How M. Night Failed The Last Airbender Movie *CAUTION*SPOILER ALERT*
Friday, July 9, 2010 at 12:33am
To all those who have been reading my notes over the past year, I thank you for listening in
on the little tid-bits of of information I researched to share with you about the Nickelodeon cartoon ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’s’ screen adaptation. I must admit that despite many of the horrendous reviews that The Last Airbender (TLAB) received, I still had an inkling of hope that the movie couldn’t be THAT BAD. I thought, much like the ‘Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li’ it would be mildly entertaining when there was nothing else on television to watch.
At about 3 am yesterday morning, I decided to try my luck and find a copy of this movie online. I was wrong. M. Night had truly failed to capture the innocence, fun, and drama of the show and failed this movie in a multitude of ways:
(1) Too Much Explanation::
Within the first ten minutes of the film, my brain turned to mush. I was caught in a very long drawn out reincarnation of Katara’s narration of the past and current state of their mystical (fantasy) world. She spent a great deal of the time explaining her world, instead of showing it to us. She spoke about spirits and other such things that had no place being talked about in the beginning of the film.
We as the viewers learn too much about the characters and their world only through dialogue, and then occasionally see something new. Katara talks about her mother being killed instead of us SEEING something. Aung(as it’s pronounced) talks about running away from home (in the first 15 mins. of the film) instead of us SEEING anything. Any relevant character detail was told to us through dialogue instead of a quick flash-back or a real time display. We are told Aung is the last airbender before he does ANY airbending. At all. Katara narrated the beginning of pretty much every scene she was in, which became truly annoying. The most ridiculous for me was during a fight between Zuko and Katara, Katara takes the time to give her name and background history to Zuko, who’s trying to attack her.
(2) Too Much Repetition::
The information that M. Night decided to give us, though with good intentions, was repeated constantly. Either in an attempt to help newbies to Avatar understand, or maybe to drill in (what he thought were key facts), it was unnecessary and made me feel like I wasn’t competent enough to understand it the first 2 or 3 times I heard something. In the first 15-20 mins of the movie, Aung must’ve said he “ran away” about five times. General Zhao (who had a slight Indian accent) talked about the “moon spirit scroll he found in the Great Library” throughout the entire film. Whenever he found it possible to talk about Zuko’s banishment, M. Night squeezed it in, even having it played out in a flash back with narration by a random little Indian boy.
(3) Lack of Adventure::
It is safe to say that the majority of this movie was dialogue and considering that the script was pretty rudimentary, there was nothing else to fall back on. The beginning of the film took place in the Southern Water Tribe and then went to an Air Temple for a few short minutes, then to a pseudo Earth Bending Concentration Camp/Village, then back at a different Air Temple for a couple of minutes and finally the film ended in the Northern Water Tribe. There was no sense of the trio jet-setting to different villages, meeting people, having fun, bending and learning new techniques, nothing. There was hardly any interaction between the three main characters other than to EXPLAIN something about themselves. There really was no chasing after the Auvatar (as it was pronounced) on Zuko’s part, but just him saying (over and over) I want my honor back.
(4) Blase Bending::
The most anticipated part of this movie was the bending. I was hoping that if anything would get me through this film, it would be some skillful bending. Unfortunately, the cartoon bending was ten times better than this live action stuff. The bending technique was neither fluid nor fast enough for my taste. The only ‘spectacular’ bending we saw was at the end of the film, and even that wasn’t all too great because it’s the same scene in the trailers being played. The earth-bending was pretty lame and it took Aung FOREVER to produce some good air-bending.
M. Night also decided to change the bending technique for the Fire Nation, stating that all other benders were limited to a source, so he limited the fire-benders to bending from a source of fire. This to me made NO SENSE because there is limitless access to water (as we saw Katara learn to pull moisture from the air), earth (there’s endless FLOOR beneath them) and air (hello, what do we breath?). The firebenders essentially had to have a candle flame around them where ever they went, throwing massive fireballs into the city in the last scene. Only the highest level of benders can produce their own fire (ie. Uncle Eero (as it’s pronounced) and seeming firelord Ozai). Zuko however needs to walk around with a lantern though his ‘chi’ can warm him. This to me weakens them because all one had to do, was douse a burning flame and the benders would be powerless.
