Anime Vice News

I Survived The Last Airbender (And I Didn't Even Get A Stupid T-Shirt)

Is The Last Airbender as bad as critics say? Short answer: yes. Yes a million times.


 No matter how bad it gets, remember, we have this to fall back on.
 No matter how bad it gets, remember, we have this to fall back on.
Apologies, dear readers, I probably should have written this up last week when most all of the critical world was abuzz collectively panning M. Night Shyamalan's live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but hey, holiday weekend, hot weather and a general sense of malaise after making the effort to hit up a midnight showing all conspired to allow an excuse for procrastination. By now I'm figuring many of you have read or at least heard of the aforementioned scathing editorials concerning the film--especially Roger Ebert, who busted out a special can of whoop ass not seen for a while--and I suppose I'm here to tell you that, yes, for the most part every dirty little rumor is true and they've butchered Avatar.

I saw the film with Screened.com's very own Alex and Matt Rorie in downtown San Francisco, and while those two immediately had a lot to say following the show I was left in a stupefied torpor that lasted throughout most of the next day. While the animated series is not my all-time favorite (sentimental attachment to Batman: The Animated Series), Avatar is a formidable offering from Nicktoons and a shot across the bow to Japanese studios that I both enjoy watching and respect greatly. The live-action adaptation doesn't diminish my feelings for the source material, thankfully, but it does leave me wondering if any animated show can ever be transfered to a real-world setting with all the bits that make it exciting still intact. 
 
I don't intend to deliver a hate-filled screed on the movie here. Plenty of critics have already done it and, at the risk of sounding self-deprecating, probably written it better than I. However, I do want to lay out just where in the Four Nations things went wrong. 
 
Let's start with the script. Suffice to say, it's fairly atrocious. Late in the film Katara lets loose with the gem "We need to show them that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in their beliefs," which was more a knee-slapper than anything else. Still, as amused as we all were by that line it's one among many examples of why Shyamalan probably shouldn't have penned the script while his attention was split between also being the producer and director. In his defense, though, paring down the entire first season into a 103-page script is a daunting task for any writer. Perhaps the greatest crime the script inflicts upon viewers is that it takes all the humorous interaction of the three main characters we so enjoyed in the animated show and replaces it with faux drama. Does the young audience of Avatar follow that show up with a little after-dinner Law and Order or, perhaps more apt, Legend of the Seeker? Probably not.
 
Going back to compacting the entire first season into a 103-minute film, the sense of journey and discovery is entirely lost here as Aang and pals appear to teleport from one location to another with only a subtitle to give us any indication of where we are now. I guess it's more accurate to say that things just happen because there's no time to explain why or how they happen. Nowhere is this more exemplified than after the gang arrives at the Northern Water Tribe's capital and the budding romance between Sokka and Princess Yue is waved into being by a voice-over from Katara actress Nicola Peltz. Presumably the expository footage for this bonding exists, along with many other scenes that might give us more a sense that the story is moving from South Pole to North Pole, but somehow it all got left on the cutting room floor. 
 
Two things I won't criticize are the effects and the acting. Concerning the former, yes, the post-production 3D is bad--terrible terrible terrible--but the simple solution is just not to plunk down the extra cash and watch it in the normal format it originally was shot in. The action scenes are well-choreographed and it's always fun to watch kids beat the snot out of adults (unless the adult is me). As for the acting, even accounting for my lowered expectations for child and teen actors, plus the fact that this is Noah Ringer's (Aang) first movie appearance, these kids did the best they could with what they were given. Seriously, with a script like this one, it would take the gravitas of a Brando or Welles to convincingly deliver these lines. Cut the actors some slack. 
 
So, yeah, The Last Airbender will probably go down as one of recent history's great big budget flops and deservedly so. As of today it's made approximately half of its $150 million dollar budget back, but when one accounts for the extra $130 million in marketing (a ballpark estimate), well, I wouldn't want to be M. Night Shyamalan's ego about now. Actually, an autobiographical documentary look inside his mind sounds like the perfect project for the former indie director now that he's probably blacklisted from supervising anything bigger than Cash 4 Gold commercials. Sheesh, here I am giving away million dollar ideas for free. Knew I should have been a Hollywood producer.
 
