The Last Airbender
The Last Airbender Review
I saw this film using the same method I used to see the movie I hated last year. I went in with expectations that this film would only be on the same level as said film… And I was totally blown away... And not in the good sense. And understand, this wasn't a bad movie… This was the most convoluted, poorly acted, awfully choreographed, snooze inducing, *&^%(^& creating, &**%&*(ing, pile o' s***@#$^&**^%*&^&@#^%&* I have seen this year and it actually manages to surpass Dragonball Evolution. Yes people, I'm going that far, this movie manages to surpass the worst movie of 2009 in terms of utter suckage. Before I continue any further, I would here forth like to offer my most sincere apologies to Mr. James Wong for any ill intent I may have had against him in the aftermath of my viewing experience. I though Dragonball Evolution would be the barrel bottom establishment for Hollywood adaptations to come, but it turns out that with seemingly enough determination and hatred, even said film can be surpassed in terms of staining a great franchise.
So what did this movie do so badly? Well I think I should begin by explaining what this movie did right, and those are the very few straws I can grasp at that are actually worth mentioning. Visually the film is actually quite faithful to what the world of the cartoon would have looked like, and the music was pretty decent and fit the overall theme of the film. And the rest of the pros… That's it. I am not kidding. Everything else that follows is something that could have been a redeeming factor somehow, but manages to get *&^(*&%ed so badly!
So to begin with the story, it obviously follows the same overall plot of the first season of the cartoon itself. Sokka and Katara free Aang from his 100 year slumber and discover that he is the Avatar who must bring order to the four elemental nations of the planet. Sounds like a decent reverence for the source material so far right? Well the problem isn't within the overall plot of the film, but rather the way Shyamalan attempted to portray it.
First of all, the acting… Oh Avatar Roku please don't get me started on the (&*^ing acting… Want to know who the best actor in the entire film is? Dee Bradley Baker does the voice of Appa. Yes, the voice actor of a character who had no dialogue in the series is the highlight of the acting. The problem isn't that everyone else isn't a miscast, or everyone acts totally outside of the memorable nature of the characters from the series, or that everyone doesn't seem uninterested in where the plot is going, the problem is all of the above.
Aang isn't the happy, playful guy we came to care about, he's now a moping whiny brat who puts the most dedicated emos to shame, and Noah Ringer was absolutely terrible on the front of trying to make him likeable at all. And then there's Nicola Peltz as Katara, gone is the likeable, powerful and determined figure many of us could respect, but now replaced with a helpless and practically worthless side character who no one could give two *(^)s about. You also might be wondering, "Surely they couldn't have gotten Sokka wrong could they?" I don't know how it was possible, but WRONG! Gone is the hilarious loveable guy who would always crack a smile or laugh in every episode, now replaced with some *(^&*^y expendable character who can't reach anyone in the audience! AND THIS (*)^#@%ed ME OFF CONSIDERABLY, CAUSE HE WAS MY FAVORITE CHARACTER!!!! The decline goes even further when apparently someone in the casting department might as well have thought, "Uh, I don't think we're getting a lot of talent in here. Why don't we just get that one guy from Slumdog Millionaire to perform as Zuko?" I haven't seen Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire, but if this performance of Zuko is a demonstration of his ability as an actor, then I might as well avoid that movie. Yes, his performance was so bad as Zuko, he managed to knock Nuclear Man off my list of five worst cinematic villains. I'm not saying Zuko was the exact definition of a b@d@$$ in the series either, but at least Dante Basco put some edge of emotion into him when he did his voice acting. Even the other main villains have been shoehorned into a poor rendition. I can't say if Shaun Toub was any good as Iroh, but that's in part because he literally has about four lines throughout the entire &*^((ing film! Ugh… I could go on for probably hours and hours about this being probably the worst casting I have ever seen in my life. This casting is so bad it makes Batman and Robin look like it was done by and all-star cast. Not even Aasif Mandvi as Admiral Zhao is able to put in an edge of… Wait a minute… Aasif Mandvi?! AASIF MANDVI FROM THE (*^&(*ING DAILY SHOW?!?!?!? NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So the casting in a nutshell: fail. And sadly this is where the problems only begin. Next up, the script of the film. This script is so bad that just a few minutes into the film when Katara and Sokka were introduced, I was wondering, "Am I watching a movie or a Youtube video disguised as such?!" You see the writing is just awful. The dialogue is limpy, and everything is given exposition in attempts to give the audience something to understand. That's the amazing thing, Katara narrates everything to the audience like we were young children who couldn't understand everything. EVEN THE )(&*^(&*^ING TEXT SCROLL AT THE BEGINNING! It was understandable when this was done with Power Rangers: The Movie, but I'm fully capable of reading this day in age mind you. I should also mention the controversial name pronunciations that the film has undergone, yes every bit of it is true. Shyamalan has become such a bad script writer that he actually tells the actors to pronounce the terminology. Avatar is now pronounced "Ah-vuh-tar", Aang is now pronounced "Uungh", even a name as simple to pronounce as Sokka are now pronounced "Soah-Kah". I could understand attempting to be more close to the feel of where the names originated, but when a source material has pretty much established how something is supposed to work, I think it should be followed as such. The end result was just (&*^*&^ing annoying and made me want to poke holes in my head.
