As we all know, the first Last Airbender movie was a mess. However, I've been thinking of doing a more loyal adaptation to the series, similar to the likes of Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter. This page showcases my personal opinion about M Night's movie (though it's not technically a review) and how to rectify it so that everyone can enjoy it. Feel free to voice your opinions and suggestions at the commenting section below.
The Adaptation Process
I understand M Night's intentions to put everything from Book 1 into one movie but Mike and Bryan wants him to cut down stuff. Then again, M Night's method of adapting into a 2-hour plus movie does not sit well with fans of the series. He should follow the example of Steve Kloves, who penned the Harry Potter movies. In an interview, David Heyman (the producer) briefly explained the book-to-film transition. He commented on Rowling's involvement in the series, stating that she understands that "books and films are different" and is "the best support" a producer could have. Rowling has overall approval on the scripts, which are discussed by the director and the producers. Heyman also said that Kloves is the "key voice" in the process as he "breaks down" the novels and, as of the third film, the filmmakers decided to focus on Harry's journey as a character, giving the film a structure which meant that certain things needed to be left out. However, he stated that "there is a reason why these things are left out" and some fans "don't necessarily understand the adaptation process". He went on to say that the filmmakers would love to "have everything" from the books in the films, but noted that it is not possible as they have "neither time or cinematic structure" to do so. He finished by saying that "there's always tough decisions on what we leave in and what we leave out" and that "it's a really considered process." So therefore, the best way is seek Mike and Bryan to have their say rather than write the entire script by yourself. However, make sure the time-frame is neither too short nor too long. Otherwise, you can cut some scenes and place them as "deleted scenes" or release an "extended edition".
M.Night once suggested in this Mike/Bryan interview video that the trilogy will be 6+ hours. The A:TLA story has already been in audio/visual format in 30+ hours for all 3 seasons. To make a film trilogy with 6+ hours means you have to take pieces that are important to you, and rearrange and modify them so it all fits together. Anything else is a mathematical impossibility. Speaking of which, the first movie is 103 minutes (including screen credits). Multiply that by three, we get about 300+ minutes or 5 hours. So it looks he is one hour short of delivering this unless he makes a fourth movie. So my suggestion is that the first book will be done in one movie, with Books 2 and 3 being adapted into two movies each. Each movie will have a running time for at least 2 1/2 hours each.
Narration and Exposition, Good or Bad?
I noticed that M Night tries to make up for the short time by using narration and exposition. While a narrator is good for certain works (like Fight Club, Sin City and Haruhi Suzumiya), the series is not known for this. M Night did explain that the movie is based on Katara's point of view, so it is natural for Nicola to narrate. However, many reviews argued that they rather see the thing happen, rather than let Katara explain to the audience. The worst example is the scene where Sokka falls head over heels with Yue (like in the cartoon). Rather than give time for them to establish their relationship, Katara concludes, "My brother and the princess became friends right away". After a few scenes, Sokka suddenly volunteers to be Yue's bodyguard, for god knows why. Another major complaint is the extensive use of expository dialogue. For example, Zhao talks to Fire Lord Ozai about the scrolls which may contain the location of the Moon and Ocean Spirits from Wan Shi Tong's library in the movie. He went on to repeat the subject a few more times throughout the cause of the movie. It would be nicer for him to talk about it that one time with Iroh, using visuals to show the audience how he did. Another example is how Aang got encased in an iceberg. Rather than have a flashback like in the series, this becomes a subject to Katara and Aang's first conversation together. Katara went on to remind the audience one more time once the Gaang depart to the Southern Air Temple. So, the only solution to rectify these is to "show, don't tell", where the audience sees with their very eyes, rather than listen people explaining what is going on.
One of the major complaints about TLA is that M Night focused too much on visuals, he completely forgotten about the one crucial thing about a story: character development. Let's recap about the characters, shall we?
- Aang is a boisterous, light-hearted, fun-loving twelve year old that is in denial of the war, who displays desire to enjoy life to the fullest ("Free and joyous" as an Air Nomad). To quote Katara, "Don’t you see? Aang has brought something we haven’t had in a long time; fun." However, due to the movie's serious tone, the movie Aang is quiet, reserved and somewhat sad. He showed no care or compassion, even so far as a lack of connecting to those closest to him such as Katara and Sokka. He never grew out of his lack of responsibility toward the war in the same, believable fashion as series Aang did at the Northern Water Tribe.
- Katara is a bold, self-assuring, brave, motherly character who is wildly headstrong in her beliefs. Sadly, the movie Katara is somewhat closer to the Ember Island Players actress. She always look like she is going to cry, always desiring for Hope but requiring it from someone else. She shown no personal interest or struggle for the events around her, and mainly took a backseat to the story. She even went as far as going, "I knew you were real. I always knew you would return." to a meditating Aang, even though earlier in the film, her grandmother had to teach her what the Avatar was and why his return was significant.
- Sokka is described as the witty and sarcastic comic relief of the group. However, when M Night that he is going to "ground" Sokka, many fans feared the worst. These fears are finally realized when their beloved Sokka is turned into a boring, lifeless individual who spent most the journey just standing around without displaying any emotion. Not as funny, I can understand, but take out his wit and sarcasm as well!? Worse, he has zero believable brother-sibling moments. He was close to beating Katara up when he got splashed. He also had a desire to kill Fire Nation soldiers if his sister was to be taken away.
- Zuko is somewhat close to his series counterpart in the movie. However, he doesn't display the same intelligence as he did in the series. For example, we understood why he was asking for elderly in the series, but not in the movie. As a further example, we don't know/were never shown why he suspects the Avatar is at this random village. He is not as hot-headed as season one Zuko. He is shown as feeling remorse for others, something he is blind to as of now in the series. This is shown when he apologizes to an unconscious Katara in the movie, whereas in the series he smugly rubs in his victory over her.
- Iroh is the closest to its series counterpart. However, his wisdom is not as believable, and he lacks his wise sayings. They replace his true intelligence and depth with an Avatar Test, which in itself is not believable as these are not the mechanics that define what either the Avatar or bending really is. This can confuse viewers. When Iroh shows his strength in the first season, he really lets loose and there is no stopping him. However, the only thing he ever does in the movie is make fire from nothing and not even fight with it. The craving for tea is not as frequent, and appearance-wise, he is rather tall and thin for a retired general.
- Zhao is a highly ambitious, power-hungry narcissist, noted for his arrogance and temper. His more straightforward villainous nature stands in sharp contrast to that of the conflicted Prince Zuko. While Zuko desires to capture the Avatar for personal reasons (i.e. the restoration of his honor and love of his father), Zhao is not motivated by higher ideals and seems to act only in his own interest. However, movie Zhao is more of a follower to Fire Lord Ozai. He seems more interested in scrolls than capturing the Avatar. His insults come off as insult comedy (perhaps because the actor is a Daily Show correspondent) rather than genuine hurtful ones. Like Iroh, he is underused when it comes to fighting.
- For all of Season 1, Ozai is portrayed as a shadow silhouette. He is the equivalent of the Emperor from Star Wars, who does not reveal his identity until the later movies. However, movie Ozai is exposed. Not just his face, from head to toe. He is not as hateful and cruel as series Ozai, but is rather contemplative and decisive. He even shows remorse for Zuko, his son's, banishment by warning Zhao that Zuko will be over him when he returns.
- As far as team pets go, Appa and Momo are underused. Very underused. Appa's only role in the movie is as a mode of transportation and Momo is just...there. Aang was supposed to share a bond with his pet flying bison, but apparently M Night decided not to put this in the movie because he's entirely CG? Hey, it works for Aslan and Lucy in Chronicles of Narnia! As for Momo, I don't know what he's there for. His name is only mentioned once and the audience did not get to see how that flying lemur (bat) is named. As for their designs, they are somewhat passable, but not as cute as their animated counterparts.
- Yue is somewhat similar to her cartoon counterpart when it comes to personality and looks. However, movie Yue is stuck with horrid lines ("We have to show them that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in theirs.") and her entire betrothal arc got canned. Sad.
- Pakku is underused in the movie. A snarky sexist dick, movie Pakku is reduced to "generic wise guy". His theory of waterbending is false ("To master water, you must release your emotions, wherever they may lead you. Water teaches us acceptance. Let your emotions flow like water." instead of "Push and pull").
- Kanna looks more like a typical Caucasian "auntie" rather than a dreary Inuit old lady. How she manages to know so much about the Spirit World is beyond me. Why on earth did Katara call her "grandma" rather than "gran-gran", a direct translation of how Asians call their grandmother (e.g. po-po in Chinese).
- Haru and Tyro are not only underused, they are unnamed! All the Earthbending Boy did is throw tiny rocks from behind a tree (it really hurt!), hide behind others and speak only one line throughout the entire movie. He did not even contribute to the Earthbender prison fight. Eartbending Father did not start the rebellion against the Fire Nation right after breaking out of the prison. Both the boy and his father are mysteriously ignored after the fighting scene. Also, rather than let the Earthbenders fend for themselves, Sokka was the one who suggested the rebellion and let Aang get rid of the remaining soldiers, as opposed to departing to the North Pole right away. Oh, and one more thing, where's the boy's mother?
- Azula is too early to judge, since she only appeared in the end. However, when Ozai asks Azula to go get the Avatar, she agrees with this twitchy face that's more "I'm already batshit insane" than "I'm just plain evil."
Another thing is the lack of "foil" in the movie. A foil is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight various features of that other character's personality, throwing these characteristics into sharper focus. One example is Doctor Watson, a highly intelligent man, if lacking in Sherlock Holmes's insight, he serves as a perfect foil for Holmes: the ordinary man against the brilliant, emotionally-detached analytical machine. So if for most of Season One, Zuko is a driven, humorless, rigid and angry character, then it makes sense for Aang to be an easygoing, positive, joyful and humorous character, wouldn't you say? So why did Shyamalan feel it was necessary to make Aang as much like Zuko as he could without outright giving him the scar? Because it seemed like he "wasn't upset enough" or something? Aang's not exactly "over" his pain or guilt (The Southern Air Temple, The Storm and The Guru prove that), but part of what makes him work as a hero is because he's working to try and fix things despite his shortcomings AND because he's ultimately an unflappably positive person. God forbid there should be a protagonist who's genuinely in awe of and enthusiastic about the world he's apart of. It's also part of what makes Zuko's journey stand out so much by comparison. Regardless of which hero you feel is "best", the fact is that not only do BOTH of them need to be there, but BOTH of them have to portray these two vastly different worldviews and personalities, in order to hold each other up as characters. In much the same way that the differing tones of drama and humor have to be intact in some degree to elevate the film and make it work. So therefore, in order to make the characters connect to the audience, their personalities should be emphasized.
The Balance of Humor and Drama
Throughout the production of TLA, Shyamalan repeatedly brought up his decision to diminish the comedic elements that pervade ATLA as a series. For the most part, I can understand the decision to excise some of the zanier moments of more "cartoony" humor, which rarely translate well over to a live-action format. That said, Shyamalan choosing to take as much of that away as he could and make it as "serious" as possible is a sign that he might not have been just the 'wrong director', but that he may not have ever gotten a key element of why ATLA worked as well as it did. See, ATLA is certainly not without its serious bits, but it never forgets that it's a children's cartoon first and foremost. And especially by the standard of most children's cartoons (not to mention the ones that the show shared a network with), its humor is surprisingly well-written and character-oriented. The important thing is that it understands how to find a happy medium between these two very different tones, along with a keen awareness of when to include it. ATLA manages to be funny but not so much that the narrative tension is sacrificed because of it, or dramatic without losing its generally lighthearted spirit. One of the major complaints of TLA is that it was too serious. Book 1 is noted for being the least serious chapter of the series. In my opinion, the movie winds up being a little too serious for the audience (not counting the unintentionally funny bits). A lot of epic adventure movies such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings can cover some pretty heavy ground, but they don't cut out their humor for the sake of being taken more seriously. Hell, even the Dark Knight, one of the darkest superhero movies ever, has Heath Ledger with his dark comedy. A healthy dose of humor can also end up doing wonders for the serious bits themselves. A big laugh after a particularly harrowing moment can be an effective catharsis for the audience, and it helps to keep them on their toes. Sometimes if your movie is too grim or takes itself too seriously when it doesn't need to, it can actually end up desensitizing the viewer and making them lose interest, despite the intriguing and amazing things that may be occuring onscreen.
From TLA Revealed, his test-screening audience apparently do not have a sense of humor so he cut the humor and other goofiness. And that is why we are stuck with a personality-less Sokka and very little to no humor.
Another problem I had with the movie is the actors cannot improvise. It seems even the least serious characters like Aang, Sokka and Iroh has to stick with the script 24/7. Improvisation and ab-libbing is one way to make the dialogue more natural and believable. Jack DeSena, Sokka's original voice actor, turns his otherwise serious character into the Sokka we all knew and love thanks to these. Movies like Iron Man lives and breaths ab-lib. Likewise, even the actors have their say on discussing with the director and scriptwriter to improvise their character a little. I was shocked to learn that Shaun Toub was refrained from watching the original series for background and character understanding in order to focus on M Night's own vision, and considering that Iroh is one of the most important characters in the story it stands to reason that if he "encouraged" Toub in this course of action than he probably took on a similar tack with as many people unfamiliar with ATLA as possible so as not to pollute the purity of his creative control with pesky things like "suggestions" or "legitimate criticism". So therefore, not only we have to keep the equal ratio of comedy and ratio in the movie, all the cast and crew must watch the entire Book 1 before filming to get a better understanding about the series.
According to Hasdi, Shyamalan leaned more towards Hinduism concept of the Avatar, a Godly entity incarnated in a mortal form. This is closer with Christianity’s concept of the Holy Trinity, especially with the Dragon Spirit (who was seemingly connected to Aang in the Spirit World) playing a role similar to the Holy Spirit. In the movie, Aang did not communicate with Avatar Roku and other personalities from his Avatar "stream", just the Dragon Spirit. Everyone treated the Avatar more like a God incarnate than an epic hero, so he is more of Jesus Christ than say, Superman. The return of the Avatar was like the Messiah who has returned. They even bowed before him, even when he was not merged with the Ocean Spirit as Koizilla. Sparing the Fire Nation fleet from the wave was a show of mercy, or, turning the other cheek. In the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew according to the New Testament, Jesus says:
- You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. — Matthew 5:38-42, NIV
While a refreshing change to the epic destruction in the series, many fans felt cheated when Aang did the giant wave. Disappointed that the Ocean Spirit did not merge with Aang (once the Moon Spirit got killed, all Aang did is recall what the Dragon Spirit told him earlier), many expected Aang at least damage a few ships with the wave. However, once the wave was brought down, the ships left the North Pole untouched. Also, ever noticed that the Avatar State was done somewhat voluntarily in the movie? Well, Hasdi did explain about the Avatar State might be eliminated, so it is implied that the wave is the result of Aang unlocking the Water Chakra, which proivides an immense Waterbending chi and blocked by guilt. The Dragon Spirit told him to let of his guilt, i.e. "You are not dealing with the loss of your people and your responsibilities for their deaths" ... "you must let this go". This chi glowed bluish white when Aang tapped it to create the gigantic wave. Similarly, when Aang was overwhelmed by his grief for the loss of his people at the Southern Air Temple, he actually unlocked the Air Chakra, which provides an immense Airbending chi and blocked by grief. This chi glowed pure white. However, when Aang refused to let go of his guilt, the Dragon Spirit said "You are stopping yourself from grieving." In my opinion, the Avatar State should have been kept as it is so that non-fans will be more familiar with it.
Also, the role of the Avatar is radically changed. For example, when Aang told Katara and Sokka the reason why he ran away, it is because the Council of Elders told him that he could not have a family and lead a normal life. OK, not only this is a rather strange reason why he ran away (as opposed to being separated from Monk Gyatso like in the series), this contradicts with a major plotline in the later books. As revealed in The Avatar and the Fire Lord, Zuko discovers that Roku is his maternal great-grandfather. However, the definition of "family" may be ambiguous. Remember part 9 of the documentary (the Finale)? M.Night talks about family in the movie: Ozai put his imperialistic agenda above family matters, while Aang is all about protecting his newfound family, i.e. Sokka and Katara. Aang ran away because he was to be separated from the closest thing he had to a family, his father figure Monk Gyatso, which is aligned with the series. The monks told something similar to Aang: "The day they told me I was the Avatar, they also told me that I couldn't have a family.
