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The Last Airbender: A Review


shamelessposer

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In this review I assume that you are familiar with Avatar: The Last Airbender and that you don't mind being spoiled on an adaptation of that same work.

 

Aasif Mandvi's Zhao gets the movie's best lines and he generally does an admirable job with the material he's been given. Zuko is played by Dev Patel, and it's interesting to see how he manages a generally presentable performance when faced with direction cues that began and ended with "Use your outdoor voice." Shaun Toub convinced me that in a movie where Iroh is written as Iroh, he would have been an acceptable choice.

 

This is the extent of my praise for the film.

 

The only clear theme that presents itself in this film is that women are useless. The Last Airbender both starts and ends with this premise. The film opens with Katara drenching Sokka with water as she experiments with waterbending. This is also the start to the series, but where the two differ is that Movie Katara only once demonstrates any greater amount of proficiency. It's Sokka, not Katara, who begins the process of thawing out Aang, and in fact Katara's entire character arc was removed from the film. Rather than slowly mastering waterbending, she starts the series with no ability, jeopardizes her brother and Aang in the end of the first act, practices with Pakku without having to prove herself, loses to Zuko in less than a minute, and then later encases Zuko in ice when his back is turned and he's in the middle of a fight with Aang.

 

Yue is introduced in narration. While Yue and Sokka exchange weird stares, Katara tells us in voiceover that they quickly became friends. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your romance plot. When it comes time for Yue to sacrifice herself to bring back the moon spirit, she is not the one to make this decision. Instead, Iroh says "You can give your life back to the moon spirit." Instead of being the tragic sacrifice a leader makes for her people, Yue is demoted to sacrificial virgin as Iroh tells her "Kill yourself or we all die." In short, no woman in this movie makes a decision that is in any way consequential to the plot.

 

Suki, asskicker and important figure in Sokka's life, doesn't make an appearance and doesn't rate a mention. Kiyoshi is only touched upon when yet another old person shows up to deliver yet another page of exposition. "She liked games," he said. This makes Kiyoshi the most developed female character in the film.

 

Stepping away from the weird misogynist overtones, Iroh goes from "old badass" to "decrepit whiner." Rather than engaging in a pitched battle with Zhao to defend the moon spirit as he did in the series, Iroh simply stands by and says "Hey, don't do that." At no point in the film does he ever really stand up for Zuko, instead standing by and saying nothing when Zhao insults Zuko's honor and indirectly accuses Iroh of killing his own son through incompetence. It's a testament to Shaun Toub's performance that his Iroh still comes across as a halfway likable guy.

 

I didn't personally count Sokka's lines, but I would be genuinely surprised if he got more than twenty lines of dialogue. At one point in the movie, Yue tells a joke. This only merits mention because Yue tells exactly one joke more than Sokka in this movie. Movie Sokka has no definable personality traits, and if not for the fact that I could describe his performance as being like that of an Attack of the Clones-era Hayden Christensen I would say the character was a complete non entity.

 

One particular complaint I have with this film, and some will call it a fanboy nitpick, is what was left in the movie and what was taken away. The pirates were completely excised from the script, as were penguin sledding, King Bumi, Jun, the inventors at the Northern Air Temple, Koh the Face Stealer, Jeong Jeong, Suki, and character development. What was the one thing that stayed? Haru. ****ing Haru. You might remember Haru from one of the several filler episodes in which he accomplished nothing and said nothing with any importance to the plot or any entertainment value. Somehow a much younger version of him ends up in the film and, simply by virtue of being onscreen, somehow inspires Aang to fight against evil or whatever.

 

There's more that could be said about this movie. I could, for example, point out that the color balance was set so that everything in the world of The Last Airbender is either orange or teal, the night sky included. I could mention the completely unnecessary changes to character names. Zhao's death and Aang's Avatar State are each handled in a way so anticlimactic that you would not believe my description of either event unless you have already seen the movie. The film makes clear that the real twist in The Sixth Sense was that Haley Joel Osment was some sort of diabolical fluke, and in reality M. Night Shyamalan is to casting and directing child actors as George Lucas is to casting and directing child actors. Entire pages could be dedicated to how each of these events in some way diminished my enjoyment of the film, but the truth is, after seeing this movie I'm just exhausted and depressed.

