As you know i am an avid Avatar the Last Airbender fan, absolutely rabid about the animated series, one of my first blog posts was on the animated series, and I’ve subsequently made many posts on the upcoming live action movie. The live action movie, released in America in July, was FINALLY released here, TODAY. So finally i get to the live action Airbender movie.
The problem with getting movies released later here is that by the time it’s released here we’ve heard all the reviews from people on line, or have crappy downloaded copies or know people who have watched crappy downloads. And the reviews for this movie were pretty bad, especially from the fans of the series. Now, i tried very hard to keep an open mind, tried to avoid the avid fans reviews, but it was hard. Now that i have seen the movie i can give my honest opinion of it.
I walked in expecting some disappointment, and i acknowledged that as a fan i would have some disagreement with whatever changes were made to the story. But what i felt watching this movie, was……. words fail me. I did not think it would be that i would be so disappointed.
The movie is very pretty, very pretty, but OH MY GOD THE STORY SUCKED. How could something so awesome be turned into something soooooooooooooo bad?
In all fairness i tried very hard to be open minded about this movie, but after watching it i just can’t be kind. So let me list the things they changed about the movie that i would have been fine with:
The changing of the races. Airbender is set in an Asian world, so how the fire nation became Indian is beyond me. I’m not going to go to deep into the whole race thing, i don’t want to sound racist, but why they had to Westernise their main cast when the whole appeal of the series was their Asianness i just can’t understand. I remember the first casting of Zuko was going to be Jessie McCartney. Oh dear lord a blond Zuko played by a pop star, it’s just embarrassing.
(oh and why suddenly we have a scene with an African nation? Not that i mind, it just doesn’t fit with the Avatarverse.)
The pronunciation of names. WHY??? The way they pronounce the names in the world of Avatar is fine, why did Shallalalalaman (i have lost all respect for him as a storyteller, i refuse to bother to get his name right.) have to change the way they are pronounced, besides the names now sound ridiculous. Aang is now Ung and Sokka, well its So-Kaa now not Sa-kaa. I feel so stupid writing this. While watching the movie my sister would burst into fits of hysterics whenever they said their names. Even Iroh had a rolling of the tongue.
The Firelord. We only officially see him in season 3, where’s the suspense, there was no real need to show the Firelord, cant we have some surprises? It’s not a major problem but it’s something that added some mystery to the Firelord, made him sinister even before we met him.
Uncle Iroh. He was fat, kookie and loveable. I missed his constant tea drinking. And the dreadlocks? A pretty weird move. Actually movie Iroh wasn’t too bad; he had more personality than most of the main cast. Ok he has a honey-pie quality like the original.
Now please understand, i acknowledge that when/ in translating an animation series into a live action movie, changes will be made. I was pretty open minded about the changes they made, but after watching the movie, and seeing what they did to the plot, the construction of the narrative, the acting. Well let’s say all my forgiving open mindedness left me.
OH MY GOSH I DID NOT KNOW YOU COULD RUIN AVATAR THIS BADLY??????????????????????
After watching the movie, i couldn’t help but wonder if Shalalalalaman really understood the fundamentals, the core driving force of characters, situations, plot etc. Did he understand the series as a whole? Did he even care?
One can make a great movie, with virtually no story, as long as the narrative flows. I mean look at James Cameron’s Avatar (bastard who stole the “Avatar” in Airbender) it was a fairly simple story, but the reason it worked so well (apart from looking gorgeous and having actors who could act) was that the narrative itself flowed. There was no random; jolting cuts between scenes, there was a flow and continuity of scenes and narrative.
It was like Shalalalala found it necessary to throw a lot of information at us, rather than actually tell a story. There was very little time devoted to actually developing the characters, which is what the animated series is all about, character development. There wasn’t even playful banter between any of the cast, it was like everything they said was important and had to be said to tell the audience what is happening in this world. It was more like throwing information about the story at the audience rather than telling the story to the audience.