They warned me never to fall in love. They said it can't work with the responsibilities of the Avatar." M.Night reshot the scene without that struck out line. The "family" now referred to Monk Gyatso and his friends, and his new family Sokka and Katara, as he strongly suggested in the video documentary. Note that in the novelization, Aang said that the monks warned him not to fall in love and the Dragon spirit said he had to choose between being the Avatar and being with Katara (i.e. to let go of "worldly attachments" to unlock the Seventh Chakra).
- At the Northern Air Temple: I can tell you that the one called Katara will be very important to you... but be careful your feelings and actions. You have struggled with this in all of your lifetimes, Avatar: the balance between your desire your love and family, and your responsibility to the world.
- At the Spirit Oasis: At some point you will have to make a difficult choice... between Katara and being the Avatar.
However both lines were cut in the movie. Perhaps it is becuase both Noah and Nicola are first-time actors, so they can't develop the Kataang relationship that well. Likewise, due to this, the layman's viewer will think that Aang ran away for such a mundane reason. Therefore, Aang's reason why he ran away can be rewritten as "The day they told me I was the Avatar, they said that my relationship with Gyatso is affecting my responsiblities. It was at that very moment they decided to separate me from Gyatso and send me to the Eastern Air Temple for further training." I don't think the monks in the avatar world would follow that no-falling-in-love tradition because there wouldn't be anymore airbenders if they stopped reproducing. If Aang dies before siring a child (whether that child is an Airbender or just carries the potential for a child of its own to be an Airbender), then after the Avatar reincarnates through the Water Tribes, Earth Kingdom, and Fire Nation, there will be no one from the Air Nomads for the spirit to choose.
Likewise, another change of the Avatar's role is that, to quote the Dragon Spirit, the Avatar is not meant to hurt others. Not only kill, even hurt. As we all know, the Avatar's duty is to master the four elemental disciplines, and use such power to keep balance amongst the four nations of the world, even if it means killing others. If M Night was to allude to the series finale, where Aang was in full control of the powers and abilities of a Fully Realized Avatar; he could finish off Ozai if he wanted to, but he chose not to, then it was too early to do so. Hell, even his previous incarnations actually persuade Aang to kill Ozai! Also, this "no killing" is more of an Air Nomad belief. Aang's refusal to kill is because he is "just one kid". If all Avatars, even the ones from the Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation, cannot harm a human being, what about the story of the once-great Avatar Kyoshi, who now apparently "likes games"? The omission of the Avatar State means that Koizilla will be omitted as well. M Night once said in an interview:
- "Mike and Bryan were really heavily influenced by film called Princess Mononoke for the ending of the show. Basically they borrowed from the movie, and then made their TV show. I can't make it back into a movie again, because then I'll be like "stealing" from another movie, so I took the idea of what he [i.e. Aang] was going to do and make it more symbolic."
Princess Mononoke is a 1997 epic Japanese animated historical fantasy feature film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The design of Koizilla closely resemble the Forest Spirit from that film in its gigantic "Nightwalker" form. As for the "symbolic gesture" in the movie, it should be noted that unlike in the episode The Siege of the North (Part 2), Aang was fully aware and in control of his immense Waterbending ability, so this means his will was not overpowered by his past personalities and other entities with the Avatar State. Personally, I would have preferred Koizilla doing the wave over Aang. All it needs is the power of motion capture and CG. While I somewhat understand the movie's concept of the finale, having Koizilla do his dirty work would have been a more epic and awesome finish. Imagine that scene with Flow Like Water playing in the background. Also, while M Night thinks that using the element from Princess Mononoke is "plagiarism", I felt that it is more of a homage, like what Mike and Bryan did to their series.
Arranging The Story
When adapting a story, there are times where you can't follow the story 100%, so the best solution is to rearrange the story and remove the unimportant bits. I don't if this is a result of poor editing, but there are times where some plotlines are jumbled to the point that even non-fans got confused. Here are the examples:
- When Aang got captured, Katara kept pestering Sokka to rescue the boy (which as of right now is not named), because he is "their responsiblity". OK, here is what bugs me. Number one, we still have no idea of WHO he is or even what his NAME is. Number two, Katara did not share a great bond that convinced herself to save that boy. At least in the series, Aang actually revealed himself as the Avatar. Likewise, Katara already knew that Aang was an airbender and he might be the Avatar. In the movie, it was not until after that conversation that Katara found out he was the Avatar. Not by herself, but through Kanna. Also in the series, Katara actually established an early relationship with Aang through penguin sledding. In the movie however, the only time the two actually had a conversation prior to the capture is this:
- Katara: How did you get all the way out here?
- Aang: I ran away from home. We got in this storm. We were forced under the water of the ocean.
- Katara: Oh... I see.
- Aang: It wasn't very smart. I was just upset. Thanks for saving me.
- Katara: (smiles) Lucky.
- Aang: I should probably get home. They'll all be worried.
- Katara: You're not still upset? ::Aang: Not as much as I was.
- The awkward timing of revealing that Aang needs to master all four elements, starting with water. In the series, Katara pointed this right after Aang's escape from Zuko's ship. It was then that Katara suggested that they should go to the North Pole, so that they can learn together. However, in the movie, all Aang said right after escaping is the Fire Nation is "up to something" and he has to go back... why he didn't just STAY is anyone's guess. Sokka offers to go with him. Aang ignores him and offers to take them back to the village. Katara insists that they're going with him. OK, aside from knowing that Aang is the Avatar, the audience has no clue on why Katara and Sokka wanted to follow Aang. Also, even after the shenanigans at the Southern Air Temple, Katara and Sokka still don't know he's the Avatar. Aang revealed to them twice, once after Sokka asked him if he's the Avatar (according to the novel) and the second time during Aang's speech at the prison camp (a speech that should have been given to Katara). It was not until rescuing the prisoners, that Aang finally revealed the Avatar's duty. Not only that, Sokka was the one who suggested going to the North Pole. He did not even mention that his sister needs to learn waterbending too. Rather than depart straight away, a montage is shown: featuring Aang getting rid of the remaining villagers (as opposed to letting the earthbenders start their own rebellion) and Katara busy putting up posters announcing the Avatar's return (which is a stark contrast to the low profile of the Gaang like in the series).
- Zhao's intentions. In the series, he is more interested on capturing the Avatar before the banished prince for personal gain, but suddenly lost interest and focus on killing the moon instead. However, in the movie, it seems that capturing the Avatar does not matter to him. Instead, he decided to chat with Ozai regarding scrolls which may contain information about the Moon and Ocean spirits from the great library. Not only that, it was referenced way too early into the film. Therefore, his conversation with Iroh, which was supposed to be the only one time where he mentioned about this, winds up as repetition in the movie because he mentioned it twice before.
- M Night decided to choose a weird time to reveal why Yue's hair is white. In the series, Yue explains how the Moon Spirit gave her life as a baby and how she received her name; Yue – for the Moon (which in turn caused her hair to turn white) during the capture of the Moon Spirit. In the movie, this is placed as a conversation topic during the only on-screen date between Yue and Sokka. However, rather than emphasize on how the spirits saved her life, it emphasizes on her white hair.
- The time where Aang decided to the spirits during the Fire Nation's invasion. In the series, this takes at nighttime, where the Fire Nation decides the cease the attack as Waterbenders draw strength from the Moon and it is nearing its full phase. Aang has just came back from fighting the Fire Nation navy, but retired early because there were too many. It was then that Aang decides to consult the spirits after a conversation with Yue. In the movie, it was broad daylight and the Fire Nation has not attacked the city. At this rate, the audience assumes that Aang has completely no clue on how to defeat the Fire Nation. Note that during the conversation, it was also the same time where Zuko enters the city. While no one noticed him in the series because it was nighttime, he is clearly seen climbing on the roof in the movie so it is easy to spot him when everyone is still awake.
- Right after he got rescued from Zuko, rather than rush to save the spirits, he decided to go and join in the fight while the others rescue the spirits. I don't know about you, but this is an awkward time to think about joining a battle. Also, note that Yue sacrificed herself way too early into the film. Rather than have the Ocean Spirit join with Aang, the Ocean Spirit does nothing and let Aang stand there being ignored by everyone in battle. Because of this, Zhao's death in the movie is not a karmic death, but rather a pathetic one where he got his butt kicked by four unnamed waterbenders (who possible got their powers from the moon, I don't know). And also, as mentioned above, Aang's gigantic wave is a result of Aang's own will, rather than the anger unleashed by the Ocean Spirit.
- I also noticed some awkward placement of the dialogue. For example, right before Aang sits down and meditate in the Spirit Oasis, he starts talking about how he got his airbending tattoos. This topic can be easily placed in one of many conversations with Katara and Sokka. (On a further note, movie!Aang said that the tattoos is a result of meditating for long periods of time without losing focus, rather than mastering an Airbending technique.) Also, remember when Aang got rescued by Katara right before the Moon Spirit's capture? Rather than have Aang to turn his head to look at a frozen Zuko with Katara going, "Aang, we have to go!", that piece of dialogue was placed before Katara and Aang leave.
- Remember that little speech from Zuko about comparing Aang to his sister and that he does not need luck because that made him who is? While in the series, we got to hear the whole thing when Aang is still in the Spirit World, in the movie, once Aang exited the Spirit World, we only hear half of that speech. Just as Zuko was about to finish, Aang starts to flee. On a positive note, the addition of saying his father cannot even look at Zuko because he reminds too much of Ursa is a nice addition to that speech.
- Also, remember the forest scene right after the Blue Spirit events? It seems that M. Night didn't even know what he was doing with Aang and Zuko's stories. It's painfully obvious during that scene: a) That scene lasts less than one minute in the show, and yet it accomplishes so much. I doubt it would have taken up more than a minute of the movie's time, so why wouldn't M. Night write Aang's dialogue in?, b) M. Night seemed like he was trying to focus on how Aang felt about the loss of his people, and yet he missed a perfect opportunity for Aang to bring it up (instead of just talking about his friends), c) M. Night said Zuko was his favorite character, but he missed the point of that scene. Having Zuko unconscious for the entire scene (sound familiar?) and showing no reaction whatsoever to anything that happened makes me wonder whether M. Night really understands Zuko's story as much as he thinks he does. In the show we get to see Zuko calmly listening to Aang, attack him (reminding us that he wasn't trying to save Aang), and later symbolically turn his back on the Fire Nation and whatnot. In the movie...nothing (though the time where Zuko attacks Aang is filmed but eventually cut). And d) Not including the connection between the two characters at the end completely defeats the purpose of the Blue Spirit sequence...of all the scenes to have the characters shut up, he picked the worst one. Therefore, because of this, the line "We could've been friends, you know." right after Aang partially unfreezes Zuko loses that impact which makes it work.
So my suggestion is to arrange the scenes in such a way that the movie flows smoothly. Otherwise, everything will be jumbled up to the point the audience got confused. Likewise, you cannot just jump from one scene to another.
The Asian Elements
Series Head Writer Aaron Ehasz described the animated series, Avatar: The Last Airbender as "clearly Asian inspired with obvious Chinese influences." So this means that the show is set in an ancient, fantastical Asian environment that is primarily Chinese. East Asian culture is infused in the animated series–it is even part of the series’ official logo, which incorporates traditional East Asian calligraphy. The series hired East Asian calligraphy expert Professor S. L. Lee to help with the language in the show. Chinese calligraphy influenced several different written languages in East Asia, including Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Rather than use the modern simplified Chinese characters, Lee opted to use traditional characters and calligraphy styles to reflect the series’ pre-industrialized setting. Adding an additional layer of authenticity to the fantasy world, Lee would tailor the calligraphy style from standard script (Fire Nation decrees) to grass calligraphy (decor in homes) to ancient oracle bone script (ancient artifacts).
In the film adaptation, M. Night Shyamalan opted against using the East Asian calligraphy used throughout the animated series, instead choosing to use an "Asian-inspired pictorial language created just for this movie” that accounts to nothing more than a few scribbles". Compare this poster in the series and this one in the movie. The first one clearly reads, "Wanted - The Avatar. This fugitive knows Airbending, can create whirlwinds, and flee like the wind. Hunters be extremely cautious! By decree of the Fire Lord." The second one however, I don't know. That is because the writing consists of a bunch of made-up hash marks and doodles. The opening credit of the animated series uses Oracle Bone Script, the oldest form of East Asian writing. Take this example introducing the element of Water. The opening sequence from the film adaptation however, replaces the animated series’ accurately translated ancient Chinese calligraphy with completely meaningless curlicues. This is how the element of Water is introduced. Then again, this is coming from the same director who denies the series’ cultural roots, claiming that the cultural backdrop of the animated series is "intended to be ambiguous," while at the same time "fighting like crazy" to change the pronunciations of the character’s names to an "Asian pronunciation." In my opinion, the Asian elements in the series must be respected when adapting it into a movie because bastardizing Chinese calligraphy alienates the East Asian community who also happens to be fans of the series.
Another major issue with the film is above-mentioned "Asian pronunciation". A more comprehensive look on the pronunciations is in the main movie wiki page. While I don't mind Soh-Ka or Agni Ki Duel, pronouncing Aang as "AH-NG" spells trouble, especially when Westerners pronounce it (it comes off as "Ong" instead). "E-roh" is also bad, as even the Chinese pronunciation is "Ai-Luo". So it's OK for the name to be said as "Ai-Roh" or "Ai-Lo". Likewise, the pronunciation of Avatar is inconsistent. Some actors said the standard pronunciation ("Air-Vuh-Tar"), while others opt for a more unique pronunciation ("Ah-Vuh-tar"). I don't care how you want to pronounce the names, but at least try not to alienate the fans of the series.
A composite character is a character in a fictional work (or, in some cases, a non-fictional work) that is composed of two or more individuals. As we also know, named characters with minor roles in the animated series had been subjected to role merging and role expansion in the first movie. This helps save running time, minimize the cost of casting and hiring many actors, reduce character clutter, and enhance the importance of otherwise minor characters. As we all know, several minor characters from the series are combined into one character.
For example, the new composite character, the Dragon Spirit, takes on the roles of Roku, Koh, and Guru Pathik, with the appearance of Fang. So therefore, the Dragon Spirit is the one spiritual guide for Aang, rather than have Aang relying on different "gurus" for advice based on the situation. The problem with this is, Roku actually appeared as a statue in the Hall of Avatars. So this means, Aang needs advice from some spirit rather than one of his past lives? Then what is Roku there for, decoration? This creature is as clichéd as they can come in any fantasy story. The creature left me with the gaping wonder of why it was here, or even talking to Aang. It never was explained what it was or why it was talking to him, and where it got the information that it did. It just seemed too clichéd and wreaked of typical, average fantasy jargon. So, my suggestion is keep Roku, Koh and Guru Pathik as separate characters. Roku will play the role as Aang's main spiritual guide, Koh being the guide to reveal the Moon and Ocean spirits' identities (and as a good source of nightmare fuel) and Pathik will appear in Book 2: Part 2 where he guides Aang regarding his chakras.
Also, the role for Jet and his Freedom Fighters was merged with Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors. And if the novelization is to be believed (since the Kyoshi Warriors are removed from the first movie entirely), all they did is come and save the day (by defeating Fire Nation soldiers while Aang was absent). They somehow did not really formally talk to the people they saved, Katara and Sokka. The plot-hole here is, the relationship between Sokka and Suki becomes a defining moment for Sokka, as this not only changed Sokka's perception about women, but also gave Sokka a love interest. So giving the Kyoshi Warriors a "hi, bye" relationship rather than a strong one destroys a character development. So, here are my suggestions:
- Keep the roles of the Kyoshi Warriors as they are. It would be nice to Sokka train with Suki.
- Instead of the Kyoshi Warriors, have the Freedom Fighters themselves appear to save Katara and Sokka when Aang is gone. This will be placed as a flashback in Book 2: Part 2, where Jet plays an important role in suspecting Zuko that he is from the Fire Nation and the events of Lake Laogai.