Any fans of Avatar have an opinion on the live-action movie? Pleasantly surprised, horribly dismayed or something in the middle?
obscurefanon July 8, 2010 at 9:34 a.m.
On weekends I work doing surveys at movie theaters and last weekend when that movie was released after every show people would come out just hugely disappointed. I've even gone in to check it out when nobody was around and saw like ten minute increments of it, and even those were just stunningly bad.
EnSabahNurXon July 8, 2010 at 10 a.m.
Easiest adaptation that could have been made and he fudged it.
Should have been at least 2 hours
Skip the earth village where haru was just go to  the air temple, kyoshi island,and north pole
Fix the pronunciations X(
Get better actors not noobs
Show avatar roku consoling aang, AVATAR STATE DOES NOT SEND AANG TO SPIRIT WORLD
Could actually take some dialogue from series
Learn how to do the bending motions(should needed as many steps as they put)
Fix fire benders bending to work via sun and body heat
Ethinicities could have varied but at least get skin tone close
Could use flashes of aang in the storm to explain why he's in ice (show while aang is feeling guilty at the air temple)
Show zao(spelt wrong XD) at the secret library or at least have the scroll about moon and water spirits with their asian names for push and pull
Show flash back of katara's village invaded by fire nation the first time or a montage in the intro like in the series 
Can go on forever
 I could completely make this movie work, have a lot of tweaks that could have condensed the story without losing the characters personalities
 

I should have wrote this damn film because the director obviously never watched the series
This soooo could have worked in live action
CrazyCanuckon July 8, 2010 at 10:23 a.m.
Yeah the movie was bad but the  pronunciations killed it for me.
Liminalityon July 8, 2010 at 10:47 a.m.
But.... it's not anime.
 
Also, I like what I saw from the series but I didn't see much, and obviously I won't watch the movie, not after "The happening"....
ZachTheAnimeGeekon July 8, 2010 at 10:58 a.m.

I really didn't like how they changed Sokka's character. He was so serious. sokka is supposed to be goofy and an idiot.
WilliamRLBakeron July 8, 2010 at 11:12 a.m.
It killed my inner child too. So many problems with the movie. screened.com was too nice.
CrazyCanuckon July 8, 2010 at 11:41 a.m.
@ZachTheAnimeGeek said:
He was so serious. sokka is supposed to be goofy and an idiot. "
I would agree with goofy but he was far from an idiot in the series as a whole.  Also apart from him being lame and characterless in the movie his ponytail was too long and it's pronounced Sa-ka!
Gaseroon July 8, 2010 at 12:23 p.m.
I'm a fan of the Avatar series, and after seeing the trailers for the movie I was slightly excited. The visuals in the trailers showed a very good image of what I would have expected Avatar to look like in real life. I was actually amazed at what they had done...in the trailer.
 
As the reviews rolled out however, it was revealed that much of the trailer footage was touched up to make the movie look better and some of the trailer footage isn't in the final cut of the movie. The last straw was when I saw a couple online clips that showed Aang in the final part of the movie and Zuko and Katara fighting. Those clips looked nothing like the graceful bending done in the cartoon and it instantly eliminated all of my interest.
 
Of course, I always was skeptical due to Shamaylan's name being attached to it.
mysticboyon July 8, 2010 at 12:56 p.m.
I heard of them cutting out 30 minutes of the movie just to get it in 3D.
Ninja_Novaon July 8, 2010 at 1:18 p.m.

This movie was BAD...but the show was awesome.
Boddingtonon July 8, 2010 at 1:19 p.m.
@WilliamRLBaker: Oh, after the movie, when we all came out, there was a small struggle over who would write the review. Had Alex done it I assure you each sentence would be bookended with the F-word.
MetalGearFlaccidon July 8, 2010 at 1:59 p.m.
Does anyone else here realize that Avatar IS NOT AN ANIME!?
 
... Or is that just me?
FoxxFireArt moderator on July 8, 2010 at 2:12 p.m.
This just confirms what I've been saying all along. Holllywood is just not capable of  making live action movies of series like these. All they do it butcher them. Every now and again they might make something passable, but mostly they just screw everything up, such as Dragon Ball: Evolution.
 
