If you follow film or television or pop culture on the internet, you know The Last Airbender. M Night Shyamalan’s disasterpiece that outraged one of the most dedicated fanbases and disgraced an amazing animated series. Until a short time ago, I hadn’t seen any of these properties, (yes, a giant world animation fan that hadn’t seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, believe me I’ve heard the complaints) but knew of their reputations. One morbid curiosity I had about the movie was, of course, how bad was it. I hadn’t seen the show before, so I thought I could go in with a fresh mindset set I had no dispositions on the story and characters. I wanted to do this because every single time I have seen someone talk about this movie, they all relate it to the show. Everyone had biases coming in and no one seemed to be able to look at it as it’s own movie, so I decided to see what a newcomer to the franchise could do. So I decided to watch the movie before I combed through the series.
Our story starts in an elemental world, (includes Fire, Water, Earth, and Air clans). One day, this world is attacked by the Fire Nation. A pair of siblings, (Saka and Katara) find some kid in an iceberg and bail him out of it. He turns out to be the Avatar, master of all elements. His name is Aang, and is supposed to restore balance to the warring world around him. After being kidnapped by the Fire Nation’s Prince Zuko, Saka and Katara follow him and accompany him on his journey to restore peace to the world. Along with Apa, a flying bison, they find Aang’s home had been destroyed since he’d been encased in ice for over 100 years. They find an earth bending tribe and save them, and follow up by restoring peace in the pockets of the world that they can. Aang learns more about his role in the world while saving everyone he can. In the climax, they find themselves in a water tribe up north in which Aang can learn water bending. They are attacked by the fire nation, but are no match for Aang’s new water bending and understanding of his job. The movie ends by setting up a franchise via last minute plot twist.
The story as a foundation is good, but the storytelling is incredibly boring. The film puts so much weight on it being driven by the characters before anything else. The acting is very stale and their personalities don’t do anything worthwhile. Katara seems to have a connection with Aang, but it’s hard to tell if it was supposed to be an implied romance because there is no spark between them, (not that anyone shares good chemistry with each other in the entire cast). Saka and Katara don’t seem to function as siblings, because Katara is boring and Saka is kind of a dick and their relationship is virtually non existant. Aang is the most boring, even though he looks like he is supposed to be the main character. Their progression through the story fails because of it. At points they show up locations and it’s hard to remember why it is so significant because it doesn’t seem important. There are also points where the story adds in characteristics or other important plot points that don’t seem to make sense, (and I don’t have any drive to figure it out). The scenery is very nice in every location they shoot at, and the score is fine. The special effects are fine, such as the elemental stuff. However, Apa looks hideous, and the bird thing, (whose significance is never developed) looks ugly as fuck as well. They are animated fine, but their designs specifically are unappealing. The action scenes are fine, but not special. More often then not, (since suspense of disbelief isn’t triggered well enough) I found myself looking at the choreography and how they look like they’re dancing as opposed to fighting, which takes away the impact. The ending allured to a continuation, but the supposed plot twist/reveal means nothing because viewers like me didn’t understand why it revealed that person. It left me bored at the end and excited to go on Facebook to check my feed and see if my Youtube subscriptions had cool stuff
The Elephant in the Room:
Everything I said comes from the perspective of someone that hasn’t seen the show. But imagine this for a second. Forget Shyamalan, forget the movie, and forget the series. This is an example of adapting from animation to live action, which are 2 extremely different storytelling mediums. Some stories work better in one or the other because they are written specifically to work in the visual style they are created in, which changes the spirit of any given story, which is why animation to live action adaptations suck. The changes suspension of disbelief and what writers can do. This is also an example to TV to movie adaptation. This is hard to do if it isn’t a direct follow up of the series, (think South Park the series becoming South Park the Movie) because this usually means different people will be involved. Combining these 2 never satisfies anyone because it never works like it should. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s okay to adapt it into a live action movie because it’s profitable. The reason The Last Airbender was hated by so many people was because its combination of everything. It also doesn’t help that Shyamalan apparently made this movie to appeal to the same target as the show, as opposed to fans of the show itself. He said he wanted young kids to enjoy it, more than fans of the show. I don’t know if any child actually liked it, but this thought process is flawed. As a movie on it’s own it’s boring, when anyone compares it to the show, (which is inevitable) it will fail. The wrong mindset directed the movie, which makes us wonder what we’re supposed to think.
In the end the movie gets a recommendation of Ignore It. It also gets a recommendation of, “Hollywood, please stop adapting Animation into Live-Action, it’s obvious that it’s for the money and almost every product because of it sucks ass”.
Thanks for reading.
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