- I like the idea of combining Kyoshi Island and the town where earthbending is banned (as implied by the statue of Kyoshi after the events of the "Imprisoned" portion). For example, when Katara is hunting for Haru, the entire Gaang got captured by the Kyoshi Warriors. Then the events of the first quarter of The Warriors of Kyoshi will occur. By the time Sokka leaves to see Suki, the events from Imprisoned begin. Also, it would be nicer when the Kyoshi Warriors join the Gaang to free the prisoners (in a freaking metal rig).
Firebending, From The Breath or A Source?
Now let's get into one of the big liberties Shyamalan decided to take with ATLA when he brought it to the big screen, the fact that Firebenders now require an active, external source of fire in order to do their thing. This is admittedly a small detail at first glance, and it may seem like nothing more than a case of knee-jerk fan reaction, but the more you start to think about it the more it actually threatens to bring the movie down on itself and crush its own internal logic. To be honest, I can't think of a single good reason for this to be made part of Shyamalan's "reimagining" in the first place. First off, let's look at what we know of the Fire Nation itself based on ATLA:
- They're highly trained, well-organized, and fight without hesitation in almost all cases.
- They're walking flamethrowers.
- They're apparently going through a sort of pre-emptive Industrial Revolution that the rest of the world hasn't yet caught up with, leading to a huge advantage in military arms/technology.
- They have a strong nationalist/imperialist mindset.
- They consider Firebending to be a superior discipline because, well, that sort of thinking kinda comes with being able to shoot fire out of your fucking hands as opposed to manipulating the naturally occuring elements such as Air, Water and Earth.
It's important to understand that all these factors play a part into both why they were driven to start taking over the world in the first place, as well as why they were able to largely succeed in the Avatar's absence. While the Fire Nation in TLA seems to have points 4 and 5 down, with 1 and 3 being a bit more dubious but passable, 2 is the absolutely crucial point. In ATLA, the Fire Nation is ruthless, persistent and because of their abilities, they can conquer opposition through a combination of sheer numbers and firepower. But since this "firepower" literally came from themselves, it made every single one of them a potential danger. Some of those in the Army weren't Firebenders to be sure, but even they were adequately trained in melee combat and thus a valid threat. But if Firebenders in TLA are completely dependent upon external sources of fire in almost all cases (Iroh and Zuko apparently being the lone exceptions, and probably Ozai), it raises the question of why none of them have with them personally.
Granted, later in the movie we do see that some of the projectiles shot from Fire Navy ships are basically destructive sources of fire for ground troops, but considering all they seem to have in terms of their "scary machines" are the ironclad battleships and considering they were attacking the ocean-oriented coastal settlement of the Northern Water Tribe, that seems like more of a special instance than anything else. Those ships might be powerful, but the problem is that by its very nature a battleship is most effective at sea and thus doesn't do much to help with attacking mainland targets aside from troop insertion and suppression. And in order to have been as successful as they (supposedly) were conquering most of the world, they'd need an effective way of pressing an advantage over unprepared or smaller towns, and especially bigger cities like Omashu and Ba Sing Se. Like, say, a tank. Anyway, if we're going by the logic that Firebenders can only manipulate their determined element based on their surroundings, and if the only supposed way of supplying them with Fire on their side isn't effective in most of the Earth Kingdom (the LARGEST of the Four Nations), then it doesn't make sense for them to not be prepared for the possibility that their souce of power isn't available. Katara managed to counter the potential unavailability of water in ATLA by keeping a waterskin with her, so it stands to reason that Firebenders would logically need to have something they could carry with them as a source of Bending in similar situations. Maybe some sort of lighter, or even a small pouch of flammable liquid they could conceal easily. Hell, even just some flint and rock would help.
The other side of this equation is that it makes every other Nation look remarkably stupid. If they've been fighting for 100 years with these guys who can control FIRE but only by means of a physical source, then the grand solution for what to do becomes obvious. PUT OUT ALL YOUR FIRES. Bam, problem solved. Yes, they'll still have armed close-combat troops, but come on, you can still Bend/fight/do something to them. Hell, they'll probably be too shocked upon realizing that somebody actually caught onto their pattern to be able to fight right away. Are we really expected to believe that this Nation that can only control an element that DOESN'T naturally occur in the world was able to take over almost the entire planet without any clear tactical or technological advantage in the movieverse? Or that NOBODY even considered pre-emptively cutting off their only source of offensive power? This also brings up the crucial question of how exactly the Fire Nation was able to wipe out the Air Nomads at all. In Southern Air Temple, Aang suggests that the only way to get to an Air Temple at all is by air travel (specifically skybison-travel, but whatever). But since non-Air Nomad air travel is nonexistant before the War Balloon gets introduced, there doesn't seem to be a way that the Fire Nation could've attacked the Air Temples... until we get a solution in the Tanks introduced in Northern Air Temple, which in addition to being able to instantly right themselves also have grappling hooks strong enough to actually pull this gigantic hunk of metal up a sheer cliff face. But since the Fire Nation tanks don't exist and neither does Zeppelin/Balloon travel yet, there is simply no feasible way the Fire Nation could have killed all the Air Nomads. Actually, now that I think about it, are we even absolutely certain that the Fire Nation was at the Air Temples at all in TLA's continuity? After all, there was actual evidence of their presence at the Southern Air Temple in the show (old armor, bodies, scorch marks and so on) but here we literally only have a field of skeletons and whatever Katara said that the Fire Nation is responsible for all of this.
In ATLA, the Fire Nation seemed like a valid threat and their actions against people throughout the series confirmed this on a regular basis. In TLA, we have no real reason to believe that they'd be this supposedly powerful fighting force that subjugated most of the world in the 100 years Aang was indisposed. So it's not just our main villains that seem questionable in their validity as baddies, but the entire enemy force as well. And yet again the question becomes: if there's no tension and no danger, then why should we care about this "planned series" in the first place? Remember that message regarding Sozin's comet? Well Roku...oops, I mean the Dragon Spirit did mention about this in the novelization. However, it is cut and is shifted as part of Ozai's speech right before giving Azula a task. Why? Because M Night decided to make Iroh's firebending out of nothing a surprise. Uh-huh. Look, the surprise here is that Iroh, who is always pictured as this wise old geezer, starts kicking everyone's ass right after the murder of the Moon spirit. Likewise, in this continuity, the comet makes everyone make fire out of their own chi, which is basically what everyone does in the show. Also, it seems that fire Iroh created did not really set the cherry blossoms behind him ablaze. OK, now that fire you created "out of nothing" cannot physically harm others? Wow, just wow. So my only suggestion is plain and simple, keep the concept of Firebending as it is.
The Earthbending Prison
In the movie, when the Gaang got arrested and are led into a village, little Haru runs up to his dad, sitting on a blanket out in the open. The dad explains that the firebenders came, the earthbenders defeated them, and then they "sent their machines," and it's at about this point that I begin to suspect Shyamalan is a technophobe. The dad then reveals that they're imprisoned. In a village. With no walls or bars or anything. They're not even cuffed like Aang was! These are EARTHBENDERS sitting on great big gobs of EARTH and surrounded by mountains made of EARTH and they're whining about being IMPRISONED. Apparently the Fire Nation expects to hold hundreds of powerful benders hostage with the cunning use of one gate. This is a major contrast to the series, where all of these earthbenders were kept on a METAL SHIP. In the middle of the OCEAN AWAY FROM ANY EARTH. That said, although they have the ability to form earth into formidable weapons and are surrounded by the means to break free, the movie Earthbenders choose not to fight back until the Avatar stumbles upon their impoverished ghetto. The film’s novelization narrates the hero’s reaction to this situation: Aang could not believe that the Earthbenders were not fighting back. And it takes this speech from Aang (not Katara) to lift their spirits up a little:
- "Earthbenders! Why are you acting this way? You are powerful and amazing people! You don’t need to live like this! There is earth right beneath your feet! The ground is an extension of who you are! If the Avatar had returned, would that mean anything to you? My name is Aang...and I'm the Avatar. I ran away, but I'm back now. IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO STOP DOING THIS!"
The implication is that the Earthbenders could have fought back if they had really wanted to. It takes the arrival of the fantasy world’s child-messiah to point out the obvious to them, that their means of escape is “right beneath their feet” and to motivate them to help themselves. When I first realized this, I facepalmed with both my hands, shaking my head in disbelief. How can M Night defy logic in order to save the movie's budget for building that bloody NWT city? Wouldn't it be better to place the prisoners in a metal rig by simply modelling it, then shoot it in a factory floor? This fan art by Rufftoon points this out. Also, Aang's speech is somewhat poorly written. Compare that with this speech with Katara:
- "Earthbenders! You don't know me, but I know of you. Every child of my water tribe village was rocked to sleep with stories of the brave Earth Kingdom and the courageous earthbenders who guard its borders. Some of you may think that the Fire Nation has made you powerless. Yes, they have taken away your ability to bend, but they can't take away your courage and it is your courage they should truly fear! Because it runs deeper than any mine you've been forced to dig, any ocean that keeps you far from home. It is the strength of your hearts that make you who you are, hearts that will remain unbroken when all rock and stone has eroded away. The time to fight back is now! I can tell you the Avatar has returned! So remember your courage, earthbenders, let us fight for our freedom!"
See? That speech proves to be a major character development for Katara, something which is completely ignored in the movie. All Katara did in the "prison" is shoving a soldier in the chest for mocking Aang and simply stand there trying to encourage the remaining "prisoners" to fight. Speaking of which...
Avatar: The Last Airbender was praised by fans for it’s strong female characters, particularly Katara, the "other main character" of the series. Mike Di Martino said that he and Bryan wanted to have a strong female presence as well, so that’s where Katara’s character came in. In Season One, viewers followed Katara from the show’s first scene, where she angrily cracks open the iceberg containing Aang while arguing with her brother about sexism, to the season finale episodes where she defies the chauvinistic customs of the Northern Water Tribe and demands to be taught the martial arts of Waterbending. Katara is never idealized or marginalized, nor is she merely a stepping stone for the male hero to pursue his destiny. The first season challenges sexist attitudes directly in several episodes, including The Warriors of Kyoshi and The Waterbending Master. Through observing the actions of strong female characters, men in the series (including sympathetic characters like Sokka) grow to recognize and reject sexist attitudes. Viewers are shown that women characters can be strong in many ways (rather than simply as a "tough girl") For example, Katara’s grandmother is depicted as the head of the tribe and family, Princess Yue is passionate about her people and has a strong sense of duty, and Suki is a skilled warrior and strong leader. Viewers also learn that one of Aang’s past lives was as a woman, the formidable Avatar Kyoshi.
M. Night Shyamalan’s script excises the feminist themes woven throughout the first season of the series. The characters of Suki and the Kyoshi Warriors are not depicted, and the female characters that are depicted are greatly watered down from the original series. Katara’s frustration with society’s sexism, culminating with her challenge in the Northern Water Tribe, does not even get a mention. In the movie adaptation, a woman never gets to show herself the equal or better of a man in any act that both are capable of doing. Katara doesn’t really get to be a hero or even have much of a personality. "Racefail" is one thing, but the thing that was most disappointing was how weak Katara’s character was. I wasn’t expecting such a failure on a gender balance level. Katara was really cool in the series. She had ambitions to become an expert waterbender, and character. In the movie, all she talks about is Aang. In the series, the first scene we see Katara, she’s yelling at Sokka for being sexist. In the movie, the first scene we see Katara, she’s nervously apologizing to him like a battered wife, with "I’m sorry. I’m sorry! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, sorry, sorry! I’m sorry!" being her first lines. Through Season One of the animated series, viewers follow Katara as she develops from a novice Waterbender to a talented Master, with skills to rival the Avatar’s. The animated Katara is a skilled fighter who holds her own in battles. In the movie, Katara is a bystander in most fights. Actions that Katara takes in the animated series, such as rallying imprisoned Earthbenders, are instead given to Aang. She is depicted as far less powerful and coordinated than Aang, clumsily splashing Sokka when she does try to fight. In contrast to the intelligent and strong-willed character in the series, the film’s Katara is also spacey and inconsistent. And thus, the above-mentioned "I knew you were real" speech.
The character of Princess Yue does not fare much better. In the series, she is a betrothed Princess living in a male-centric society, ruled by her father, Chief Arnook. In the movie, the Northern Water Tribe’s sexism is not mentioned; viewers are told that Yue rules over the Northern Water Tribe after her father’s death. (Sokka exposits: "It’s led by a princess, because her father died.") Even though Shyamalan elevates Yue to the leader of her Tribe, she is depicted as even more disempowered in the movie. Yue is never depicted as a leader in anything but name, so why name her as leader at all? In fact, when the Fire Nation invades, Yue does not have a leadership position; the logistics are completely run by Master Pakku and some other nameless Water Tribe men. Yue provides no input; she is simply told that she is the Tribe’s “inspiration” and quickly assigned a bodyguard. The only leadership decision Yue gets to make is the decision to kill herself. In the series, Yue makes a courageous decision to sacrifice herself to save her country, despite being involved in a romance with Sokka. She comes to this decision on her own. In the film, Yue must be told by Iroh how she can save her people, rather than coming to that conclusion herself. After being prodded in both directions by two men (Iroh and Sokka), Yue says the frequently-mocked "believe in our beliefs" speech without providing context as to what those beliefs are, and tearfully makes out with Sokka before going to her death. (Though to be fair, the depiction of her sacrifice is better than the series. Just wish that she turned to the moon, though.) My sisters are really disappointed with the depictions of the females in the movie. Hence, females must also play an important role in both ATLA and the movie adaptation. This is not strictly an "Aang and Zuko" movie, characters like Katara need some time in the spotlight as well.
The Filming Process
This is basically how the film should be filmed.
As we all know, the casting of White actors in the Asian-influenced and Native American-influenced Avatar universe triggered negative reactions from some fans marked by accusations of racism, a letter-writing campaign, and various protests. M Night did an interview over at io9 and in it he extensively addresses one of the long-running controversies of the film: the races of its lead stars. Actually the initial question didn't mention the word race at all, but asked Shyamalan to "address the fan concerns about the casting" of Airbender. Shyamalan had clearly been thinking about this one because he launched into quite the talk: the overall gist of it is that the races for each group came from whoever he cast as its primary representative. Shyamalan suggests that his Aang, Noah Ringer, has a "mixed" look, so all of the Airbenders are of mixed race. His favorite Katara, Nicola Peltz, "had a lot of Russian qualities," so the water tribe became very Russian/European. And when Dev Patel was cast as Zuko, the Fire Nation was developed with an Indian and Middle Eastern look. But the thing that really caught my eye about Shyamalan's response was the absolute first thing he said about it:
- "Here's the thing. The great thing about anime is that it's ambiguous. The features of the characters are an intentional mix of all features. It's intended to be ambiguous. That is completely its point. So when we watch Katara, my oldest daughter is literally a photo double of Katara in the cartoon. So that means that Katara is Indian, correct? No that's just in our house. And her friends who watch it, they see themselves in it. And that's what's so beautiful about anime."
Hmmm. Setting aside that he jumps right into "Airbender = anime", it's true that there are plenty of anime that are racially ambiguous (particularly titles set in other universes). But even titles set in Japan don't necessarily have characters that look strictly Japanese. Unusual hair colors, excessive height, huge breasts, and of course, those enormous eyes, none of these are characteristically Japanese traits, but they sure pop up a lot. On the other hand, there are also plenty of shows that aren't ambiguous at all: Naoki Urasawa's manga and anime Monster are a great example of an anime where characters' races are carefully depicted and a significant chunk of their background. Then there's Black Lagoon, in which the primary characters all have very specific races as a part of their backgrounds, and almost everyone else is split into different crime syndicates based on their nationalities.
I can understand the casting of Noah because he has that Eurasian look in him so it's easy to see him as Aang. But really? A girl as pale as Nicola playing a somewhat tanned Katara? Surely there are no real dark-skinned, blue-eyed Inuits around, but at least get someone who looks like Katara. Like this girl. The casting gets even weirder when we have a pop star as Zuko and a Twilight cast member as Sokka. Jackson Rathbone's character, Jasper Hale, is well-known for being pale and bug-eyed. So how in the hell did a 25-year old man get the role of a 15-year old boy with the skin color as Katara is beyond me (he once auditioned for Zuko, believe it or not). He is funny (pity all of these when into the cutting room), but appearance-wise, he is just not Sokka.
