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.
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.
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.
Any fans of Avatar have an opinion on the live-action movie? Pleasantly surprised, horribly dismayed or something in the middle?