And before I forget, plot hole alert!, there's even a scene where earth benders are kept in a prison camp… With earth right beneath them… And they can only escape once Aang appears… This is even worse than that distance change in Dragonball Evolution when it turned out the dragon ball was only a few feet away when it was actually a few miles away at first! Is the Earth Kingdom this &)(*^*(*ing stupid?! If so I'm baffled as to how the war between them and the Fire Nation took 100 years.
Now you might be wondering with this being a summer action blockbuster and all, "Surely this movie must at least have some cool action sequences to make up for this?" Well it does have some decent action sequences, but they're snooze inducing, extraneous, and not memorable at all. Not to mention that practically everything is done in slow motion in attempts to show off some cool fight choreography, but it does nothing to add to a sense of adventure or glitz. The special effects do give off the sense of actual elemental bending, but the way the actors bend the elements is just overplayed and ridiculous, it looks more like some bad MTV ninja rap instead of actual bending.
And the conclusion. Oh dear lord the conclusion left such a bad taste in my mouth that I cannot describe it if I had tasted Onion-Banana juice myself. Practically the whole film is spent as an attempt to get the three main characters to the Northern Water Kingdom, and even this sequence is just "meh" at best. Once again, there is almost no emotional impact or reason to care about who's winning or losing. This is the whole problem of the film as well, there's practically no reason to care about whose side each other is on. There's no reason to fear the Fire Nation, they just sail around in their giant ships all like, "HAHAHA! We are the Fire Nation! Fear us!" And everyone else is like, "Okay, let's just follow the numbers." And needless to say, the film does end with the Fire Nation being defeated in a similar way to the series (won't spoil it) and there's no reason to care about any character deaths. Even worse though is that Shyamalan actually ended this film off on a (&*^*(&ing cliffhanger! It ends with Ozai sending Azula to find Aang (And WHOLLY! She's UGHLY!) And the credits role. Whoopy.
You know, I wasn't really expecting a 100% faithful adaptation to the big screen, I wasn't expecting this to be a perfect movie… But this is just ridiculous. Truth be told, I can actually understand how it was that Dragonball Evolution turned out so badly (Yes… This movie has caused me from stop calling Dragonball Evolution "Devolution" anymore). It was basically James Wong's attempt to adapt a whole story arc into 82 minutes while leaving out two entire story arcs that happened prior to it. That was understandable… But what we have here, is a 103 minute movie that's only supposed to cover the first (^&*ing season! WHICH WAS ONLY 20 EPISODES LONG! DRAGONBALL *(&^(*)&^()S THAT MANY EPISODES FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!!!!! There have been many bad adaptations in the past, but Shyamalan's recent work just makes me sick to my stomach…
I also know some people have tried defending it as a children's film, but really, if I were 14 again and I saw this film myself after seeing the series, I would sooner sit through every season of Sailor Moon (dubbed or subbed) than ever sit through another trailer of this filth again. And I hated Sailor Moon as a kid by the way, so consider that how serious this comparison is.
I can list one episode towards the end of the series titled "The Ember Island Players." Just watch this episode alone and you'll have an idea of what to expect from The Last Airbender. Not to mention the comments made by the characters resound very well to this film as well, "Worst play ever." "But the effects were decent." And so on. It would seem as if the director of this episode knew this movie was coming and we would have to endure it at some point. Who knows? Maybe another dozen or so years down the line somebody will come along and try to revitalize this story and tell it the way it should have been told. Whatever the case, just anyone other than M. Night Shyamalan please. I'll take Stephen Sommers, Michael Bay, Bret Ratner, or even Lawrence Guterman if it means an alternative director from this clown.
Before I finish up, I'd like to say a few things. First thing, to Hollywood. FIRST DRAGONBALL, NOW THIS?!?!?!?!? It was understandable how Dragonball was &*^%*^%ed into getting a subpar adaptation, but Avatar: the Last Airbender?! If this is considered by anyone to be an anime adaptation, which I'm pretty sure it isn't, then I swear by anyone who reads this, that if James Cameron's Battle Angel doesn't even have a dash of decency in it, I will personally consider anime adaptations to be the new video game adaptations (beyond saving, zero quality control, and the epitome of bad filmmaking.) Just a little forewarning there.
Second, I'd like to offer my most sincere congratulations to M. Night Shyamalan. You have officially taken the roots of what were the beginning of a respectable career and tossed them into a boiling pot of bison (&*%(^&*%(^& and brewed a tea so bad that the real Iroh from the series would spit it nowhere but on your face. As of right now, you have officially earned a low ranking down with the likes of Uwe Boll and Paul W.S. Anderson. Never again sir… Never again.
Finally, I know what you're thinking, "Worst film of 2010 right?" Wrong. You see, in my book, films require competence. Grand humor. Shiny happy people holding hands! No my friends. The Last Airbender is not a film… IT IS A &*(^%)*&%^&*()^(&*%^&*^%^&*%&*^(&*^(&*^(*^%(*&^&*(^%(&*%*(^%*(^IYU^(&*^%&^%(*^$(&(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!