Now what really bugs me is the casting of Zuko right after Jesse McCartney left the project. It is none other than Dev Patel, the Slumdog Millionaire. While he is considered to be one of the few saving graces on the movie, he is just not Zuko. Aside from being Indian, he is not given the trademark ponytail like season 1 Zuko, instead he is given the crewcut from season 2. A lot of people complained that his scar is too small. Then again, with his dark complexion, what is there to judge. I prefer a young East Asian kid to play him, so why not Aarif Lee, who recently played a young Bruce Lee in a recent biopic? Dev Patel, on the other hand, can play Sokka. He is a genuinely funny guy, but all he needs is the perfect comedic timing like Jack De Sena. Although he was known to play a funny guy Anwar Kharral from Skins in the UK, he was not well-known stateside.
So based on my discussion with Hasdi, here's the scenario about the casting so far minus Aang. It that makes sense that Dev might have auditioned for both Sokka and Zuko. Twilight just came out then so M.Night cast Rathbone to leverage his potential popularity. When the racebenders got to him, he had work things out with Jesse McCartney's (the pop star in question earlier) agent to drop out with a "scheduling conflict" excuse. M.Night was not willing to lose Noah, Rathbone and Nicola (especially when she was paired with Rathbone). Slumdog then came out and became a hit so he just had to sign up Dev but Zuko was the only part open to him. So here's the thing, the newcomers aside, M Night decides to cast actors with rising popularities for the major roles in the movie. Personally, it's not the popularity of the actors that count, it's how the actors execute their roles well. Noah managed to have that Aang-like personality, but M Night suddenly decided to make the movie more "serious", and as a result 75% of his original personality disappeared in the movie.
And then there's the rest of the Fire Nation. M. Night Shyamalan approached the casting of the villainous Fire Nation with a sense of interchangeability, lumping all people with brown skin into a singular group. Dev Patel‘s father is portrayed by Maori actor Cliff Curtis, his sister by mixed Caucasian/Indian American actress Summer Bishil, and his uncle is portrayed by Shaun Toub, an actor of Persian descent. Aasif Mandvi, an actor of Indian descent, plays Commander Zhao. Extras with darker skin were also sorted into the Fire Nation.
- First off, while Shaun Toub is well-known for his wise uncle kind of roles (like in Crash, Iron Man and The Kite Runner), Iroh is always envisioned as a short fat old man, whereas Shaun himself is tall and thin. Many thought he might gain some weight or wear a fatsuit for the role, that is until we saw this (he is at the lower right corner of this Entertainment Weekly photo). The hair department decided to ditch the Fire Nation's topknots for...dreadlocks? This somewhere gives a strange message about his retirement (he decided to smoke weed instead of drink tea?). However on a positive note, he is probably the closest to his animated counterpart than the others.
- Next, we have Aasif. While he has done serious roles in the past (like in Jericho), he is more of a comedic actor. Well-known for being a correspondent on The Daily Show, I remembered him as the pizza shop owner Mr Aziz in Spider-Man 2. So it is hard to take him seriously, even if he is playing someone like Zhao. Rather than go for a Lucius Malfoy-like approach (Zhao is after all, once played by Jason Isaacs, Lucius Malfoy himself), he opts for a Raul Julia-like approach, a hammy villain. While Zhao was hammy at one point in his life (ZHAO THE INVISIBLE!), this Zhao is basically more of a comedic kind of guy. His insults are basically similar to comedic roasts ("Today we will let him wear his uniform, like a child wearing a costume!") or heckling ("Again I offer my condolences on your nephew burning to death in that terrible accident"). Anytime I see him on screen, I kept picturing Mr Aziz in my head.
- And then there's Cliff Curtis. He is a character actor, and has played a number of roles, ranging from a Latino gangster in Training Day to a doctor in Sunshine and even a daredevil paramedic in the sadly-cancelled NBC drama Trauma. So casting him as the fearful Fire Lord is a challenge. But cast him way too early into the game? Note that Ozai is pretty much faceless for most of Season One and does not reveal himself until Book 3. So why did M Night think is a great idea to cast him early? I don't know about you, but that destroys the suspense of his reveal. Also, he speaks with an English accent in the movie (he is a New Zealand Maori in real life), which is ironic considering the actor playing his son speaks in a standard American accent despite being British. If I was to cast Ozai, I will wait until Zuko is welcomed home as a hero, where Ozai will be played by Russell Wong.
The reason why Katara, Sokka, and their grandmother are white while the other members of their tribe are Inuit is never explained in the film. (Were the backstory in the animated series applied to the characters, Katara and Sokka would still have been 3/4ths Southern Tribe. Regardless, none of the people portrayed by Inuit actors play a significant role in the film; significant Inuit characters were cast with white actors.) The Inuit children appear in a handful of village scenes. Some older adult Inuit extras also appear when Zuko demands that the town bring him their elderly. The film features two Water Tribes, a southern one populated by Inuit people with nonexistent leadership, and a northern one populated by a bunch of Europeans who follow a princess, played by a Hispanic, Seychelle Gabriel. Circumpolar indigenous people are rarely depicted in movies, but in TLA, they are voiceless, depicted as disempowered and terrorized. The helpless Inuits cower. Aware of an impending attack by the Fire Nation, the Inuit Southern Tribe does not even take simple precautionary actions to defend themselves; such as putting out fire pits so the firebenders cannot use the pits to attack them (as opposed to the series Firebenders who does not get their bending from a source). In contrast, the Northern Tribe, populated by white people, assisted by the white heroes, launches a formidable defense against the invading Fire Nation and wins the film’s climactic battle. Although the Southern Tribe is also depicted as more decimated by the war than the North in the animated series, both Water Tribes were populated with Inuit-inspired characters in the show.
The casting of all white people to play the citizens of the advanced Northern civilization, while casting all Inuit people to play the "primitive" citizens of the South (except for the important ones with dialogue!) puts these scenes in a different context in the film. While getting everyone entirely Inuit is hard, it would easier to pick actors who have the similar skin tone. We have Polynesians, Native Americans, Indians, Filipinos, Thais, Indonesians, Malays and Hispanics. Seychelle is casted correctly since she actually resembles her cartoon counterpart, but everyone else looked so...white. I recommend several prominent actors to play the Water Tribe characters. Bollywood actress Waheeda Rehman as Kanna, Johnny Tsunami co-stars Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Brandon Baker as Pakku and Hahn respectively, Native American actor Wes Studi of Dances With Wolves fame as Arnook (a character mysteriously killed off in TLA) and Jamaican British actress Mona Hammond as Yugoda.
While some scenes require outdoor sets (like the villages), certain scenes can be shot using a digital backlot. The film can use a Sony CineAlta high-definition digital camera, having the actors work in front of a green screen, that allowed for the artificial backgrounds (as well as some major foreground elements) to be added later during the post-production stage. Several sets can be constructed by hand, like the Spirit Oasis, Zuko's ship and the North Pole. While the use of a green screen has become quite standard for special effects filming, the use of high-definition digital cameras will also be emphasized. The combination of these two techniques is used in films like Sin City, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and 300. This technique also means that the whole film was initially shot in full color, while the scenes right after the capture of the Moon Spirit will be converted to entirely red, then black-and-white. Colorization is used on certain subjects in those scenes, like Yue's blue eyes, the flames from Zuko, Zhao and Iroh, the blue color of the Ocean Spirit's flowing as well as Koizilla and Aang's Avatar State (aka Aang's glowing tattoos and eyes). One notable mistake in the original movie is that the time when the moon turns red, it looks as if the set has a red light shone through it. Another mistake is the interpretation of the Spirit World, which resembled a forest with lanterns hanging all over. It should replicate the one shown in the series.
3D or No 3D?
As for the 3D, well, it is best to avoid it. 3D may be an in-thing for this generation, but the conversion of 3D will cause the movie to be shortened, which is what happened to M Night's movie. Just like James Cameron himself suggested, filming in 3D is a new form of cinematography. You can't do the same pannings, depth of field effects and so on that you would do normally. A lot of movies were slammed for the last minute 3D conversion (like Clash of the Titans and TLA itself). So, to be safe, try not to film or convert to 3D unless you are making a short movie.
It is best to respect the bending as they are, and not try to make it look like "charging your chi". According to Hasdi, the original movie's interpretation of bending is based on "leveling the playing field" and it is only given to a chosen few. My suggestion is all the actors should be trained in terms of bending, even the actors for Zhao and Iroh, as well as ALL the extras. The problem with the training in the movie is that it is limited to only the main actors. Aasif Mandvi only got to firebend right until the very end, as opposed to his character who firebends frequently. Shaun Toub looks as if he wasn't trained at all. When his character, Iroh, was outraged when the Moon Spirit was killed, he displays true firebending in front of everybody. Rather than use the fire to shoot at Zhao's men, he simply displays until Zhao and his men walked out. The extras, well, they were trained but in the wrong way. Right after being hit by a rock, the Fire Nation soldiers flails his arms and it took 5 seconds for the fire to react. As for the earthbending, the much-ridiculed "pebble dance" consists of six Earthbenders creating a barrier by doing a dance (which many misinterpreted as a dance for that tiny rock), another Earthbender raising a rock and accelerates it toward another soldier (who willingly waits for it to hit him). He blocked an incoming fire attack with an smaller Earth barrier. The waterbending is indeed based on Tai Chi (which is the only martial art form mentioned in the Blu-Ray documentaries). However, some moves do not go in sync with the flowing water. Case in point, this move from the Katara v. Zuko fight. As for the airbending, there's too little to comment, expect the fact that it does not take a few arm movements and several backflips to create one tornado. The actors should be trained based on what their style of bending represents (arranged based on priority):
- Tai Chi for Waterbending (Katara, Pakku, NWT soldiers involved in Siege of the North)
- Hung Gar for Earthbending (Tyro, Haru, other prisoners)
- Northern Shaolin for Firebending (Zuko, Zhao, Iroh, The Warden, Fire Nation soldiers)
- Ba Gua for Airbending (Aang, Gyatso)
Other skills should be given priority as well, like dual swordfighting (Blue Spirit), fans and shield (Kyoshi Warriors) and how to throw a boomerang (Sokka). Any fight scene from the series should be replicated and not changed to its entirety. I realized that most of the fight scenes in the movie are dumbed-down versions of their cartoon counterparts. Cases in point:
- The Katara v. Zuko fight, where the opponents willingly wait for their turns rather than shoot and splash at each other almost immediately. While in the series, Katara manages to take the lead as a result of the moon and her improvement due to training, Katara was beaten instantly. In the series, Katara manages to freeze Zuko and Zuko manages to unfreeze himself when the sun rises. It was then Katara got beaten and got shot into the tree like in the movie.
- The Aang v. Zuko fight. Unlike the series where it took place in Zuko's ship, this duel took place at a Northern Water Tribe building. However, unlike the series, the fight consists of hand-to-hand combat, similar to movies like Casino Royale and the Bourne series. It does not help that the fight coordinators in charge are involved in those movies. Bending does not appear until the very end, right before Katara freezes Zuko.
- The Earthbending prison camp. Aside from the above-mentioned "pebble dance", majority of the prisoners in background simply watches rather than join in the rebellion. Katara, who was supposed to be a major contribution to the rebellion in the series, simply goes "Don't be afraid!" and watches as her brother and Aang kick everybody's butt.
- The Blue Spirit. While it was closer to the series version, the focus is mainly on Aang, rather than equal amounts of attention for both Aang and the Blue Spirit. As shown in this Blu-Ray documentary, there's too much focus on Aang and the "practice area". Only a few shots of the Blue Spirit are shown, but it looks as if the stunt double is not well-trained in dual swordfighting. Perhaps the biggest offence is the addition of slow-mo. This battle scene was supposed to be fast-paced. While I like the background music, it does not blend with the scene.
Likewise, there are other iconic fight scenes from Book 1 which are omitted for "time constraints". For example, both Agni Ki duels between Zuko and Zhao. The first one was supposed to be after Zhao taunts Zuko and the other happens directly after the murder of the Moon Spirit. In the movie, rather than challenge Zhao for a duel, Zuko whispers at Zhao's ear, "One day, he (Ozai) will bring me back and you will bow down before me" and simply walks out of the door. Also, right before Zuko faces Zhao at the bridge, Iroh stopped him from fighting. And thus, Zhao never got a chance to prove to the audience that he was a Master Firebender. Other notable omissions include the one before Aang's capture (where Sokka attempts to fight with Zuko and Aang reveals himself as the Avatar) and Aang's escape from Zuko's ship. For the latter, Aang simply flies with his glider all the way to Appa in the movie. The series interpretation of this manages to showcase Katara's waterbending skill, Aang waterbending for the first time under the Avatar State and Aang creating an avalanche which in turn damages the ship. Isn't that exciting? Now my suggestion is to keep the fight scenes from the series and try not to change too much out of it.
Another suggestion would be to hire Yuen Woo-Ping to choreograph the movie. He is a well-known fight coordinator who did several movies ranging from Chinese (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Kungfu Hustle) to Western (The Matrix, Kill Bill) and even Indian (the recent blockbuster Endhiran). He can handle big battle scenes like the Crazy 88's in Kill Bill, so he can be responsible for scenes like the Blue Spirit. He also needs assistance and that comes in the form of Sammo Hung, a candidate to play Iroh. He can handle duels, like the ones in Ip Man.
The whole point of bending is that it reveals a connectivity between a person and the element. When one bends, at least in the show, the element moves in the same motion as the bending move. The bending in the film is so disconnected. Aang's tornado dance does not evoke the movement of a tornado itself; it's just a bunch of miscellaneous moves, and poof: tornado. For every "dance bend", there was at least one scene in which the bending corresponded at least passably. Aang's spar with Pakku is one example in particular. Then again, in Katara's deleted scene spar, she gets the water out of the channel fairly quickly as it moves around, but then it seems to laboriously move in Pakku's direction, so perhaps it represents a former novice becoming more of a master, exercising absolute control over the corresponding element and at other times still being slightly a few steps behind its power?
The bending moves to create the wave didn't bother me like the tornado did; what bothered me about the wave was that in it not being used to destroy the Fire Nation fleet, Aang now has already resolved the internal conflict that he went through in seasons two and three. That fundamental conflict for Aang, having to reconcile his pacifistic beliefs with the world's expectations that he use force, deadly if necessary, to stop the Fire Nation, is now void because Aang doesn't fear the Avatar State, has no guilt over harming the people in the Fire Nation fleet, and has no drive to master the Avatar State as his creating the wave demonstrated he can enter the Avatar State whenever he wants to. And am I the only one who thought that Aang's controlling of the tides at the end of the movie seemed to follow a pretty straight-forward "back and forth, push and pull" rhythm? I'm thinking of the close-up shot of his face and fists in particular after he pulls up and pushes the waves back.
ATLA is notable for its famous soundtrack. All the background compositions, character themes, and songs in the world of avatar play an important part in molding the atmosphere of each episode. Feelings of happiness, suspense, regret, love, action, and many more are projected to the senses through music, making the soundtrack an important aspect of series production. The Soundtrack of ATLA has many eastern influences, considering that the show contains many connections to eastern culture. The various instruments used in the series include the Mbira African Thumb Piano, Taiko Japanese Drums, Armenian Duduk (which is the basis of the Tsungi Horn), Dizi Chinese Flutes, the Guzheng and the Pipa, which happened to be the most difficult instrument for Jeremy of the Track Team to learn. The soundtrack for the Last Airbender is done by James Newton Howard, a famed collaborator of M Night and composer of movies like Batman Begins and King Kong. While his soundtrack for TLA is critically acclaimed (check out a sample here), fans of the series slammed the soundtrack for sounding like another generic fantasy movie, a hybrid between Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Personally, I liked it overall, but it definitely wasn't as good as it could have been. Some of it was beautiful, but none of it was that memorable. A good score doesn't have to be memorable to be good, but I was hoping for something extra special for this movie. A lot of it sounded really repetitive too, and I don't mean repetitive as in recurring themes. I enjoyed it a lot more when I listened to it on its own. It didn't go with the movie very well, and it failed to establish a mood most of the time, which is usually what James Newton Howard is really good at. Compare the series Blue Spirit and JNH'S Blue Spirit. Therefore, it would be nicer for the Track Team to collaborate with the composer in charge with the movie. If James Newton Howard can't work, I recommend his Dark Knight partner Hans Zimmer. Listen to his score forKungfu Panda and The Last Samurai. Another recommendation is Joe Hisaishi, a frequent collaborator with Hayao Miyazaki. Check out some of his brilliant work here. If Tan Dun is still available for movie composing, then it'll be great. And what about John Powell, Hans Zimmer's collaborator in Kung Fu Panda. His recent score in How To Train Your Dragon earned him his very Oscar nomination. Check it out.
