt. Its not hard seeing why transformers made so much money.Big robot machines fighting for the control of the universe. Everybody and their grandma would want to see that. These are cartoon from a lot of people childhoods and has been around for like 20 years or more. Nobody expected for the dark knight to make a billion dollars. That is the biggest superhero movie to date. Smart always beats branless

  20. “Will The Last Airbender be the next Transformers 2?” — doubt it. as bad as Airbender might be, it’s a kids movie — so there’s no super extra hyper mega vulgar sex-related ‘jokes’ and stuff like that..

  21. I had such high hopes for “Airbender” and to see Shyamalan get his groove back. I’ll probably still see it because movies are only $3.50, cheaper than movie rentals at $4.25 here in College Station, TX. This just goes to show how marketing can really elevate an “inferior product in an aggressive market place” (Stringer Bell, The Wire)

  22. I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse that I enjoy some films that are destroyed by critics and widely regarded as terrible movies (TF2, T4, etc). Of course, I also enjoy many of the well-received films like Dark Knight, Hurt Locker, and others. There are also countless movies in both categories that I DON’T like..

    I’ve been hearing great things about the cartoon for years and have planned on watching them, but as soon as I heard about the movie I decided not to (had a bad enough experience watching the wreckage that was Dragonball Evolution). Here’s hoping that I enjoy The Last Airbender tonight, but if not, I’ll still have the cartoon to look forward to!


  23. Thomas im jealous of your movie prices

    and way to quote idris elba/ stringer

  24. if the big hollywood execs brought thinking and action movies together,like some kind of “hybrid”, the birth of the greatest movie ever would be ours to enjoy!!! they could call it, “Brandon: the most awesomest man ever to be called awesome!!!”!!! i think that would be awesome!!! but the ammount of money needed for the effects and actors…etc…etc… would clean the gulf, get the US out of debt, build a moon base, 4/7 of a mars base, cure starvation, and give everyone else in THE WORLD 3.745 million dollars… no risk here hollywood, only reward!!!

  25. Sorry, guys. Not sure I’m getting all the hate here for The Last Airbender. Just saw it (in 2-D). My biggest issue with the film was that the kid actors weren’t that great. That hurt the film, but I still enjoyed it.

    I also think comparing it to Transformers is borderline ludicrous. Transformers was produced to target only an adult audience. Despite the horribly juvenile humor in the Transformer films, it’s not targeting kids. It’s after adults. I also think the storytelling quality was FAR worse in Transformers. Even though The Last Airbender is definitely intended as kid-friendly material, it does a better job of telling its story by comparison.

    I will add that I haven’t seen the original cartoon, so I can’t speak to the comparisons there. As a film by itself, I think it works well, and I hope it does well. I’d rather see a film like The Last Airbender versus what’s been done with the Transformer films.

    • I caught The Last Airbender today for my other job- and yes, it’s just as terrible as everyone else has said.

      Honestly, I have my doubts about it doing too well at the B.O. after this weekend. I don’t think even the Transformers:ROTF crowd will get much joy out of this one.

    • Bill, I agree completely. Just saw it tonight and, having not seen the cartoon yet, it wasn’t that bad. Kids will love it.

      I think the trailers were meant to attract the older audience, probably because the little ones were assumed to be a lock. Moral in all of this, don’t go watch the theatrical translation of a Nickelodeon cartoon and expect Oscar performances. After the way other cartoon/anime series have been treated (TF, DBZ), is it fair to anticipate greatness?


  26. I think your being way too dramatic Kofi. No matter what the end result of the Airbender movie movies like inception will still be made and Nolan will still make movies the way he likes to (or so i believe). I personally don’t care for either the airbender movie and/or inception… I’m actually more excited to see the next episode of “The Boondocks”. You seem stressed out, take a vacation and watch from your own select titles at home. You seem to be taking this summer too harsh… If it pleases you i did like your article on “what movie roles should will smith take”. With the Next 2 summers being pretty much “Comic Book Heroes” summers you might be more at ease but thats just what i think and if i’m wrong i apologize.

