The Last Airbender: A review

Lego Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image via Wikipedia

I mentioned before that while my wife is away I have been indulging myself in watching Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix.  Well, Netflix also has the live-action M. Night Shyamalan movie.  Now, I’ve already seen the movie, I got it from Netflix a few months ago and watched it with the wife, but I wanted to watch it again now that I’ve seen all episodes of the TV show, so that I could do a proper review and comparison.  Ah, the joys of being a nerd.

First, it was as bad as I remember it being.  It is a bad movie, with overly cheesy dialog and contrived plot devices.  And they didn’t even remain true to the characters.  There were amazing characters, with great backstory and depth, but none of that transferred into the movie.

My biggest complaint is: Why isn’t Sokka funny?  Sokka was hilarious in the TV show, that was his role, he was the comic relief that did occasionally have a great idea.  He was the un-talented, un-magic one of the group, with Katara being a waterbender, Aang being the Avatar, and when they meet Toph, she’s an earthbender.  But Sokka?  He’s just got his boomerang, his crazy ideas, and his jokes!

Second:  Why did they feel the need to change the pronunciation of half of the names?  It’s not like this was an adaptation of a book, where there may be some debate among readers as to the correct pronunciation of names, unless the author specifically states it.  But this movie was based off of a television show — as in, with sound, we had characters calling each other by name, with correct pronunciation!  And for the movie they decided to throw that all out the window and make up their own.  It’s like somebody got a hold of the script of the television show, thought it was a good idea to make a movie from, but never bothered to actually watch the show.

Third:  As I mentioned before — who wrote the dialog for this movie?  It’s worse than anything I’ve ever heard.  So over-the-top, so cheesy, so let’s-explain-the-obvious-in-case-the-audience-didn’t-get-it-yet.  Now, I understand they’re trying to condense plot and character development that occurs over 20 episodes into one 100-minute movie, but still, I could write better dialog than that.

It seems they hoped that their ‘effective’ use of CGI and 3-D, and interesting martial arts scenes would overshadow all of the flaws in the movie.  For what it is, this movie is all right, but it’s nowhere near as good as the source material.  While I recommend people avoid this movie, I highly recommend the TV show. That is definitely worth watching!

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3 thoughts on “The Last Airbender: A review

  1. YES! EXACTLY!

    First, I’m always glad to hear of someone who likes Avatar as much as me. It’s so much better to be a nerd when you have company.

    Second, I think I heard that Shyamalan was going for more ethnically correct pronunciations, but I agree that when you’ve got a source that gives them to you, changing them is just going to turn people off. It’s like telling your audience, “these aren’t the characters you’ve known and loved for years. Or they are, but you’ve been wrong about them all along.”

    Third, you could write better dialog. Way better.

    Last, thank you for validating my feelings in every way with this post. Feels good. 🙂

  2. Ted

    Oh my goodness. This movie is absolute drivel. When my friends tricked me into watching it (literally tricked; I will never fall for the “we have free pizza” line again), I was rolling on the ground, moaning in pain, slamming my head repeatedly against the wall. I’m not making any of this up. I am being very serious.

    The writing wasn’t just contrived and cheesy — it was outright trash. It’s like they had a kid write the script without any of the precociousness of Axe Cop. The characters were bland, there was no chemistry, no character development, and even the martial arts was so bad it was laughable if it wasn’t for the fact that my stomach felt like it was internally bleeding every time I watched them. The acting was like watching a school play put on by my five year old nephew, except that you’re enraged by the idea that these actors made tons of money off of their mediocre performances.

    And worst of all, that movie offended me as an Asian deep down in my soul in a way that I haven’t felt in a very, very long time (and I’m a pretty easy going guy when it comes to racism). Just…ugh.

    It was quite possibly the worst film I have ever seen in my entire life, and I have seen many bad movies (including Star Wars Christmas Special, which caused much of the same responses). It’s bad enough to be a bad movie; to cannibalize my culture and spit it out in this abominable form only added humiliation to the insult and injury it already afflicted.

    For a good laugh, read Roger Ebert’s review on The Last Airbender which opens with this classic line:

    “‘The Last Airbender’ is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here.”

  3. Tiffany

    I agree about this movie being complete junk. And I haven’t seen the original series, either. (Obviously.)

    And for the record, I don’t stifle my husband’s nerdiness nearly as much as he makes it sound like I do. I more-than-willingly watch Doctor Who, play Settlers & listen lovingly to all of his nerdy (& I mean that in a good way) rants. 🙂

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