Casting should be open to mainly Asians (be it East, South or South-East Asian), Polynesians, Hawaiians, Latinos and Native Americans. The whole Racebending controversy happened when Caucasian actors are cast as the heroes. M Night then added salt into the wound by making the entire Fire Nation "brown" to blend in with the casting of Dev Patel. It gets worse when the East Asians cast are either reduced to nameless extras or cut from the movie entirely. Then he added an "African-American" (the "American" should be removed in my opinion) village because he wanted to cast this entire movie in this color blind way where everyone is represented, even though Caucasians and Africans are obviously isn't in the show. Likewise, the once Tibetan monk Gyatso is now an African man. So to rectify all these, here are my suggestions for the casting.
- Aang - Noah Ringer (he's perfect as Aang, he just need to be more flexible)
- Katara - Celeste Paramo
- Sokka - Dev Patel
- Zuko - Aarif Lee Rahman
- Young Zuko will be played by Isaac Jin Solstein.
- Iroh - Sammo Hung
- Zhao - Collin Chou
- Suki - Hayley Kiyoko
- Kanna - Waheeda Rehman
- Tyro - Gordon Liu
- Haru - Sean Michael Afable
- Pakku - Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
- Arnook - Wes Studi
- Yue - Seychelle Gabriel
- Hahn - Brandon Baker
- Yugoda - Mona Hammond
- Roku - Amitabh Bachchan
- Ozai - Mark Hamill (voice)
- Koh - Erik Todd Dellums (voice)
- Azula - Suzuka Ohgo
- Gyatso - James Hong
- Pasang - George Takei
- Tashi - Sab Shimono
- Haru's Mother - Tan Kheng Hua
- Oyaji - Randall Duk Kim
- Cabbage Merchant - Ken Jeong
- Lead Yu Yan Archer - Dante Basco
- Shinu - Harith Iskandar
- The Warden - Ian Anthony Dale
- Appa and Momo - Dee Bradley Baker
- Lieutenant Jee - Robin Shou
- Extras for Southern Water Tribe (local Inuits from Greenland), Northern Water Tribe (Polynesian, Hawaiian, Native American, South-East Asian descent), Earth Kingdom and Fire Nation (both East Asian in general).
- Director: Choice between Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy), Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), Rob Minkoff (The Forbidden Kingdom), Mike Newell (Harry Potter 4, Prince Of Persia), Chris Columbus (Harry Potter 1 & 2), Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter 3), Andrew Adamson (Chronicles Of Narnia), Brad Silberling (Lemony Snicket), Mark Waters (Spiderwick Chronicles), Tim Burton (Alice In Wonderland, Edward Scissorhands) and Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle).
- Screenplay: Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko
- Music: Choice between Hans Zimmer (Dark Knight, Inception, Last Samurai, Kung Fu Panda), Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke), John Powell (How To Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda) and Tan Dun (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), with The Track Team as supervisors.
- Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie (Lord Of The Rings) or Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)
- Casting: PoPing AuYeung (Forbidden Kingdom, Karate Kid)
- Art Direction: Eric Lam (Forbidden Kingdom)
- Set Direction: Timothy Yip (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)
- Costume Design: Shirley Chan (Forbidden Kingdom, Kung Fu Hustle)
- Fight Coordinators: Yuen Woo-Ping (The Matrix, Kill Bill, Kung Fu Hustle, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) and Sammo Hung (Ip Man)
- Martial Arts Consultant: Sifu Kisu
The first movie should be done by adapting the first three episodes as a whole, put bits from The Warriors of Kyoshi, Imprisoned, The Storm, Avatar Roku and The Blue Spirit in between, and end the entire Siege Of The North (including The Waterbending Master). Only remove bits that are really, really not important. I've taken some bits from the original summary of the episodes and change it to match the 2-and-a-half hour timeframe. Then again, there are many quarters that said they don't want to the same series again, so give me some time and post in your suggestions in the comments section so I can readjust the plot.
After the production company logos, Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies presents - THE LAST AIRBENDER. Basically, the same introduction as the series pilot, but in graphic form. The opening sequence (along with the four elements intro) will be animated in style of the opening of Kungfu Panda. After "A hundred years have passed...", the scene shifts back to live-action. As Katara's narration ends, "Book 1: Water" will be flashed on the screen, as the camera shifts to an overhead shot of iceberg laden waters. The screen pans left and rotates showing footprints in the snow, then fades to soaring pan shot from the air of the icy waters. As if the shot were taken from the outside of an airplane, the camera banks left as it moves forward. It comes to rest and slowly zooms in on a two person canoe out among the icebergs. Cut to a closer shot of the canoe.
The Boy In The Iceberg
- Katara and Sokka are out fishing in a small canoe as Katara practices Waterbending while Sokka prepares to spear a fish. Katara bends the water around a fish to lift it above the canoe; Sokka penetrates the water with the back of his spear, causing the fish to fall back into the water and soaking him. Sokka gets angry and scolds Katara, saying that if he had "weird powers" he would have kept his weirdness to himself.
- The sea currents pick up speed, Sokka tries to steer the boat to avoid being collided with the small chunks of floating ice, while Katara gives directions but eventually the boat is crushed between two icebergs, leaving Sokka and Katara stranded in the middle of the sea on a floating chunk of ice.
- Sokka blames Katara for the mess, which causes her to lose her temper and start yelling at Sokka. As Katara rages, she ends up violently Waterbending without realizing it; soon, she cracks and shatters an iceberg, revealing a giant glowing orb of ice. Seeing the form of a person inside the ice, Katara thinks the person needs help, and begins chopping away at it with Sokka's club, while Sokka warns her not to as they don't know who the "thing" is. The ice breaks, and releases a bright column of light into the sky. Zuko then sees the bright light from his ship. With him is his Uncle Iroh. Zuko orders his crew to head toward the light, insisting that the light came from the Avatar.
- After Katara breaks through the ice, she finds the person is a young boy with strange arrow-like marks on his head, hands, and feet. Sokka is skeptical, and points his spear at the boy. The boy falls out and into Katara's arms. She lays him down and tries to help him. Sokka pokes the boy in the head with the blunt side of his spear, still skeptical, but Katara shoos him away. The mysterious boy drowsily opens his eyes to see Katara staring at him with deep blue eyes. He quickly becomes fully dazzled, cheerfully asking Katara if she wants to go Penguin Sledding with him. The boy introduces himself as Aang and sneezes, sending him high into the air, but he slowly drifts back down again unharmed. Katara realizes that he must be an Airbender.
- Aang climbs back into the ice to find Appa. It takes a moment for Aang to wake him up. Sokka does not believe that the bison could actually fly and walks away but realizes that he is stranded in the middle of the sea and can't go back home. Aang offers them to fly them back to the Southern Water Tribe where they live at which Katara happily agrees while Sokka refuses at first but agrees later as he had no choice. Then the group gets on Appa's saddle. Sokka still refused to believe that Appa could fly. Aang cries "Yip-Yip!" causing Appa to leap into the air, but he comes crashing right back down into the water and starts swimming. Aang figures Appa's still too tired to fly just yet. After sometime, Katara tells Aang that the last Avatar was supposed to be an Air Nomad, and asks if Aang knew him. Aang awkwardly states that he knew people that knew the Avatar, but did not know the actual Avatar himself.
- Later, Aang has a dream about him being caught in a horrible storm, and as he is about to drown, but the Avatar State activates and forms an air pocket, which then freezes. He is jolted awake, finding himself in a tent in the Southern Water Tribe and being awakened by Katara. He quickly gets dressed, with Katara watching. She notices the arrow markings running along his body, and then when he's completely dressed, pulls him into the village to introduce him to the entire village which was quite small. Everyone acts surprised to see an Airbender, as no one has seen an Air Nomad in a hundred years, thinking they must have become extinct. Sokka wonders why Aang always carries a staff around, realizing it's not sharp enough to stab anybody, and Aang shows them how he uses Airbending to fly with it. Aang ends up accidentally crashing into Sokka's poorly-constructed watch tower. Kanna is wondering if Aang may be a threat to the tribe. Katara wants him to stay, believing he could teach the village so many good things and also teach her Waterbending.
- On the Fire Nation ship, Prince Zuko is practicing his Firebending techniques, with Uncle Iroh as his mentor. Zuko becomes impatient and asks for his uncle to teach him advanced moves, but Iroh demands he master the basics. But finally he agrees.
- Sokka gets mad at Aang for distracting his "warriors" (a group of young boys) with fun and games and throws a fit. When Aang sees a penguin, he gets excited and tries to capture it, but it's too fast and slippery. Katara approaches and agrees to teach him the "fine art" of catching penguins, in exchange for lessons in Waterbending. However, Aang points out that he knows nothing about Waterbending, being an Airbender, and tells her that she could learn from the other people in the tribe but Katara tells him that she is the only Waterbender in the whole South Pole. Aang says that the Nothern Water Tribe should have Waterbenders to teach Katara and offers her to fly her to the North Pole. Katara was not sure to leave her tribe and then Aang suggests to her that she could think about it later and in the meantime she could teach him to catch penguins and so Katara begins her lessons.
- Aang and Katara go penguin sledding, having fun until they accidentally slide near an old abandoned Fire Navy ship. Aang wants to go in and explore it, but Katara is wary. She has been told never to go onto the Fire Navy ship, but Aang convinces her. As they explore the ship, Aang wonders why a Fire Nation ship was so far from its home. Katara realizes Aang has no knowledge of the war at all, as she learns that he was trapped in the iceberg for one hundred years. They accidentally set off a booby trap in the ship, sending off a flare into the sky. Aang saves Katara by Airbending out of the ship. But Prince Zuko has seen the flare and Aang escaping from the ship, and Zuko believes he has found the long lost Avatar at last.
The Avatar Returns
- Aang and Katara come back from the ship to be greeted by many angry faces. The villagers, after angry words spoken by Sokka, decide to banish Aang from the Southern Water Tribe. Katara becomes outraged with the decision, and at first decides to leave as well so that she can follow her dream of becoming a Waterbender. However, after only a small amount of persuasion by Sokka and Gran Gran, she sadly decides to stay with her family. Aang and Appa ride off together, setting course for the Southern Air Temple where Aang previously lived. Katara is quite frustrated that they have banished Aang and snaps at her grandmother.
- Sokka quickly readies the young children for combat with the Fire Nation. Meanwhile, Aang and Appa, taking a break from their so far young journey, rest on an ice formation. Aang spots Zuko's ship approaching the village and quickly decides to help defend his new friends, leaving a dozing Appa to continue resting in the ice formation. Sokka and Zuko individually prepare for the rapidly approaching encounter. Zuko dons a traditional Fire Nation soldier's uniform and helmet, while Sokka readies his weapons and applies black, grey, and white warpaint to his face.
- Zuko's ship quickly arrives at the Water Tribe village, its mere approaching collapsing Sokka's makeshift walls and towers. Still, Sokka stands bravely, only balking in order to avoid the ramp that descends from the ship. Zuko quickly descends, accompanied by only a very small number of soldiers, and Sokka charges him. The more experienced Zuko requires only his bare hands to counter Sokka's primitive weaponry, and he is almost dismissive of his presence at first. Zuko demands the location of The Avatar, expecting to find an old man somewhere in the village. He grabs Gran Gran threateningly, and Sokka attacks Zuko again. The two fight briefly and once again Zuko only needs to use his bare hands to render Sokka's attacks useless. Sokka only manages a lucky hit when his boomerang strikes the back of Zuko's helmet, angering the prince to the extent that he prepares to use Firebending on the unfortunate villagers.
- Aang arrives at the nick of time, riding on a penguin, and knocks Zuko off his feet. Zuko is shocked as he realizes that the Avatar is merely a twelve-year-old boy, rather than the ancient master he was expecting. As he voices this revelation, the Water Tribe villagers express their own surprise. Zuko quickly regains his focus and wastes no time in launching a series of fire blasts at Aang. Aang is able to defend himself with Airbending, but soon decides to stop the battle when he realizes that Zuko's attacks would inevitably strike the children he has befriended. Aang surrenders, and Zuko's soldiers take him aboard as a prisoner before setting off for the Fire Nation.
- Katara and Sokka, now with the knowledge that Aang is the Avatar, quickly move to save him. They ready a canoe to chase after Zuko's ship, and before embarking receive farewells and encouragement from their grandmother. The siblings realize that their small boat has no chance of catching the larger, faster Fire Nation ship, until Appa arrives to give them a ride.
- On Zuko's ship, the guards escort Aang to the prison hold, while Prince Zuko entrusts his Uncle Iroh with taking the boy's glider to his personal quarters. Iroh, true to his nature, immediately and casually passes the job on to the nearest guard. While being taken to the prison hold, Aang, with his hands tied, uses his powerful breath to knock out both of his escorts. He then proceeds to rapidly run through the inners of the ship, trying to retrieve his staff. One of the escorts recovers and sounds the alarm. Katara and Sokka, having found Appa and started after Zuko's ship, slowly make progress as Appa swims through the water. Sokka eventually remembers Aang's command phrase for Appa to take off, "Yip yip," and the bison quickly launches into the sky, moving much more quickly. For a brief moment, Sokka loses his previous cynical and grumpy attitude in a fit of excitement, a moment that passes when he realizes Katara is watching his rare behavior.
- Aang continues to run through the ship's many hallways, in the process displaying tremendous speed and agility and also cutting his bonds on the helmet of one of the guards. He looks through several rooms before finally discovering Zuko's personal quarters. He runs in to claim his staff, just as a waiting Zuko slams the door shut to cut off his escape route. Zuko launches a number of attacks in hopes of incapacitating Aang, but the Airbender easily avoids them before finally launching a short series of powerful gusts that slam Zuko against the room's walls and ceiling, briefly stunning him. Aang heads to the outside of the ship and prepares to make his escape on his glider. However, just as Aang takes off, Zuko is able to leap after him and grab his ankle. Not able to compensate for the extra weight nor to break free of Zuko's grip, Aang is unable to remain aloft, and the two crash clumsily onto the deck. The two prepare to face off a third time, but are distracted by the sudden appearance of Appa, carrying Sokka and Katara to Aang's rescue. Aang is unable to regain his focus before Zuko, who quickly launches a series of fire blasts that presses him to the edge of the deck and knocks his staff away. Another two blasts follow, and Aang, while apparently unharmed by the flames, falls overboard into the frigid sea below.
- Aang sinks as Katara cries out in dismay, and he appears momentarily unconscious. However, his eyes soon open, before they and his tattoos glow a brilliant white, and his expression becomes stern. Aang, in the "Avatar State," begins to Waterbend the sea around him, pushing himself into the air on a whirling column of water. Zuko, Katara, and Sokka are shocked at this immense display of bending power, and Aang deposits himself on the deck of the ship before bending his liquid platform into a spinning wall of water that sends Zuko and all of his guards currently on deck flying, Zuko himself going overboard. Appa lands on the deck, while Aang, apparently dazed after the massive display of power, collapses.
- Katara and Sokka rush to his aid, assuring that he is all right before preparing to leave. Sokka goes to retrieve Aang's staff, only to find Zuko climbing back onto the deck. At a great advantage due to Zuko's position, Sokka quickly strikes the prince in the forehead a number of times, sending him overboard again. Zuko is only barely able to cling to an anchor's chain approximately halfway down the ship's hull. Some of the soldiers recover and begin to approach Katara and the still-exhausted Aang. Katara, although inexperienced at Waterbending, is able to freeze the guards in place to stop their approach. All three take off on Appa just as Iroh arrives on the scene. Iroh helps Zuko on-board again, and the two launch a combined fire blast in an attempt to shoot down the escaping air bison.