  27. Oooh-kay, so…Here’s my skinny on all this mess that everyone seems to be slamming down on the table about this movie.

    First off, I would just like to say that I JUST saw this movie in the theatre here in my hometown. Downfall for that; ticket pricing – $6.25 (for the matinee here). The pricing here in this town is just attrocious (?spel chk :-) ) and cannot believe that this town is getting away with it.

    Second; I’ve seen the cartoon show of this (watched all of it on my Neflix this last week (thank you Netflix for that!)) and I thought that the show was fantastic. I watched them all in about five days, I believe, and what I have to say from watching the movie now – NAMES! Let’s get that right FIRST before we make the next one. Quite a few of the names pronunciations were completely wrong, and anyone who has seen the tv show first and has now had the opportunity to see the movie will more than likely agree with me on that one.

    Now for the movie review, sans ME:

    I cannot believe that anyone in there right mind these days ACTUALLY LISTEN to reviewers anymore. I CANNOT stand Ebert; and to this day I read NOTHING from that man. I swear he has no taste for movies other than the movies that are pretty much shown in limited theatres, and are at most LOW-BUDGET films, rather than full box-office movies that 99% of ALL the public sees and that’s where, by the way, that ALL of the money comes from. I have seen quite a few movies in my time and I can say that all of them I have liked because ‘I’ think that they were good.

    Now for the other stuff; Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Now there’s a movie that, in its part, was lacking a little on the dialog side of the movie, but NOBODY can deny that the other parts of it; mainly the action sequences (forest sequence anyone??) were spot on cinematically. I myself cannot WAIT to see Transformers 3.

    The Dark Knight: Now here’s a movie that did well on all sides of the box. Great action and dialog. I have no reason to believe that movie did a billion in the box office just because of ONE of the actors (Heath Ledger) died, but here’s the funny part about that. He actually died after making ANOTHER movie – The Imaginarium of Doctor Ponasses (? spel). Did anyone else know that?? Hmmmm??? Bet you didn’t.

    Okay, now that that’s out of the way. I believe that I can finally talk about AVATAR: The Last Airbender. (That’s what the title of the show was and I don’t care what James Cameron thinks is HIS title for a movie!) I kinda felt right off the bat that when I saw; Book One – Water flash on the screen, I had a feeling that this was going to be a three-parter movie and this coming from NOT knowing that it was going to be. I was a little skeptic that they would shove ALL 3 books down our throats in just under two hours, and for that I am extremely greatful. So now we just have to wait for books 2 and 3 to come out.

    Cinematically, I thought the movie DID lack a little emotion for a part of it, but I think they chose the right people for their parts they were portraying. I think Aang’s tattoos were quite COOL actually and not just a solid blue arrow. Soka (Jackson Rathbone fans out there, my sister being one of them) was played well. Kind of a goof and is for the most part pretty quiet. Katara was exceptionally protrayed and I think they nailed her completely. I catually felt her character through her performance. Prince Zuko had only ONE downfall; his scar, it should have been a little bit angrier looking I think. Uncle Iroh, he’s supposed to be fat and short :-). The man they had for him had his chacter down but fell short (no pun there) in his apperance. Lastly: THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN NO FIRE LORD OZI SEEN UNTIL THE END, just heard. You know, build up his character a bit and do a big reveal for the final battle sequence. Now that would have made his chacter SOO much bettter.

    I’ve said my piece. Take it as you will and be merry :-)

    Peace Out!!

  28. You forgot Twilight, which is also a pile of turd panned by critics. But it made a lot of money and has become a successful movie franchise.

  29. This is sad, I’ve always loved the series, and then I hear the movie is bad. But I sill kind of want for it to do good on the off chance that the sequel might be better.