M. Night Shyamalan’s ludicrous decision to hire white actors to fill the principal heroic roles of “The Last Airbender” — the gigabudget live-action adaptation of a hit animated series whose aesthetics, ideas and iconography are all deeply rooted in Asian culture — prompted a massive grass-roots protest campaign rallying fans to boycott the film’s July 1 release. Sadly, neither that effort nor widespread critical dismissal did much to dim the film’s opening: It earned $70 million over the Fourth of July weekend, on its way to a disappointing-but-not-disastrous $319 million global gross.
This lack of box-office consequences may have emboldened Hollywood producers to engage in further cinematic desaturation. Comic fans were aghast over whispers that Marvel was considering non-Asian actresses for the key role of Japanese American superteen Nico Minoru in its film adaptation of cult-fave comic “Runaways,” while in November, anime fans raged at the proposed players for Leo DiCaprio’s live-action adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga masterpiece “Akira,” a cast featuring Morgan Freeman as military hardcase Colonel Shikishima, Zac Efron as hero biker-boy Shotaro Kaneda, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as psychic wunderkind Tetsuo Shima. To accommodate the, er, reimagined cast, the action has apparently been moved from futuristic NeoTokyo to equally dystopian Neo York (though word has it that many of the characters will actually be commuting from Neo Jersey). Rumors that the film will be retitled “Alvin” have gone unconfirmed.
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