- Aang recovers from his dazed state just in time to turn this attack against the Firebenders, using a blast of wind to redirect the fireball into one of the immense walls of ice on either side of the ship. The resulting avalanche buries the front half of Zuko's ship in ice and snow, stopping it cold. Appa flies into the distance, his passengers laughing happily. Zuko, angry that the Avatar has escaped his grasp, vows not to underestimate the boy again. He instructs his crew to dig the ship out and pursue the Avatar and his friends as soon as possible. Unfortunately for him, the majority of his crew is either frozen solid or helping to thaw other crew members.
- As Appa flies into the sunset, Katara excitedly asks Aang how he was able to earlier execute incredibly powerful Waterbending techniques, a capability Aang himself is unable to understand. She then questions Aang as to why he did not initially say that he was the Avatar when Katara questioned him about the legend. Aang sadly and simply replies that he never wanted to be the Avatar, indicating the duty was impressed upon him against his wishes. Katara reminds Aang of the world's need for the Avatar, stating that he must master the Bending Arts of water, then earth, then fire. She muses that they might find a Waterbending teacher at the North Pole, and Aang quickly brightens up, suggesting they learn Waterbending together. Along with Sokka, who decides to come along under the excuse of this being an opportunity to defeat Firebenders, they decide to journey together.
- Off the coast of the Southwest Earth Kingdom, Prince Zuko docks at a Fire Nation controlled harbor. His ship needs substantial repairs from his encounter with Aang. Zuko wants the repairs done quickly so they won’t lose Aang’s trail. He warns Iroh not to mention The Avatar during their stay so no other Firebenders will start looking for him. Zhao walks up to Iroh and Zuko welcoming them to his harbor. Zuko and Iroh learn of Zhao’s promotion from Captain to Commander. Seeing how damaged their ship is, Zhao asks how it happened. Zuko makes up a story about crashing into an Earth Kingdom ship. Curious, Zhao invites the pair of them for a drink. Zuko attempts to get out of it but Iroh told Zuko that he needed to show Zhao some respect and accepts the invite.
The Southern Air Temple
- Nearing the Patola Mountain Range, Sokka comments that they don’t have any food. Aang is planning to visit the only home he has known, the Southern Air Temple. Katara is trying to keep Aang from getting too excited about their visit to the air temple. She tells him to expect the possibility that his people have been killed by the Fire Nation. Aang is convinced she’s wrong on the grounds that you have to fly to reach an Air Temple and the Fire Nation couldn’t possibly accomplish that. They reach the top of the mountain (above the clouds) and look down on the Southern Air Temple.
- Commander Zhao is explaining the Fire Nation’s planned victory to Zuko and Iroh over tea in his tent. Zuko voices his doubts that the plan will work. Zhao then asks about Zuko’s search for the Avatar, to which Zuko replies he has been unsuccessful. Zhao says he didn’t expect anything different. Zuko then gets up to leave but Commander Zhao’s guards stop him. One of Zhao’s soldiers walks in and reports that he interrogated Zuko’s crew and found out that Zuko had the Avatar but let him escape. Zuko has no choice but to tell Zhao the truth.
- Sokka is still very hungry and is berated by Katara for being one of the first outsiders to see an Airbender temple and only think about food. Aang begins to give Katara and Sokka a tour of the temple but becomes disheartened almost immediately. Seeing his home abandoned he realizes how much things have changed, and in order to cheer him up, Sokka volunteers to play a game of airball with Aang. Lying on the ground after being creamed, Sokka spots a Fire Nation helmet. He points it out to Katara and they agree to show it to Aang. When Aang begins to walk over, Katara changes her mind and covers the helmet with snow. After commenting that Katara's ability to manipulate snow is impressive, Aang wants to show them the rest of the temple. Sokka discourages Katara from protecting Aang’s feelings as she just did, to which Katara points out to Sokka that Aang would be devastated if he knew Firebenders invaded his home. They come to a statue of an Airbender monk which Aang introduces as Monk Gyatso. Gyatso was Aang’s mentor and father figure 100 years ago, Aang then flashes back to a day with him.
- Gyatso is teaching Aang how to make cakes and Aang isn’t listening. Aang has become burdened with the knowledge that he is the Avatar. Gyatso reassures Aang that he will be fine, that Aang must focus on the present, and that once Aang is old enough to enter the Air Temple Sanctuary, he will meet someone who will help him to become a better Avatar. Gyatso has Aang do some air bending target practice by blowing the freshly baked cakes through the air and onto the other elder monks’ heads while they're meditating. They are then pounced on by winged lemurs, slurping the cake off the monks' heads. The master and student laugh at their little prank and Gyatso congratulates Aang on his perfected aim.
- Returning to the present, Aang makes for the Air Temple Sanctuary. There’s someone he’s ready to meet. Katara is doubtful that anyone has been closed off in the temple for 100 years. To get into the Sanctuary, Aang Airbends two currents into the ornate locking mechanism causing it to open the doors. Aang begins to walk into the darkened temple with Katara and Sokka following him. All three of them block an air current running under the floor of the Sanctuary which causes a humming noise.
- Commander Zhao is appalled that a twelve-year-old boy bested Zuko and his crew. Zuko passionately states that he is going to hunt the Avatar from now on and shall not underestimate the Avatar again. When Zhao replies that he will be taking over the hunt for the Avatar, Zuko leaps for Zhao in a rage but is held back by the guards. Zhao orders for Zuko and Iroh to be kept in his tent and leaves. In anger, Zuko kicks a table as Iroh asks for more tea.
- The Air Temple Sanctuary is filled with hundreds of statues, and Sokka (still hungry) is thoroughly disappointed at there not being any food. Katara and Aang notice a pattern in the line of the statues. They're arrayed in the Avatar cycle (Air, Water, Earth, and Fire).
- From that Katara figures out that these are statues of previous incarnations of the Avatar, Aang’s past lives. Aang singles out the last statue in the line and gazes into the statue’s eyes, going into a kind of trance. He entered the spirit world, where he met the statue’s likeness riding a dragon, who was surprised to see "the Avatar" and asked, "Where have you been?". A gentle shake from Katara breaks him out of the trance and Aang exits the spirit world, at which point he knows the statue is of Avatar Roku, the Avatar before him. Sokka recognizes Roku as a Firebender by his robes and top-knot. The three of them hear the humming noise from the entrance indicating that someone else has just come in. Preparing to fight a Firebender, they reveal themselves to see it’s just a lemur. Desperately hungry, Sokka wants to eat the lemur for dinner. Aang on the other hand wants to keep the lemur as a pet. This prompts a race to see who can catch the lemur first. Katara stays behind in the Temple Sanctuary while Aang and Sokka run after the lemur, each trying to trip the other up. As it turns out, the lemur can fly, and Aang jumps off the balcony of the temple in his determination to catch the lemur.
- Commander Zhao and his search party are almost ready to set sail on their search for the Avatar. Zhao will then release Zuko when his ship is out at sea. Zuko states forcefully that he is going to capture the Avatar before Zhao, who laughs at the thought. How can a banished prince compete with a resourceful commander with hundreds of warships at his disposal? Zhao then demeans Zuko by telling him that his father would let him come home without the Avatar if the Fire Lord really loved him. Zhao states that all Lord Ozai sees in his son is failure. Zuko challenges Zhao out of pure rage and disgust to an Agni Kai at sunset, to which Zhao accepts. After Zhao leaves the tent, Iroh reminds Zuko about how his last duel with a Firebending master turned out. Zuko responds; "I will never forget."
- After landing safely, Aang follows the lemur and discovers a room where there lay many Fire Nation soldiers’ bodies, centered on the skeleton of Monk Gyatso. His laughter stops. His former master and father figure gone, Aang starts to cry. Sokka finally catches up to Aang and questions whether he caught the lemur, going on to say that he didn't actually intend on eating it. It isn't long before he sees what has made Aang so upset. As Sokka tries to comfort Aang, he suddenly goes into the Avatar State and creates an Air Sphere around himself, violently blowing Sokka backwards.
- Back in the temple, Katara observes that all the Avatar statues’ eyes begin to glow in the same brilliant white as Aang's tattoos. Realizing Aang must be the cause of this, she runs out to find the boys. In this moment, the Water, Earth, and Fire Nation Temples simultaneously experience a similar event, Avatar statues and murals start to glow. In the Fire Temple, the fire sages hasten to inform the Fire Lord that the Avatar has returned. After finding a windswept Sokka, Katara is informed that Aang found out that fire benders killed Gyatso. Aang’s anger has escalated so that he now floats within his Air Sphere. Katara then makes her way toward Aang in order to calm him down.
- Basically, the Agni Kai as portrayed in the series. Zhao expects Zuko to strike him once more, to mark his victory, but Zuko releases a fireblast past Zhao’s face instead, promising next time Zhao is in his way, he will not hold back. As he turns to walk away, enraged by his defeat, Zhao sends a jet of fire at Zuko’s back, which Iroh swiftly stops with his bare hand. After throwing Zhao to the ground, Iroh lectures Zhao about how dishonorably he has acted, and that his nephew is more honorable even in exile. Iroh is still polite enough to thank Zhao for the tea. After leaving the arena, Zuko asks Iroh if he really meant what he said back there, to which Iroh responds: "Of course. I told you ginseng tea is my favorite." As the two walk back towards the ship, the faintest of smiles crosses Prince Zuko's lips.
- At the Air Temple, Katara attempts to console Aang by imparting how she felt when she lost her mother, and even goes on to state that even though his people are gone, both she and Sokka are now his family. The words seem to reach Aang, who falls out of the Avatar state and slowly descends back onto the ground. Sokka backs Katara's statement with the promise that neither will let anything happen to him. With this, Aang finally comes to the conclusion that he is indeed the last of his kind.
- Just before they leave, Aang stands before Roku’s statue once more, wondering how his past life can help him if he is dead. Suddenly, the lemur reappears with a variety of fruits and lays them in front of Sokka, who doesn’t waste any time wolfing them down. The lemur then climbs onto Aang’s shoulder, possibly bonding with him because of his Airbender tattoos. After realizing that the lemur, Appa, and he himself are the last survivors of the Southern Air Temple, Aang names the lemur Momo, the newest addition to their family. Night falls as the gang flies off on Appa. Deep with thought, Aang takes one last gaze at his old home before it fades behind the clouds.
The Warriors of Kyoshi/Imprisoned
- Zuko's ship is adrift at sea. Zuko is meditating when Iroh comes in with information regarding the Avatar. Iroh begs Zuko not to become angry and Zuko replies that he can control his temper. Iroh states that he has no idea where the Avatar is and Zuko becomes furious. Iroh then explains that there have been multiple sightings of Aang but that he is impossible to track, showing his nephew detailed map of where he has been located. Zuko quickly takes the map and declares that, "He's a master of evasive maneuvering."
- Meanwhile, Aang, Katara, and Sokka are in a small Earth Kingdom island with Sokka indicating Aang's lack of navigational skills. Discussing their dinner options by their campsite, Aang, Katara and Sokka are startled by loud noises coming from the distance. Aang and Katara are curious and set out to investigate with a less-than-cooperative Sokka right behind. They then find a young Earthbender practicing his bending (Haru). Katara introduces herself. But before she can finish, the young bender races off, seeming very fearful.
- Aang suggests following him in hopes of finding a town to have a proper dinner. Suddenly the group is ambushed by the Kyoshi Warriors. Katara, Sokka, and Aang are then tied to a pole and after having removed the cloth from covering Aang, Katara and Sokka's eyes. Sokka utters a remark about how they could not have been beaten by a bunch of girls. They demand to know why they have come here and Katara clarifies that they just wanted to find a town for supplies. Oyaji, the island's leader, then implies they may be Fire Nation spies. He also commented that Kyoshi has stayed out of the war and intends to keep it that way. Aang quickly responds to the fact that the island is named after Kyoshi, revealing that he knows her. Head warrior Suki then states that is impossible, with Oyaji stating that Avatar Kyoshi died over 400 years ago. Aang answers their questions by telling them that he is the new Avatar. The people of Kyoshi believe he is lying and want to throw the impostor to the Unagi. For proof that he is the long-lost Avatar, he Airbends his way out of his predicament and the villagers look in awe.
- Aang and Katara enjoy a delicious meal of desserts and treats, charitably given from the town while Sokka lies on the floor, angry because he was bested by females. In Aang's honor, the town's people clean up the statue of Avatar Kyoshi. As Sokka walks out of the store, the same young man earthbending earlier walks into the store. As he talks to his mother (the owner of the store), Katara and Aang ask why he ran. Haru and his mother explain that since the Fire Nation took control of the town, any one discovered to be an Earthbender is arrested and sent to a mining rig, far off shore. Haru's mother then tells them that his father was also sent to the rig a long time ago.
- Sokka goes to the Kyoshi Warriors and he is asked if he wants to show off some of his 'moves'. He tries to demonstrate his techniques but is brought down by Suki. He simply states that he was going easy on her and ultimately failed again being tied arm to leg and swung to the ground. He then leaves out of embarrassment.
- Later on that day, while Haru and Katara are walking with each other, both sharing their own stories and seemingly falling for one another, they come across a merchant selling cabbage that has been trapped by a cave in. Haru reluctantly uses his Earthbending to save the merchant.
- Sokka returns to the training area and bows before Suki, admitting he would be honored to be trained by her. She makes sure he would not care to be trained by a girl. He accepts that he said some inappropriate things before. She agrees if he undergoes all their traditions. The scene skips to him into a Kyoshi warrior outfit. He complains about being in a dress and Suki calls it a symbol of honor and bravery. Aang then walks by, giggling, "Hey Sokka... Nice dress."
- Suki begins training Sokka in the art of Kyoshi style fighting. After a little while of training, Sokka believes he is starting to understand the form but inevitably chucks his weapon out the door. Suki laughs, saying it is not about strength. It is about using your opponent's force against them and to wait until the right moment to strike. Sokka then knocks down Suki, who embarrassed, says it was on purpose. Then she admits she was knocked down and asks him to try it again. The next morning, Katara wakes up to get some water when Haru's mother tells Katara that the cabbage merchant he had saved told the Fire Nation that he was an Earthbender and was arrested and sent to the mining rig.
- Once she learns of Haru's situation, she decides to take action and find a way onto the rig. She decides the only way to get to that rig is if the Fire Nation thinks she's an Earthbender, so after some strategy she is able to Earthbend with the help of Aang and some ventilation pipes while Fire Nation soldiers are watching. She is then captured and sent to the rig. There she and some other captives meet the Warden of the rig, a self-important and cruel taskmaster. He states that since the entire rig is made of metal, there is nothing for the Earthbenders to control so they are helpless.
- After finding Haru and his father Tyro, she asks what their plan is to escape. Tyro says that escape isn't an option and that the only way to survive is to do what they're told and hope the war goes in their favor. Shocked by his lack of hope, Katara tries an inspirational speech to stir some life into the spirits of the other benders, but to no avail. Suddenly, coal then bursts from the vent (together with Aang, the Kyoshi Warriors and Sokka) and lands in front of Haru and the others, with Katara telling them that this is their chance to stand up and fight. No one seems to have the will to fight anymore. The Warden states that their spirits were broken a long time ago and he walks away in triumph.
- As he walks away, a chunk of coal strikes him on the head. He turns around to see that it was Haru who threw it. The Warden attacks Haru, but his attack is blocked by Tyro and two other benders. Then all together the prisoners attack the Fire Nation soldiers and after a dramatic fight, the Earthbenders are victorious. They throw the warden overboard and sail off in stolen Fire Nation ships.
- Sokka apologizes to Suki and he explains that he treated her like a girl instead of a warrior. Suki then kisses Sokka on his cheek, telling him that she is a warrior but a girl, too. After winning their freedom, Tyro thanks Katara for giving his people hope again, and then Haru thanks her. She is touched by Haru's words, before noticing that her mother's necklace is gone. There on the rig we see Katara's necklace on the ground and is picked up by Zuko. And with a blank look he clutches the necklace and looks out toward the horizon.