One of the better book to TV translations I've ever seen has to be the Harry Potter movies. Yes, the later movies have a lot of cuts from the books, but they still keep the overall feel of the designed product.
Some people never realized that originally Warner Bros. wanted the director Chris Columbus to make the first movie about the first three books condensed into a single movie. He refused and the author J.K. Rowling wouldn't permit that either. Rowling has been very influential in the creation of the movies based on her books.
 
@Boddington: 
I'm noticing a bit of hypocrisy in a lot of people here. When I rail against VIZ Media for butchering my favorite manga Detective Conan. People tell me that I need to let it go. Hollywood and M. Night Shyamalan butcher something you all care about. You get in line to bash it.
 
Not that I don't agree with what is being said. There just seems to be a different standard when it comes to the series Avatar. That's just lovely. So, when it's a series that you all enjoy it's alright to tear into something. When it's something that I enjoy, and you might not. It's suddenly not worth advocating about and shouldn't be so hard on the "official" company distributing it.
CrazyCanuckon July 8, 2010 at 2:13 p.m.
@MetalGearFlaccid said:
" Does anyone else here realize that Avatar IS NOT AN ANIME!?  ... Or is that just me? "
I know it's an american idea animated in Korea in the style of anime but it's close enough for me.
MrDirector786on July 8, 2010 at 2:59 p.m.
I actually haven't even seen the movie yet. Even though it's God-Awful, I'm still thinking about watching it just for a good laugh.
Hadezon July 8, 2010 at 3:16 p.m.
@EnSabahNurX said:
" Easiest adaptation that could have been made and he fudged it. Should have been at least 2 hours Skip the earth village where haru was just go to  the air temple, kyoshi island,and north pole Fix the pronunciations X( Get better actors not noobs Show avatar roku consoling aang, AVATAR STATE DOES NOT SEND AANG TO SPIRIT WORLD Could actually take some dialogue from series Learn how to do the bending motions(should needed as many steps as they put) Fix fire benders bending to work via sun and body heat Ethinicities could have varied but at least get skin tone close Could use flashes of aang in the storm to explain why he's in ice (show while aang is feeling guilty at the air temple) Show zao(spelt wrong XD) at the secret library or at least have the scroll about moon and water spirits with their asian names for push and pullShow flash back of katara's village invaded by fire nation the first time or a montage in the intro like in the series  Can go on forever I could completely make this movie work, have a lot of tweaks that could have condensed the story without losing the characters personalities  I should have wrote this damn film because the director obviously never watched the series This soooo could have worked in live action "
and for god sake the firelord was always hidden in fire during the first season.
and the comet was coming in 3 months not 3 years <-------pissed me off to no end
I didn't mind the actors not being that good.
it's Sokka (Sock-a) not (So-Ka)
and why the hell was all the Fire nation Indian nothing against them the in the series the Fire nation was based on the Chinese.
The Fire bending needed no source because it came from the ancient belief that there's a fire in your belly. <------Also way pissed me off
Boddingtonon July 8, 2010 at 3:49 p.m.
@EnSabahNurX:  I think they should have brought in The Fonz to do pronunciations... 

 Aaaaaaaaaaaaaang...
 Aaaaaaaaaaaaaang...

Catolfon July 8, 2010 at 4:14 p.m.
Unno i was never much of a fan of A:TLA.. I tried and didn't like it really, neat idea but..neh.. I watched off and on for Zuko. And the loveable Sokka. (Momo and Appa helped too XD)
 
So I have no idea who I'll feel toward the movie. I'm still tee'd off that they didn't do the pairing of STEAM! Zuko/Katara anyone?
 
Ah well..
jamdownon July 8, 2010 at 6:14 p.m.
Oh my god, this was the WORST movie i have seen in a wial
Waleson July 8, 2010 at 7:20 p.m.

For what its worth, the movie is so bad that you can entice any massive debate and hatered on /co/ on 4chan. Then again, anyone who is a fan of the show knew full well when it was announced that the movie would suck. So, in that respect, I don't see why everyone is so shocked/outraged.

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