I think one of my biggest problems is the moral dilemma that Aang has. According to the movie, Aang ran away from his Avatar training because he was told he wasn’t allowed to have a family, a home, people to love, and all the things he wants. Also there is suddenly a talking dragon spirit. Said talking dragon spirit tells Aang that the Avatar cannot use violence. WHAT THE HELL KIND OF LOGIC IS THAT????
Airnomads are nomads, they have no set home they travel.
They’re raised by monks, so they have no parents.
That doesn’t mean they can’t fall in love and make babies.
Avatar Roku had a wife and children, Zuko’s great grandfather WAS Avatar Roku!
In the animated series, Aang runs away because they were going to separate him from Monk Gyatso, and force him to train to be the Avatar. Basically he was too young for the responsibility.
The Fire Nation didn’t go to war to destroy the Airbenders because they wanted to destroy the Avatar, they wanted to take over the world. And they pretty much did so.
Aang and the strange talking dragon. There isn’t a talking dragon in the series, Avatar Roku has a dragon, but it doesn’t talk. Avatar Roku is meant to be Aangs guide.
The Avatar is the balance between all 4 elements, if anyone needs to get violent its Aang! The Avatar must fight to protect the balance. Aangs moral dilemma in the series is not that the AVATAR cannot fight and be violent, BUT that he, Aang, has been taught by the monks that all life is sacred, and that he cannot kill. Fighting and killing are two very different things.
Zuko’s scar. WAIT HE HAD A SCAR????? Seriously, the whole point about having a scar, is that it’s meant to be angry and pronounced, something very noticeable. Well movie Zuko’s scar wasn’t good enough, it was hardly noticeable, and the scar is meant to add to Zuko’s angry demeanour. Actually Dev Patel did a great job of being angry Zuko, he was more believable than the rest of the cast. Ok, so because he played a good Zuko, I will forgive them making the Fire Nation Indian. At least one of the cast could act. But give him a more noticeable scar!!!
Katara, pretty to look at, brilliant at whatever martial arts she was taught, but dear lord that girl CANNOT ACT.
Actually I feel that most of the cast couldn’t act, but then maybe it’s because the movie was so badly written, and the dialogue didn’t allow the actors much to work with. But Katara still can’t act.
Sokka. When I watched the behind the scenes of Twilight, and saw what a funny guy Jackson Rathbone was, I thought that he would make a very nice Sokka. So I was absolutely crushed when I realised that he wasn’t given a chance to act at all. Again another character giving lines. They didn’t even give him a chance to say a funny quip or anything. I think he has acted more in all the Twilight movies put together than in this movie. (and Jasper has like the smallest role in the films so far).
But now one of my biggest issues of the entire movie that fans everywhere watched and went HUH!?! The bending. SERIOUSLY?????????? What the hell! The whole beauty about the bending in the animated series was the fast paced action and fluid movement. Also each movement created a response, there was no random 10 minute kata’s before anything happened. The actual speed of the action slowed down so that a bender could spend 5 minutes flailing around before anything happened. As I sat watching this, all I could think was, they are sitting ducks, anyone could so easily shoot them with an arrow before they manage to whip up a quick wind. This random flailing around slows down the action immensely and it looks ridiculous. Bending is the soul of the animated series, it is an absolute marvel of animation skill, and it has been completely ruined in the movie.
Following on from the bending in the movie is changing the fundamental laws of element bending from the series. Suddenly the fire benders actually need fire in order to bend!!!! Can I just point out how weak that makes them? There is a wonderful artist of Deviantart.com who point’s this out.
(check out http://rufftoon.deviantart.com for more awesome Airbender Tv series fan art and errors in the movie)
Basically, what makes the fire benders so powerful is the fact that they can produce their own fire. Take that away and any of the other nations could have trounced them in a second.
I have enjoyed the Avatar Fans venting their frustrations on Deviantart, far more than I will ever enjoy the movie. The most epic scene the animated series ever produced was when Aang went giant spirit fish mode at the end of season 1. Still gives me goosebumps when watching it.
Airbender felt like a bunch of scenes put together, had no character development, crappy dialogue, baaaaaaad acting, and alterations to the plot were so stupid and confusing it made for one REALLY bad script. Didn’t anyone read the script and think: “huh, this is kinda shit!”