The Storm/The Blue Spirit
- Meanwhile, a messenger hawk approaches a Fire Nation fortress. Archers are practicing very advanced skill levels. Commander Zhao and Colonel Shinu are observing the training. Colonel Shinu denies Zhao’s request to use the (now identified) extremely talented Yuyan Archers in Zhao’s quest to retrieve the Avatar calling it a vanity project for Zhao rather than part of the real war. However, just then the hawk arrives with the news from Fire Lord Ozai that Zhao has been promoted to Admiral. He then informs Colonel Shinu that his request is now an order. Shinu then bows in agreement. The scene then zooms on the roof above Zhao and Shinu showing a figure in dark clothes and blue mask.
- At a waterfall, Katara begins to teach Aang her knowledge of Waterbending. Unfortunately for her, Aang immediately masters the lessons she gives him with little to no effort, despite the fact that it took her much time and practice to master them. While she tries to hide it, she begins to grow jealous of Aang's natural talent. But Aang realizes this and cheers Katara up, stating that there’s no need to jealous of, as long as he is with a great teacher. Katara then smiles as Aang splashes Sokka with a giant wave. As Katara sets up a campfire later at night, Aang starts telling the story of his childhood, beginning with the day the monks told him he was the Avatar.
- Burdened with extra training exercises and being ostracized from his friends, Aang became confused and afraid. Consequently, after he learns that the monks are planning to separate him from his guardian Gyatso, he decides to run away. Repeat of the flashback on how Aang got into the iceberg. Aang suffers terrible guilt over abandoning the world, but Katara convinces him that "it was meant to be", and that he "gives people hope".
- As Aang was fast asleep after a whole day of waterbending practice, Aang dreams he was in the spirit world again and is confronted by Avatar Roku's dragon, Fang. The dragon takes Aang to the Southern Air Temple to see Avatar Roku's statue. Aang finds out that Avatar Roku wants to speak to him about a comet, and the only time they can talk is during the Winter Solstice. Aang wakes up from his dream and starts rushing to Appa. Katara wakes up and asks him where he is going. He said they were near the Southern Air Temple and wanted to visit there and return, all within a day. Katara convinced him to get some sleep so he can depart together with Sokka and Katara the next day, but Aang refused, stating that this is urgent and is something that he needs to do alone. Katara then hugs Aang and makes him promise to return safely the next day. As Aang departs, Sokka wakes up and asks where Appa is.
- Meanwhile at Zuko’s ship, Iroh is playing Pai Sho with Lieutenant Jee. He is curious about Zuko's obsession with capturing the Avatar and his poor treatment with the crew. Iroh then explains why Zuko is as he is. The flashbacks shown are similar to the ones shown in the The Storm. Iroh concludes that life will never return to normal, but that the Avatar gives Zuko hope.
- Fire Nation lookouts are hiding in something similar to a duck blind reading the wanted poster for the Avatar. One soldier doubts the validity of some of the claims as Fire Lord propaganda, but as Appa flies by in the sky, the soldier realizes the claims are true (since the poster states the Avatar is riding a flying bison) and blows a signal horn to spread the news of the sighting of the Avatar.
- Aang, now in the Air Temple sanctuary, sees the statue of Avatar Roku and doesn’t know what to do. Aang calls to Roku asking for his help; then a wind spirals around Aang and he is in front of Roku on the top of a mountain range. Roku says hello to Aang and asks what took him so long. Roku begins to tell Aang why he had to meet him; he tells him about the comet. He then tells Aang that he must master all the elements before summer's end, for that is when the comet returns. If he doesn't master the elements by then, there will be nothing he can do, as Fire Lord Ozai will use its power to finish the war. Aang is understandably shocked at what he has just heard and doesn’t think he can do it in such a short time, but Roku has confidence in him because he has done it before. Roku senses that there is a great danger waiting outside his journey back and asks him to leave.
- As Aang departs for the temple with Appa, arrows start flying towards the sky. He then asks Appa to leave without him as he jumps down. Once Aang landed, a chase begins between the Yuyan Archers and Aang. Aang manages to evade the Yu Yan down the side of the mountain, but through the forest, despite efforts of evading using Airbending, Aang is finally captured by the Yu Yan.
- Once captured, Aang is brought back to the Fire Nation fortress shown earlier and his arms and legs are secured to two posts. Zhao comes in, holding Aang’s staff. He then introduces himself and taunts Aang by reminding him he is the only Airbender left, but that unlike his people, Aang will not be killed as it is not in the Fire Nation’s best interest to have to search for the Avatar again once reborn. In a rare instance, Aang’s anger and frustration cause Aang to use Airbending in an aggressive rather than defensive act as he forcefully blows Zhao to a wall. Zhao then attempts to further break Aang down by telling him there is no escape and no one will rescue him.
- Waiting for Aang’s return, Katara is disappointed that only Appa returns safely. Katara wonders what is taking Aang so long. Outside the Fire Nation fortress, the same masked figure from the earlier scene in the fortress waits. He then uses a supply cart to sneak into the fortress by hanging underneath and then inside the cart as the guards inspect it. Zhao then addresses the troops and informs them he has captured the Fire Nation’s last obstacle to victory – the Avatar. The masked figure works his way to Aang’s location and manages to subdue the guards and free Aang – much to Aang’s surprise.
- On his ways to see Aang in his prison cell, Zhao is dictating to his assistant how he wishes his speech and testimonies from high ranking officer to be sent to the Fire Lord. Zhao then discovers the bound guards and empty cell. An alarm is set off, and the attempt by Aang and the masked figure to scale the wall is thwarted when the rope they were using is cut by a guard. Aang breaks the fall with Airbending. The masked figure points to the open gates and they make a run for them. Zhao orders the gates to be closed. Aang uses Airbending to clear away several guards blocking the exit; however, the masked figure cannot move as fast as Aang and gets caught battling with guards that have caught up with them. Aang stops to see this and one guard almost gets him with a spear, but Aang blows him away, uses his staff and Airbending to clear off the guards attacking the masked figure as well as to throw the masked figure up onto the first of the fortress walls.
- Aang uses his staff in a helicopter fashion and lifts the masked figure from one fortress wall to the second wall as the masked figure fends off attacks with his broadswords. More guards come up to attack the duo on the second wall. One pushes off the stick Aang had used previously. The masked figure throws one guard over the wall, and Aang Airbends the rest away. More troops use bamboo ladders to scale the wall, but again Aang blows them off. He then takes the ladders and calls to the masked figure to get on his back and they use the three ladders like stilts to go from one wall to the third and final wall. However, a Firebending soldier manages to light the last ladder on fire, forcing Aang and the masked figure to jump to the next wall. Their grip does not hold and both fall to the ground just in front of the main gate.
- As Firebenders come to attack the duo, Aang pulls the masked figure behind him and blocks the attack with Airbending. Zhao tells the men to stop, for the Avatar needs to be captured alive. Suddenly the masked figure puts his broadswords to Aang’s neck, and a standoff begins. Zhao orders the gate to be opened, and they let the pair out as the masked figure takes Aang with his swords still around Aang’s neck. Zhao then has a Yu Yan archer knock out the masked figure with a single shot.
- After the masked figure falls to the ground, Aang sees a small part of the face below and creates a dust cloud as cover while Aang removes the mask to reveal Zuko. At first, Aang is shocked and afraid and begins to run but then stops to look back at Zuko. He notices Katara’s necklace beside Zuko and grabs it. As the dust clears and the guards approach the area, we see no one is there, which angers Zhao. Zuko regains consciousness, and Aang tells him of a story about his friend from 100 years ago named Kuzon from the Fire Nation and wonders if he had known Zuko back then if they would be friends. Zuko responds by attacking Aang with a fire blast, which Aang easily avoids and hopped from tree to tree, leaving Zuko on a bed of leaves.
- Uncle Iroh asks Zuko where he’s been, and Zuko just replies that he is going to bed. Aang returns to his friends, gives an extremely worried Katara back her necklace saying that someone he met during his journey asked him to do it. Katara smiles and kisses Aang on the cheek. Aang blushes and twiddles his thumbs. Katara then asks Aang about Avatar Roku’s message, but a yawning Aang stretches his arms and tells Katara that he will tell her and Sokka the day they depart for the Northern Water Tribe. As Aang plops down on Appa’s tail to rest, Sokka asks Aang if he made any new friends to which Aang says he doesn’t think he did and turns on his side.
- At the same time Zuko looks at the Fire Nation flag and also turns away to his side. Just as he was about to sleep, Iroh knocks the door and enters Zuko's room, informing Zuko that he has some bad news. Zhao later comes in. He informs Zuko he is taking command of the soldiers under Zuko and he has invited Iroh to join him as general. While he briefs Zuko and Iroh, he recognizes the two broadswords on Zuko's wall as the same ones used by the Blue Spirit to save the Avatar. When asked about them, Zuko quickly tells Zhao that he is not skilled with broadswords and they are antiques, merely for decorative purposes. Zhao addresses Iroh, asking him whether he has heard of the Blue Spirit. Iroh replies that he has just heard rumors and doesn't believe in his existence. Zhao assures Iroh that the Blue Spirit is indeed real and a criminal and enemy of the Fire Nation, but he has a feeling that he will be brought to justice soon.
The Waterbending Master
- The next day, just as Sokka is voicing his doubts about finding the Northern Water Tribe and complains about the speed of Appa, the group is attacked by a group of Waterbenders, who leads the team to the tribe after discovering that Aang is the long-lost Avatar. While touring the city by gondola, Sokka sees Princess Yue for the first time and falls in love with her.
- Admiral Zhao knows that the Avatar is traveling north and realizes that he is traveling to the Northern Water Tribe to look for a Master to teach him Waterbending. One of his advisers is eager to go and get him but Zhao understands that the Northern Water Tribe is a powerful nation and there is a reason that they have survived 100 years of war. The frozen tundra is treacherous and the landscape itself is an icy fortress, so a massive invasion force is required.
- Outside the great palace of the Northern Water Tribe, Sokka and Katara are celebrated as family from the Southern Water Tribe, and Aang is honored as a special guest. The 16th birthday of the princess, Yue, is also celebrated, as it is the coming of marrying age. Aang and Katara are then delighted to see the Waterbending Master, Pakku, and his students performing elaborate Waterbending moves for entertainment. Sokka, meanwhile, is far more interested in the food at the banquet and Princess Yue who is sitting next to him. He then chats with the princess. After the Waterbending performance is over, Aang is introduced to Master Pakku. Aang is looking forward to Katara and himself learning Waterbending, after a few days' rest. Master Pakku is unimpressed with his work ethic, telling Aang that if he is interested in learning Waterbending, then they will be ready at sunrise.
- As they approach the palace, Katara expresses her joy at being able to learn from a real master, saying she has waited for this day her whole life. However, she is shocked to learn from Master Pakku that it is forbidden for women to learn Waterbending. He advises her to go to the healing huts and learn from Yugoda to use her Waterbending to heal. Although Aang initially refuses to learn from Master Pakku, Katara urges him to return by saying that he can't risk his training for her. Aang begins to reluctantly learn from Master Pakku. Sokka, in the meantime, makes plans with Princess Yue to meet on a bridge above the canal.
- Meanwhile, Katara reluctantly goes to healing classes, while Aang learns Waterbending from Master Pakku. He becomes frustrated when he is criticized for his technique. Master Pakku mockingly says that this move may be too advanced and Aang should try an easier one. After the healing class, Katara thanks Yugoda who notices her betrothal necklace and proceeds to ask who she is getting married to. Katara explains that she is not ready for marriage, and that the necklace was her grandmother's, passed down to her mother, and then her. Yugoda recognizes the carving and reveals to Katara that she is an old friend of Kanna's, and that Katara's grandmother was born in the Northern Water Tribe and engaged to a young Waterbender, but left mysteriously without saying goodbye.
- When Iroh informs Zuko that the crew wished him a safe journey, Zuko is sulking about his crew's betrayal Iroh invites him for a nightly stroll to clear his head, but Zuko remains pissed in his room. While Iroh is out walking, the assassination plan is executed by a group of unidentified figures, planting explosives in Zuko's ship and detonating them with him inside. Zuko, becoming alert after hearing a noise outside his room, goes to investigate. Zuko starts sniffing just as the lit fuse reaches the explosives. In the split second that the flames rushed at Zuko, he puts up a fire shield that barely saves his life. Iroh, hearing the explosion and seeing the flames, rushes back to the docks to see the smoldering remains of his nephew's ship.
- Sokka meets with Princess Yue on the bridge, presenting her with a carved fish, which she mistakes for a bear. However, Yue tells Sokka that she made a mistake inviting him there and runs away, leaving Sokka looking devastated as he throws his carving into the water.
- Later when the gang meets in their living quarters, they are all unhappy with their situation. Sokka is confused and upset by Yue's mixed messages, and Aang and Katara are unhappy that Katara is not allowed to learn Waterbending. Sokka suggests that Aang teach Katara everything he has learned in the day to Katara at night. This makes Katara excited, as the plan allows her to learn Waterbending while providing Aang a companion to practice with. She then rushes outside with Aang to begin practicing. Disobeying the rules, Aang teaches Katara what he had learned, showing her a move that is all about "sinking and floating". Katara manages to learn the move with much ease, but suddenly the water she had been bending begins to writhe around her in a complex stream. Aang exclaims how amazing it is, but Katara is equally as surprised, saying it is not her manipulating the water. They look up to the bridge above them to see Master Pakku, angered by Aang's disrespect of his orders, his teachings and his entire culture. Aang hastily apologizes, but Master Pakku refuses to teach Aang anymore, stating that he is no longer welcome as his student before leaving.
- The next day at the palace, Katara pleads with Chief Arnook to make Master Pakku take Aang back as his student. Master Pakku agrees to continue training Aang on the condition that Katara swallow her pride and apologize. Try as she might, Katara, angered by his pomposity and condescending attitude, instead challenges the Waterbending Master to a fight (gesturing emphatically as she does so and unintentionally Waterbending huge cracks in the ice floor and smashing two pots), stating that she will not apologize to "a sour old man" like Pakku.
- At the Fire Nation camp over a cup of tea, Iroh tells Zhao of the attack. Zhao is "devastated" by the news and smiles slyly when he hears that no trace of the attack was linked back to him. Iroh takes Admiral Zhao's offer of serving under him as General of the fleet.
- Katara goes to wait outside for Master Pakku, who simply strolls past her, further angering her with patronizing comments. Katara, her temper pushed to breaking point, forms a water whip and slaps Master Pakku on the back of the head. He turns around and agrees to the fight, telling her if she wants to learn so badly, to study closely.
- The fight between Katara and Pakku. After a few moments of violent Waterbending, it seems Katara has the upper-hand, as she topples ice-obelisks over Master Pakku, who disappears in a cloud of mist. But, Master Pakku quickly emerges and performs a Waterbending move that renders Katara helpless, and she is beaten. Her grandmother's necklace, which fell off during the fight, is picked up by Master Pakku, and it is discovered that he made it for Kanna 60 years ago.
- On one of Zhao's ships General Iroh walks past a Fire Nation soldier, stopping to say quietly that their plan is working perfectly and that Zhao doesn't suspect a thing. The soldier takes off his face plate to reveal that he is (an injured) Prince Zuko. Zuko thanks his Uncle for his help, and returns his faceplate. Iroh tells him to stay hidden until they reach the North Pole and he will have a chance of capturing the Avatar before Zhao does. Wishing his nephew luck, they continue on.
- Master Pakku tells Katara that her grandmother left the arranged marriage to begin her life in the South Pole. Katara understands that her grandmother refused to let the tribe's customs rule her life. This revelation makes Princess Yue burst into tears and run away. Sokka follows her and finds her on the bridge they met at. Yue weeps softly while Sokka tells her he wants nothing from her but to tell her that she is beautiful and that he never would have thought she would even notice a guy like him. Yue tells him that he doesn't understand, but Sokka believes he does: she is a princess and he is just a Southern Tribe peasant. He turns to leave, but Yue kisses him, making Sokka happy but extremely confused. Yue explains that she has also fallen for Sokka but they cannot be together, and not for the reason Sokka thinks. She sadly pulls down the furs about her neck to reveal a betrothal necklace; she is engaged to be married. She apologizes and leaves Sokka alone on the bridge. At the end, although the Waterbending Master has not changed his rather harsh methods of teaching, he has taken both Katara and Aang as students. Meanwhile, Admiral Zhao's enormous invasion fleet has mobilized and set a course for the Northern Water Tribe.
