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Review / Rant on 'The Last Airbender'

July rain October 24, 2010 User blog:July rain

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Oh boy. Here we go.

Now, I thought the whole idea of transforming 10 hours worth of footage from a cartoon series into a 2 hour live action movie was a dumb idea from the start, but hey, you never know. They've turned detailed books such as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings into successful movies that are easy to understand and follow, why can't they do the same with ATLA? It was certainly possible... but not in the hands of M. Night Shayamalan. Why such an incompetent director was allowed to direct, write, and produce this project I'll never know. Now, to get started on what exactly he did wrong...

1. The script. The script was just garbage. M. Night apparently has a limited vocabulary, because phrases such as "great library" "My name is Aang and I am the Avatar" and "I ran away because the monks told me I couldn't have a family" were used so many times I was about to scream. Every word out of a character's mouth was just another long explanation about what was going on, and as if that wasn't enough, we had Katara narrating, complete with a Star Wars-esque scrolling intro. The whole Sokka/Yue love story becomes one single narrated line - "they became friends quickly." But my personal favourite, from Aang, was "Is there someplace spiritual around, where I can meditate?"

2. The casting. The casting of this movie of course caused a lot of controversy and cries of racism. Now, I'm not sure if M. Night is a racist. I think the mixed-race casting, and the Fire Nation being Indian, was to remove the important message about Communist China's attack on Tibet, which is mirrored in the series by the Fire Nation's wipeout of the Air Nomads. M. Night dumbed it down, and I was insulted. I hoped that at least the casting resulted in the best actors for the parts. But of course that could not be true. It seemed like the actors were reading their lines for the first time. I swear at one point I saw one read of a TelePrompter. The child actors are lifeless and abysmal, and they look very confused about what they're supposed to do. The only actors I believed were Dev Patel as Zuko and Shaun Toub as Iroh. That's it.

3. The characters. The characters are without a doubt the best part of the show. Of course M. Night doesn't notice this. He gave them no stories, no motives. He portrayed them all wrong. Sokka was serious and tense, Katara was just boring, and Aang was depressing and emotionless. Iroh wasn't bad but he looked nothing like what he was supposed to. Ozai seemed to care for his son. Zhao was just an idiot. And there is a serious lack of relationships between the characters. There is no character development. And as if that wasn't enough, they had to go and pronounce the names incorrectly. I understand that those are the original Asian pronunciations, but that's just betraying the fans of the show who have gotten to know the characters with their anglicized pronunciations.

4. The pacing. I wasn't expecting every event from the show to show up in the movie, but I was at least expecting some! The only episodes I can remember being featured are The Boy in the Iceberg, The Avatar Returns, The Southern Air Temple, Imprisoned, The Blue Spirit, and The Siege of the North. Probably 80% of the movie was dedicated to The Siege of the North. Anyone who wasn't a fan would have been completely lost. Everything was just rushed to get to the big finale.

5. Inaccuracies between the show and movie. Just a few that irked me... firebenders can't create their own fire? The Kyoshi Warriors were missing? The Earthbenders were trapped in EARTH but they still didn't fight back? Aang creates a huge wave instead of merging with the Ocean Spirit? The Blue Spirit had big bushy hair? Aang was training with male and female Airbenders? The benders went into an elaborate dance before any bending could happenI could go on forever, but you get the point.

All I can say I really enjoyed about this movie was the special effects, which were not great but decent, and the musical score. And it did offer some comic relief. But that's about it.

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