 

I paid six dollars and seventy-five cents to see The Last Airbender. I do not consider this wasted money. By paying to see this movie, I have contributed money to the Get Nickelodeon To Greenlight More Stuff In The Franchise Fund, a noble cause if ever there was one. If you want to support this cause, by a ticket or ten, but for god's sake don't even think of sitting in the theater.

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I gave the thread five stars also.

 

Anywho, I'll admit I know next to nothing about Avatar: The Last Airbender, don't think I've ever seen it, but I thought the movie looked pretty interesting from the previews.

 

Sadly, I don't think I've seen even one positive review for it anywhere.

 

:(

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I gave the thread five stars also.

 

Anywho, I'll admit I know next to nothing about Avatar: The Last Airbender, don't think I've ever seen it, but I thought the movie looked pretty interesting from the previews.

 

Sadly, I don't think I've seen even one positive review for it anywhere.

 

:(

 

I am a huge fan of the series. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It's probably the best thing to come out of American animation in the last ten years, and the DVDs can be had for very little on Amazon. You can pick up the whole series for less than seventy dollars.

 

This isn't a "They Changed It, Now It Sucks" review. I'm not a raving fanboy complaining about minor script changes. The problem is that the TV show effortlessly shifted between lighthearted adventure and pretty heavy issues, where the movie instead chooses to just pile on the grim. This is a children's movie, based on one of the funnier series I've seen, in which there are a total of four jokes. Two are kind of funny. I went to a matinee showing and children, the target audience, mostly just looked bored.

 

To pick an example of the differences between the series and movie, I'll take Katara.

 

Katara, in the series Avatar: The Last Airbender, from time to time fills the role of sister, daughter, leader, den mother, vengeance-seeker or love interest, and none of these feel forced or out of character. It's easy to see how she'd be a role model for a little girl.

 

Katara in the movie The Last Airbender mostly stands around and fails at things. Most of her big moments are given to other characters or completely undercut. I think she's referred to by name twice. There's no character there.

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I appreciate that, but it's not the star that bothers me. It's more that someone would give a negative review of the thing without even bothering to say why.

 

Its not even worth thinking about. Maybe they one star all threads. Or maybe they dont like your avatar. Or maybe they are blind and cant watch movies so now they hate all of them.

 

Its really not worth thinking about.

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Eeek.

 

I think maybe M Shamalam or however his name is spelled tried to pull a Harry Potter without the several films worth of direction its taken to bring it to a truly serious moment. I haven't seen the film but the more I read the more I'm dreading it.

 

Like you, our entire household LOVES Avatar. For those of you who like animation and haven't seen it you're honestly doing yourself a disservice by not watching this show. The levels of thought that went into this masterpiece is felt from the moment you watch the first episode. The characters are all patterned based off of real life in some way or another and you pick up on it as the series moves on. If you watch the behind the scenes stuff for the series it really blows your mind.

 

My only real gripe with the series is probably how they handle Sokka. He has his moments where he stands out as being someone who can stand on his own, but for the most part he's largely lost in the shuffle with all of the other benders and superior fighters (even Mai and Ty Lee looked bad ass compared to Sokka. Well in truth they were but honestly...he should have been beefed up just a touch more).

 

But in reading your review it sounds like the director saw the same thing and opted to bring Sokka to the forefront.

 

All in all though I'm disappointed by what I'm reading above. I really wanted this movie to succeed (again comparing it to a lesser Harry Potter like series wouldn't have been off IMO). And I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the series either.

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But in reading your review it sounds like the director saw the same thing and opted to bring Sokka to the forefront.

 

Exactly the opposite. Avatar: The Last Airbender Sokka is the boomerang/plan/meat/sarcasm guy. He's Batman, if Batman's secret identity was James Bond. He is a god among men.

 

Case in point:

 

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_CEAkOMA8acc/SRZGsigVemI/AAAAAAAABLo/9O7Z2Rrf668/wangfirecg5.jpg

 

Movie Sokka is completely relegated to the background. Another fan did count his lines, and figured out he only gets about sixteen sentences of dialogue. He mostly just stands around, gets captured, and watches Yue die. At no point in this movie does he do anything.

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I disagree he's a god among men. I felt quite the opposite having watched the series. He's comic relief first, plan guy second (which is good), meat and sidekick guy third, and warrior boomerang guy way down at the bottom some where. He's supposed to be a good warrior but almost consistently gets his butt kicked until the 3rd book and he meets the Swordmaster. Even then it ends up being more about the sword he made than he himself. Even Toph grew faster as a character than he did.