The Siege Of The North
- The scene opens with a pan over the Northern Water Tribe city and then moves to a sparring match between an anxious young man and a confident Katara. After Katara swiftly defeats her opponent by encasing him in an ice formation about 20 feet high, Master Pakku releases the student unceremoniously on his back. Pakku then tells Katara that she has progressed faster than any other student he has had and that her hard work and determination have paid off in ways that raw talent alone cannot. Seeing Aang playing with Momo, Master Pakku cynically asks Aang if he wishes to face Katara since he must have mastered Waterbending already. Unconcerned by Pakku’s tone, Aang responds by saying he wouldn’t say he’s mastered Waterbending, but that he has something to show Pakku. Aang then wraps snow around himself as if he were a snowman, which does not impress either Master Pakku or Katara.
- Meanwhile, Sokka is walking on a ledge of an ice bridge as Princess Yue walks on the bridge beside him. They start chit-chatting about not having palaces in the Southern Water Tribe. As Sokka comes down from the ledge, Yue touches his shoulder and laughs at his statement. Then her smile turns to a frown as she says what they are doing is wrong because she is engaged. Undeterred, Sokka says that they are just friends and that he would like for her to meet another of his friends, Appa. Appa greets Sokka by pushing him to the ground and giving him a big lick, which leads Yue to giggle and say, “It looks like you haven’t been giving Appa enough attention.” Sokka and Yue get into Appa’s saddle and Sokka introduces Yue to the joys of flying with a simple, "Yip yip." Yue then scoots closer to Sokka. Sokka and Yue look into each other’s eyes and begin to move toward a kiss. However, gray snow started falling on them before they started kissing.
- The scene cuts back the Northern Water Tribe city where we see gray snow falling. While Aang is rolling in the snow around Momo, Momo eats one of the gray particles and coughs it out, which gets Aang’s attention. The water fountains have turned gray as a result of this unusual snowfall, and Water Tribe citizens look on wonderingly. Sokka and Yue have landed on a nearby glacier, and Sokka tells Yue he recognizes the gray as soot from Fire Nation ships mixed with snow as this happened when the Fire Nation attacked his village. He tells Yue the Fire Nation has closed in on the North Pole. The camera pans out onto the horizon to show a huge gray cloud in the distance.
- Several Fire Nation ships are shown in the water, and Admiral Zhao sinisterly tells General Iroh that they are in the process of writing history as they will be destroying the Water Tribe civilization. Iroh warns Zhao that history is not always kind to its subjects. Zhao condescendingly assures Iroh that this will not be like Iroh’s legendary failure at Ba Sing Se, to which Iroh ominously tells Zhao he hopes not, for Zhao’s sake. Zhao tells Iroh to tell the captain to prepare for first strike and Iroh departs. Subsequently, Iroh finds Zuko in disguise as a guard and tells him they will be landing soon and inquires if Zuko has a plan, to which he replies that he is working on it.
- Back at the Northern Water Tribe, a giant bell adorned with the Water Tribe’s insignia is rung as citizens rush to the main gathering hall. As Sokka and Yue head up the steps, Yue abruptly stops to tell Sokka they cannot see each other because she is engaged and she likes him as more than a friend. At the gathering hall, Chief Arnook tells the citizens that war is upon them and he is saddened to know that some of the faces he sees may vanish in the next few days. He calls upon the Ocean and Moon Spirits to be with them as they face the battle for existence. When the Chief asks for volunteers for a dangerous mission, Sokka is first to stand, despite Katara's objection. As Sokka receives his mark from the Chief signifying his acceptance to join the mission, Yue looks on as he heads back to his seat. Yue looks away blinking tears from her eyes.
- As they await the first strike from the Fire Nation, Chief Arnook tells Aang the stillness before battle is unbearable. A hundred years ago, Aang was not there to help his people; he emphatically states that this time he will make a difference. Finally, as the Water Tribe warriors look on, there is a sound as the first fireball is launched. The fireball strikes the middle of the Northern Water Tribe emblem on the outer wall, throwing many back by the blast. A second fireball lands in the heart of the city. As the third approaches, Aang yells, "Yip yip," to Appa, and they head out to face the Fire Nation Navy. The battle will be pretty much like the cartoon.
- Meanwhile, Chief Arnook addresses the recruits for the mission revealing they will be infiltrating the Navy disguised as Fire Nation soldiers. Sokka inadvertently laughs upon seeing the Fire Nation uniform they are to wear. After demonstrating his knowledge of the Fire Nation military, Sokka is told to brief Hahn (the warrior modeling the antiquated Fire Nation uniform) on all Fire Nation information to be used for the mission. Chief Arnook also instructs Hahn to show Sokka respect as he expects nothing less from his future son-in-law. Shocked, Sokka manages an insincere congratulation to Hahn.
- As night approaches, Iroh advises Zhao to cease the attack as Waterbenders draw strength from the Moon and it is nearing its full phase. Zhao states that he is aware of the Moon issue and is working on a solution, but agrees to halt the attack until morning.
- Returning from battle, Aang is exhausted and frustrated, stating he was only able to take out about a dozen ships. Aang begins to doubt his ability to help the Water Tribe hold off the Fire Nation attack.
- Deep in the hold of Zhao’s ship, Zuko has removed his Fire Nation soldier uniform and is preparing for his solo journey into the Water Tribe city to capture the Avatar. Iroh expresses his concern for Zuko, saying that he only nags Zuko because, since the loss of his own son, he sees Zuko like his own. Zuko acknowledges his uncle’s statement and says he will meet Iroh again after he has the Avatar.
- Back in the Water Tribe warrior barracks, Hahn arrogantly informs Sokka about the perks of marrying Yue, which only serves to anger Sokka. Hahn then insults Sokka. Sokka lunges at Hahn. They start fighting until Chief Arnook breaks it up and tells Sokka he is off the mission. As Hahn and the others leave, Chief Arnook approaches Sokka for a special task – guarding his daughter, Princess Yue. Sokka humbly agrees.
- Zuko maneuvers his kayak to the shores of the ice cap just next to the base of the Water Tribe outer wall and observes Turtle Seals diving into an opening in the ice. Knowing the creatures must come up for air somewhere, Zuko takes a deep breath and dives in. Zuko manages to find where the Turtle Seals come up for air – an underground cave. He uses his breath of fire to ward off the effects of his icy swim – yelling at the creatures to be quiet. Zuko then works his way up an opening with water rushing through. Zuko ascends to an air pocket in the freezing water and catches his breath. He then spots another passage up under the water and heads through, but is met with an ice barrier. Using his Firebending, Zuko melts the ice and breaks through, resting briefly. He had successfully breached the Northern Water Tribe.
- While looking at the nearly full moon, Yue tells Aang and Katara about the legend of the Moon teaching Waterbending to the people of the Water Tribes by observing the push and pull on the Ocean by the Moon. Suddenly, Aang realizes that maybe the spirits can help him on his quest to save the Water Tribe. Yue says she may know of a place where Aang can reach the spirits, and proceeds to lead him and Katara to the most spiritual place in the entire North Pole. Aang is ecstatic to see grass again, and Katara is amazed at how warm it is there. Aang begins to meditate at the base of the oasis pool containing two koi fish – one black, one white – swimming in a circle. As Aang tries to get into the Spirit World through meditation, Katara and Yue’s conversation distracts him, but after he asked them to keep quiet, they comply. Aang then focuses on the koi fish and finally enters the Spirit World. Yue asks Katara if they should get some help, but Katara says she can protect Aang. At that moment Zuko appears and starts fighting with Katara. Zuko is impressed with Katara's skill, and he is eventually encased in ice. However, as the sun rises, Zuko manages to melt his way out of Katara's trap and overpower Katara, forcing her against a tree with a fire blast, knocking her out. He then takes Aang's body and escapes from the oasis.
- Fire Nation ships break through the Water Tribe's outer wall and rush in to attack. Back on his command ship, Zhao states the city will fall today despite any efforts to fight off the inevitable.
- Katara regains consciousness to find Aang gone. Sokka and Yue approach on Appa and Katara tells them that Zuko has Aang.
- The camera pans up to show a path going up the side of the polar ice cap surrounding the city. Finally, it is shown that Zuko is carrying Aang through a blizzard across the ice cap. The polar ice cap begins to give way under Zuko and Aang's weight. Zuko quickly runs while carrying Aang and manages to avoid falling through the ice. Just then, Zuko spots a shelter in the distance, drags Aang's body into the shelter and ties him up.
- Aang’s spirit has arrived in what looks like a swamp. A glowing speck flies by and the spirit suggests Aang chase it, because it may be able to help him. Aang chases the glowing speck through the Spirit World, but when he finally manages to grasp it, the branch he is standing on disappears and Aang falls into the water. Avatar Roku’s image appears as a reflection in the water and he greets Aang. Aang's spirit tells Roku that the Water Tribe is under attack and he needs help locating the Moon and Ocean spirits. Roku's spirit ascends out of the water to face Aang as he tells Aang those spirits crossed over into the mortal world near the beginning of time and that there is only one spirit old enough to help Aang, Koh, but Roku warns Aang to be careful as Koh is dangerous. Aang must not show any emotion when facing Koh or the spirit will steal his face.
- Back in the mortal world, Sokka, Katara and Yue, riding on Appa through the blizzard, continue to look for Aang with no luck. Zuko talks to Aang's body while Aang is in the Spirit World. He laments how now that he has Aang, the blizzard prevents him from taking Aang back to the Fire Nation. Zuko then compares Aang's natural talents to his own sister's and recalls his struggles that have made him strong without any help from luck.
- Back at the Northern Water Tribe, Fire Nation troops move further into the city despite the Waterbender Warriors' efforts. Iroh reminds Zhao that if the Water Tribe is not subdued by the rise of the full moon, the Waterbenders will be unstoppable. Zhao says he is planning to remove the moon as a factor. Iroh and Zhao are briefly interrupted by Hahn, who miserably fails at his attempt to attack Zhao, resulting in him being thrown overboard. Zhao explains to Iroh how he had stumbled upon the secret of the Moon Spirit's mortal form in an underground library. Zhao then believed it was his destiny to kill the spirits. Iroh forcefully informs Zhao that the spirits are not to be trifled with. Zhao condescendingly tells Iroh he has heard of Iroh's journey into the Spirit World, and that the Moon and Ocean Spirits will now pay the consequences for giving up their immortality.
- Aang approaches a large leafless tree and notices another spirit in the form of a monkey. As Aang approaches and speaks to the monkey it turns around, and to Aang's surprise, it has no face. Aang takes a deep breath and enters the hollow tree, calling out to Koh. Suddenly, Koh appears in front of Aang. As he switches faces, Koh explains to Aang that this is not their first encounter as one of Aang's previous incarnations tried to kill Koh over the stealing of a loved one's face. Koh continues to state how he is no longer concerned for what Aang did in his past life. Aang takes a breath in to gather strength, and to remain composed as Koh tries to manipulate him. Menacingly, Koh asks how can he help Aang. Aang tells Koh he needs to find the Moon and Ocean Spirits. Koh tells Aang the spirits' names - Tui (push) and La (pull). Aang explains that an entire culture may be destroyed if he doesn't get the spirits' help. Koh informs Aang that it is the spirits who are in need of his help as someone is planning to kill one of them. Aang asks how he can find the spirits to protect them. Koh tells Aang that he has already met them. As Aang realizes the spirits' mortal identities, he almost reveals his expression to Koh, narrowly avoiding the opportunity for Koh to steal his face. Upon leaving Koh's tree, Aang goes back to the gate and returns to the mortal world. However, to Aang's dismay, he finds his body is not at the oasis where it had been left. His spirit suddenly goes into a bright light form as it rushes to Aang's body.
- Nightfall has come and the full moon has risen. The Waterbending Warriors exhibit massive power as they fiercely battle the Fire Nation soldiers. Zhao and his search party depart his ship in search of the secret oasis.
- Katara sees the light and realizes it's Aang's spirit and they turn Appa to follow the light as it reveals Zuko and Aang's shelter. As his spirit rejoins his body, Aang suddenly sits up, forcefully acknowledges Zuko's presence, and then proceeds to blow a large gust of air which throws Zuko against the side of the shelter and him out of the cave and into the snow. Zuko manages to catch Aang, but then Appa approaches and Katara jumps down. Katara then forces Zuko about 40 feet into the air with a column of snow and then knocks him out by smashing him to the ground. Although he is in a hurry to save the spirits, Aang refuses to leave Zuko to die. They tie up the unconscious prince and take him with them.
- At the oasis, Zhao grabs the white koi and the sky goes red. The Waterbending Warriors lose their bending abilities. Yue says that she feels faint and Aang says he feels it as well. Yue then explains how the Moon Spirit gave her life as a baby and how she received her name; Yue – for the Moon. Zhao begins to arrogantly applaud his efforts to fulfill his destiny. Momo suddenly jumps onto his head, pulls at Zhao's hair, and then flies over to Aang. Aang pleads with Zhao to consider how his actions will hurt everyone, and not just the Water Tribe. Suddenly, Iroh appears, confirms Aang's words, and tells Zhao if he harms the spirit, that he will unleash 10 fold the force against him. Zhao releases the spirit back into the water, but then kills it with a fire blast, causing the spiritual equivalent of a lunar eclipse, rendering the Waterbenders powerless. Iroh unleashes his firepower and easily defeats the soldiers accompanying Zhao, but Zhao himself manages to escape. The camera then pans behind Yue (still sitting on Appa) to reveal Zuko is missing.
- As Zhao tries to escape, Zuko shoots a fireball at him. Shocked that Zuko is alive, Zhao confirms he tried to have him killed because of him being the Blue Spirit and for releasing the Avatar. Zuko says he had no choice, but Zhao tells Zuko he should have accepted his fate as a failure and a disgrace. Zuko continues to battle Zhao.
- Iroh lifts the white fish out of the water and Yue says, "There’s no hope now; it's over." Aang goes into the Avatar State and responds, "No, It is NOT over," as he proceeds to walk into the oasis. Katara tries to follow, but Iroh gestures her to let him go. Aang merges with the Ocean Spirit, likely allowing La to take on its' spiritual form it had given up to become that of a humble fish, and heads out and attacks the Fire Nation invaders in the city. The Ocean Spirit (with Aang) then heads out into the open ocean and attack the Fire Nation ships. Meanwhile, Iroh places the white fish back into the oasis and then notices that Yue has been touched by the Moon Spirit.
- Yue decides it is her duty to give the life she was given back to the Moon Spirit, despite Sokka’s protests. As she entered into the pond, her life force left her to revive the Moon spirit and her white hair turned black. All the men who bowed down earlier stood out and watched in awe when the moon returned. Zhao notices the moon’s return as he and Zuko continues to battle. The Ocean Spirit sees the moon is back, places Aang atop a piece of the outer wall, and then heads back into the Water Tribe city. As the spirit oasis glows, Yue's body disappears, and the white fish also glows and begins to swim.
- The spirit image of Yue appears above the water to tell Sokka she will always be with him. Her spirit kisses Sokka one last time before becoming the Moon. Later at the bridge, the Ocean Spirit grabs Zhao and begins to take him away. Zuko tries to help, but Zhao stubbornly refuses to accept Zuko’s hand. Zhao is pulled into the water and disappears.
- After the battle, Master Pakku announces plans to head to the Southern Water Tribe with other tribe members to help rebuild their sister tribe. Katara asks about Aang's training and Pakku tells her that Aang will have to get used to calling her Master Katara. Chief Arnook quietly tells Sokka about the vision the spirits gave him when Yue was born about a young woman giving her life to become the moon. Sokka replies that he must be proud. The Chief says he is proud, and sad.
- Iroh slyly says he is surprised Zuko is not at that moment trying to capture the Avatar. Zuko declares he is tired, and Iroh soothingly tells him he should rest. Zuko closes his eyes. Katara meets up with Aang and they embrace. Momo jumps in as Sokka takes hold of Aang's shoulder and Appa shows up as they all look out at the moon realizing they managed to ward off the Fire Nation and there is still hope to restore balance.
- Back in the Fire Nation, Fire Lord Ozai ominously gives Azula an undisclosed task.
It may be almost similar to the series, at least it does not contradict with the show's continuity. I don't what the reviews would say, but as long as majority of the people who watch the movie, fans or non-fans, enjoy the movie as a whole.