Review: The Last Airbender by Jamie

Some spoilers for the cartoon and the movie are ahead. Not really that much though.

Also if you’re a child who has somehow stumbled upon this review to find out about what is, to be fair, a film aimed at children, you might want to look elsewhere. Things might get curse wordy.

I had never watched ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ until this past weekend managing to get through all three series in about three days. The reason was so that I could properly compare the series to the M. Night Shyamalan ‘The Last Airbender’ which is based on said series. What did I think of the series? Well, I fucking loved it. There is so much greatness within a show that it would be impossible to explain just how awesome it is and why in this opening paragraph. Let’s just say that if you haven’t seen it, you should watch it at your next possible opportunity.

But no, this review isn’t about the show. It’s about the movie. Let’s start of with some of the good things. Well, the special effects were pretty good and the settings did look like the places that were in the show, so yeah, that was OK. Also the costumes seemed pretty accurate too. Still if I had one complaint with the special effects it’s that the elements being bended didn’t seem to flow as well with the people doing the bending as they did in the show.

Well, that’s pretty much the good stuff out of the way, now onto the rest of the film. The show had spirit, heart and an engaging story. The movie has none of these things. Seriously, it’s like they got a bunch of cosplayers together and got them to play out short vignettes of things that sort of happened in the cartoon. Cosplayers that weren’t particularly good actors. Scenes skip by as characters move from place to place with no journey in between with just the occasional bit of narration to fill us in with things that happened in the cartoon that they just didn’t have time to put into the film.

It’s almost like M. Night watched the series, noted down a few scenes he considered to be important, changed them slightly so they’d fit within an hour and a half and then ignored everything that came between those scenes which is a massive, massive shame because it’s in those journeying scenes between that you often got proper character development within the series. What I’m basically saying is that this is a film about an epic quest with most of the quest removed. You don’t even get the sense that Sokka and Katara have become friends with Aang. It just seems like they view him as a super weapon that they have to stop from getting into the wrong hands.

Whole plot points which become massively important later on in the story are excised completely such as the Kyoshi warriors and the city of Omashu. Of course the characters involved in those parts of the story are lucky that they’ve been left out because, fucking hell, the characters that have been left in are pretty much just cardboard cutouts of the characters from the show, their personalities barely recognisable or even apparent during most of the film.

Aang (pronounced rhyming with sung here rather than sang for… some reason) isn’t the goofy and plucky young boy who seems good natured despite what he has experienced and what he has to overcome. No, now he’s all dark and depressed and serious because… well everything has to be dark and serious these days, doesn’t it? Nothing can be fun anymore. Well you know what, M. Night? Some things work when you make them dark like Batman and some things don’t like Avatar: The Last Airbender! Aang is a likeable character because of his fun-loving nature and the occasional times when he did get upset only furthered to flesh out his character not become his defining character trait. Damn it. Fuck you M. Night. Fuck you.

And thanks to the protracted nature of the story, certain moments of character development go by and seem completely pointless. For example in this film when Kuzo dresses up as the Blue Spirit and recovers Aang from Zhao’s custody, it’s pretty much just a way to get the story from point A to point B because it didn’t seem like Kuzo had been pursuing them for any time at all. In the show it had emotional resonance because they actually share a moment in the forest after the rescue where Aang offers his would be kidnapper the opportunity for friendship. No, honestly, fuck you M. Night.

Oh and the dialogue! Fuck the dialogue. It’s pretty much all exposition. Literally, I don’t think there’s a line in here that isn’t just explaining something which could have just been shown. You could probably watch this without actually looking at the screen and still be able to tell what the basic gist of the story is because it’s all helpfully explained to you because hey, you’re a moron. A moron who needs everything spelled out for you because you’re too stupid to figure things out if actual plot points or character development is shown to you. They don’t even show Sokka falling in love with Princess Yuwe. It’s simply explained away in a piece of narration in which Katara explains that they have become “fast friends’. Fucking fuck you M. Night. Fuck!

As for the acting, well, it’s kinda hard to describe really. Even Dev Patel, playing Zuko, is pretty much wasted here. I honestly can’t blame the actors for their wooden performances here because I get the feeling that it suffers from the poor direction, poor writing and having to work with CGI that the Star Wars prequels suffered from. To be fair, Aasif Mandvi as general Zhao was probably the best actor on screen but even he was playing such a stock, cardboard cutout villain that it’s hard to get excited about it.

Gah! Thinking about this film is making me feel angry and just a little bit sickly. The worst part is if you’ve seen and enjoyed the series, then this film will piss you off. If you haven’t seen the show I don’t know if you’ll be able to figure out what’s going on at all. It’s a lose-lose situation. I would say that this will probably be the worst film of the year but we still have an outing from Friedberg and Seltzer to come in the form of Vampires Suck so yeah, it’s still up in the air at the moment. Fuck. I think I know how Dragonball fans felt when Dragonball Evolution came out.

At the end of the day there is just no fun in this film and that’s the biggest crime of all. The show managed to take these children characters and put them in dangerous situations with serious consequences but it always managed to be fun. This is just a soulless interpretation of the source material and it sucks hard. I’ll end with a quote from episode 17 of the third series. The characters have just left a play which has been based on their adventures. It applies pretty damn well to this film adaptation of their journey as well…

Zuko: That… Wasn’t a good play.
Aang: I’ll say.
Katara: No kidding.
Suki: Horrible.
Toph: You said it.
Sokka: But the effects were decent.
Aang: Fucking fuck you to hell, M. Night. Fuck you to hell.

OK, that last line wasn’t in the episode but I think you gt the idea. The Last Air Bender get’s a half a pint out of five. Laterz.

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