So I question: what of the fire prodigy Azula? Does she need a source? And how do they produce lightening? They wait for a storm?
(5) Lack of Characters::
While I understand that it’s hard to squeeze in 20 episodes into 90 minutes, this movie could’ve had a lot more if they had cut some unnecessary scenes with reiterated information and then added an extra thirty minutes. But M Night chose not to, so in the hour-and-a-half we only met Aung, So-Kah (as it was pronounced), Grandma (gran gran), Princess Yue, Commander (Admiral) Zhao, Master Pakku (though I don’t remember hearing a name) Uncle Eeeroh, FireLord Ozai and at the very end we see a disheveled and twitchy Azula.
There was no Haru and his father (though we saw a random asian Earth bending kid and his dad-neither had names), no Jet and his merry gang, no Avatar Roku (who is very important), no King Bumi, no Chief Arnook, No fiancee for Yue, and (most importantly for me) no Suki and no Kyoshi warriors. Though M. Night says that he shot the scenes and later removed them because ‘they began to take over the movie,’ he does have a statue of Avatar Kyoshi in the pseudo earthbending prison concentration camp. That to me, make NO sense to give people a reminder of how GREAT they are while IMPRISONED but if that was his nudge to the girls, then so be it.
And while Appa and Momo were there, we only saw Momo twice and Appa was only there when they traveled and then in the last scene of the movie. It was almost as though they were absent.
(6) Bad Acting/Script
The nail that put this coffin in the ground was truly the bad acting. And that I can not blame whole heartedly on the actors. They were working off the direction and script that M. Night provided them. The script sounded like (no joke) a first grader’s essay on “Avatar the Last Airbender.” It seemed like he made this movie for four and five year olds instead of and audience with the capacity to spell their own name legibly and add double digit numbers.
Though he mentioned that it would be darker, it was sad to not see any of Sokka’s wit and plan-making abilities. It was over shadowed by Rathbone’s stilted acting (that would better suit his role as the undead in Twilight) and mildly inflected voice. Nicola’s Katara lacked about 80% of what made Katara who she is/was. No real fire, no real passion, she was passive and constantly narrating everything so she didn’t have much to act. As for Ringer, he’s a newcomer with no acting experience. And all I will say, is that it shows 100% that this was his first attempt at acting and it doesn’t come natural to him. Dev Patel was okay but could’ve been more of an enraged Zuko who wanted to capture Aang by any means necessary. Uncle Iroh was less jolly, less wise and probably spoke the least in the movie. The only one who seemed committed to his role was Admiral Zhao…trying to express how power hungry he was. I was most disappointed in the portrayal of Azula who in the show is the vision of perfection yet is made to look sketchy and twitchy. She looked like the crazy broad she was in the show’s finale.
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST,
This movie just lacked the personality of the show, the personality of the characters, and the overall feeling of bonding and drama. The movie was truly disjointed with an inability to get a fix on the time, a lack of showing, an outpour of telling and unnecessary changes which would’ve helped in the development of the characters. The setting really backfired in my opinion, limiting the movie mainly to the water tribes and not allowing the kids to leave and travel and meet. I would’ve accepted some of the changes if they introduced something new and improved to me, but they didn’t. And so the changes and omission of plot and characters really did make this movie just lack. And finally, there was not an inkling of Aang feeling anything for Katara. It didn’t even really feel like these three kids had become friends.
The white casting was truly the LEAST of this film’s problems.
There were only two things I thought was decent: mentioning Hama as the last bender of the Southern Water tribe before Katara’s birth and the non-bending fight scene between Zuko and Aung.
Over all this is a sad moment for both the fans and the production company. First M. Night has revealed that he’s finished the second script and that he’s ready to put Azula on the screen very dark and demented, but I’m hoping that he doesn’t. We may be upset and think that M. Night got what he deserves for changing things around and causing a racial riot, but this is a sad moment for the fans too. I’m quite upset that the first attempt to make this beautiful show a live-action film failed, and I’m sad to know that M. Night wants to continue the franchise and drag it further in the dirt. I’m even more upset that we, the fans, are going to have to wait until all the dust clears on this blemish in Avatar history before someone else can do this show justice. ::SIGH:: Now, I must wait again to see Toph do her bad@ss earth and metal bending and to see the epic finale that was Sozin’s Comet on the big screen.