Friday, December 03, 2010

The Last Airbender (the movie)

Spoilers ahead.

Saw the movie version of Avatar: The Last Airbender tonight. If you haven't seen it yet, and if you have never seen the animated series, here is my recommendation: don't watch the movie. Just watch the animated series, from beginning to end if you can. The movie attempted to condense 20 half-hour episodes into an hour and 45 minutes. It resulted in about the same kind of movie that Dune was. If you had already seen the series, you knew what was going on, or what was supposed to be going on. If you hadn't, well... The bad news is, there has to be two more movies like this to finish the whole series.

A couple of technical gripes. Aang running sideways along a wall (using his airbending skills) looked really slow and lame. Actually, pretty much all of the elemental bending special effects looked far too slow. Also Aang never used his airball technique, which was a disappointment for both me and the kids. I was looking forward to seeing a CGI version of that. Another thing that bugged all of us is that the pronunciation of some of the names was changed from the series. And if you only watch the movie, you'll never know that Appa and Momo had names. Also the movie was entirely lacking in the humor that made a large part of the series, which meant there was no tension at all between humor and suspense. Another weird thing was that the Fire people all looked Middle Eastern, the Earth tribes looked Asian, and the Water and Air people looked like everyone else.

Another thing that was different was that in the movie, Aang was told by a spirit-dragon that the Avatar is not allowed to hurt people. This was absolutely not so in the series. Aang's avoidance of killing and even injuring when possible was purely his personal choice, and several spirit beings as well as the spirits of previous Avatars told him he was going to have to get over that if he was going to save the world.

And for the love of sanity, don't form an opinion on the overall story arc if you only see the movie. There is so much more background and development in the series that the movie is just a joke, but not the funny kind.

I keep thinking of more things I could say that were wrong with it, but I think I've had enough. Like I said, just watch the series.


  1. I second you on the Dune movie. I was very familiar with the book, so I could follow along with the movie. But, as I was watching it for the first time in the theaters, I remember thinking to myself that anyone who hasn't read the book would be completely lost. They tried to pack too much in.

    Other than that, I like the movie. The overall visuals and atmosphere are incredible, and they more than make up for some of the weaker special effects.

  2. My son is a big fan of the animated series, and I pop in and enjoy some of it while he is viewing them. We went to see the movie in theaters when it came out and enjoyed it mildly, but were disappointed, too, in the heavy atmosphere and lack of fun. I thought that Aang's moves seemed well choregraphed but executed in such a rote way that it seemed the actor was counting the beats. This was also the only movie I have seen in 3D since the fad came back and I was very underwhelmed. Still, some decent visuals and adventure.