 

But anyways, in regards to my previous comment, it was more directed to the fact that you mentioned he seems to be better than Katara. Which that is a joke in and of itself as she grew to be a master water bender by the end of the 1st book and only got way more powerful from there.

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I disagree he's a god among men. I felt quite the opposite having watched the series. He's comic relief first, plan guy second (which is good), meat and sidekick guy third, and warrior boomerang guy way down at the bottom some where. He's supposed to be a good warrior but almost consistently gets his butt kicked until the 3rd book and he meets the Swordmaster. Even then it ends up being more about the sword he made than he himself. Even Toph grew faster as a character than he did.

 

Toph grew faster because Toph is an unstoppable, soulless killing machine and I wish there was a Nobel Prize for Awesome that could be awarded to whoever created her.

 

But anyways, in regards to my previous comment, it was more directed to the fact that you mentioned he seems to be better than Katara. Which that is a joke in and of itself as she grew to be a master water bender by the end of the 1st book and only got way more powerful from there.

 

The only reason Sokka's presented as "better" than Katara in the movie is because he's a dude, and the film goes far out of its way to establish that women are useless idiots.

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I remember seeing Avatar -- I think I got most of the way through the first book, but then I got lazy about watching and lost track of where I was.

 

The thing I think I liked most about that show was that Aang was a pretty believable character, even though he was clearly written to be a kind of mini-Buddha by a white guy, which USUALLY (but not in this case) turns out to be really stupid. I assumed that having some other white guy try to make a movie about it would either make it emberassingly overplayed or miss it entirely.

 

It's good to know, though, that all the romantic subplots and interpersonal relationships also went over the directors head, making my presumptions more than 100% correct.

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First....

 

I paid six dollars and seventy-five cents to see The Last Airbender.

 

Where on earth do I need to pay less than $7 to see a show?

 

Second, I'm not a fan of the manga but even without seeing the movie and no knowledge of the source material, I found this review of Airbender hilarious....M. Night Shyamalan Finally Made A Comedy. [spoiler review, but I figure if you are in this thread you already know that.]

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Couldn't the same have been said about the other Avatar and "It's a war for oil/American 'imperialism'"?

 

James Cameron's Avatar stole a few bits and pieces from old sci-fi novels and then crammed them into a Dances With Wolves plot. He created the characters, so he "owns" them. He can do whatever he wants with them.

 

Shyamalan's The Last Airbender had a blueprint in the form of a successful and popular TV series that appealed to all ages, and for the most part he ignored it. Characters mostly engage in the same actions they did on the TV show, but their motivations are all wrong. There are at least four strong female characters present in the chunk of the series this movie is supposed to be adapting, and Shyamalan ignored two of them and then inverted the characterization of the remaining two.

 

It's unfortunate when a children's movie lacks any role models for girls. It's infuriating when the writer/director is handed these characters on a silver platter and then makes a conscious decision to destroy them.

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I remember seeing Avatar -- I think I got most of the way through the first book, but then I got lazy about watching and lost track of where I was.

 

Dude! You need to watch more. It doesn't even really get good until Book Two. You've missed out on Azula and Toph and most of Iroh's awesomeness and Clancy Brown as an Orwellian dictator.

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I always thought Cameron's was Pocahontas/A New World. For that reason, I refuse to see it (plus the political slant). Besides, if you say it's Dances with Wolves, seen that enough and it's great, don't need to see a sci-fi version of it.

 

But MNS has had two movies with strong female characters, and no one made a big deal about that. But parents still take kids to movies to find a moral center? Can't that be discussed at home?

 

In the interest of full disclosure, I have no plans on seeing this movie, so these questions are being asked in a theoretical sense.

 

EDIT: One was a strong female character, the other was the main character...

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I caught a matinee showing. I live in Greensboro, and for some reason movies are "cheap" here. There's even a much less nice bargain theater in town that has a four dollar matinee for first-run movies.

 

Oh alright, matinee explains it. That's crazy about four bucks for new movies...especially Greensboro since it's a pretty big metro area. I've stayed in High Point before when I drive from Florida back up home as a halfway point, nice area. I'll have to check out the theaters there next time.

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I always thought Cameron's was Pocahontas/A New World. For that reason, I refuse to see it (plus the political slant). Besides, if you say it's Dances with Wolves, seen that enough and it's great, don't need to see a sci-fi version of it.

 

But MNS has had two movies with strong female characters, and no one made a big deal about that. But parents still take kids to movies to find a moral center? Can't that be discussed at home?

 

In the interest of full disclosure, I have no plans on seeing this movie, so these questions are being asked in a theoretical sense.

 

EDIT: One was a strong female character, the other was the main character...

 

I guess I don't understand the mindset of "refusing" to see something that is about 95% spectacle because you have heard the general plot before. How does that make any sense? "I refuse to see Jaws because the plot is such a rip-off of Beowulf!" "I refuse to see the Lion King because the plot is a rip-off of Hamlet!" I don't get it.

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I refuse to see it partly on the political slant, and partly because it's flash (3D) over substance (tired plot). A lot of people loved it (for the flash or the substance). That's fine. Just not my cup of tea.
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I always thought Cameron's was Pocahontas/A New World. For that reason, I refuse to see it (plus the political slant). Besides, if you say it's Dances with Wolves, seen that enough and it's great, don't need to see a sci-fi version of it.

 

I haven't seen the whole thing, but I'd say it's more about European colonialism than American imperialism. It's about killing people for their land, not invading a sovereign nation for its oil. There's also the same weird racial issues that come up in any Dances With Wolves plot.

 

But MNS has had two movies with strong female characters, and no one made a big deal about that.

 

Competent female characters should be so commonplace that they deserve as much mention from a critic as whether or not the lighting was adequate. The damsel in distress is so embedded a cliche that it's going to turn up from time to time, but it's inexcusable to take a cool character from Column A and turn her into an idiot from Column B.

 

But parents still take kids to movies to find a moral center? Can't that be discussed at home?

 

Superman is a cool guy, and while I might not be able to fly I can still at least try to live up to his ideals of Truth, Justice, and The American Way. He doesn't replace my parents, but he serves as a morality booster shot (and a dandy tutor on socialist ideals, if you read the really early stuff). If I had a little girl, I'd like her to see portrayals of intelligent, capable female figures rather than the alternative. Child psychology is a complex thing, and little girls especially need every self esteem boost they can get.

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Quite honestly, on the subject of strong female role models, I think they can be handled a right way that is emotionally honest and engaging. Then there's men with breasts, generally played by Angelina Jolie.

 

I think that strong women should be represented in film, simply for the same reason that strong men are portrayed. Not all strong men are Arnold Schwartzenegger, some strong capable men are Henry Fonda or Jimmy Stewart, and that's not really represented in film. Discuss.

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Superman is a cool guy, and while I might not be able to fly I can still at least try to live up to his ideals of Truth, Justice, and The American Way. He doesn't replace my parents, but he serves as a morality booster shot (and a dandy tutor on socialist ideals, if you read the really early stuff). If I had a little girl, I'd like her to see portrayals of intelligent, capable female figures rather than the alternative. Child psychology is a complex thing, and little girls especially need every self esteem boost they can get.

 

Agree completely. Have two girls of my own, and although we don't in any way use tv and movies to teach them morals or to provide a role model for them, we do ensure the little exposure they get to characters in these mediums lines up with the things we are trying to teach them.

 

My daughters love the Disney Princess, but when they ask to watch a movie you will rarely find me putting Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty (both of which they love), or Snow White on for them. They are too D.I.D. for my tastes. I'd much rather them watch Mulan, The Little Mermaid, or the CGI Barbie movies (seriously Barbie is never D.I.D. in those).

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Agree completely. Have two girls of my own, and although we don't in any way use tv and movies to teach them morals or to provide a role model for them, we do ensure the little exposure they get to characters in these mediums lines up with the things we are trying to teach them.

 

My daughters love the Disney Princess, but when they ask to watch a movie you will rarely find me putting Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty (both of which they love), or Snow White on for them. They are too D.I.D. for my tastes. I'd much rather them watch Mulan, The Little Mermaid, or the CGI Barbie movies (seriously Barbie is never D.I.D. in those).

 

Maybe we'll get one of those if/when Atlas Shrugged comes out (with Angelina Jolie).

 

EDIT: Last I had seen, Jolie was attached to the film, but not anymore. Will still go see it.

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