REVIEW The Last Airbender

by

Lost in translation. What better phrase to sum up M. Night Shyamalan’s efforts to bring the beloved Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series to the silver screen? It has been three and a half years since Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies announced the hiring of  Oscar nominated director M. Night Shyamalan to produce the live action adaptation, much to the trepidation of Avatar fans worldwide. While Night’s early Hollywood career met with substantial box office success and critical acclaim, his two most recent films (and a third to be released in 2008) were received far less favorably. Many were beginning to justifiably doubt his directing talents, and still more wondered if he had the skills necessary to do justice to the Peabody award winning modern classic. We’ve been following this film since production finally began to ramp up in the fall of 2008; covering every news item, every photo snapped, every interview given, every trailer screened, and we were even lucky enough to have a chance to interview Night himself back in March earlier this year. The cast and crew said the right things, the costumes and sets looked fantastic, the special fx wowed us, and Night had a lot of enthusiasm for the show & seemed to get what made Avatar great. Aside from the much publicized casting issues, things seemed to have been progressing most auspiciously. I was lucky enough to have been invited to the film’s premiere at the Lincoln Center in New York City on June 30th. Having given myself a few days deliberation, I believe I’m ready to submit a critique of the film that will hopefully keep gut-reaction hyperbole to a minimum.

Adaptations are a tricky business. Whether they be book to film, television to film, or theme park ride to film, even the most talented of directors can stumble on that road. It’s far too easy to fall into the trap of slavishly adapting the subject matter word for word, only to find that what works on paper translates into a tedious movie watching experience. However, alter it too much and you risk losing the meaning and essence of the material, not to mention your audience. The Last Airbender is a poor adaptation. Not because of the superficial changes, such as the botched name pronunciations or ‘racebending’ issues, but because much of what makes the source material so adored by fans has been lost. Book One was just as much about the bonding of Aang, Katara, and Sokka during their journey as it was about the Avatar returning, and saving the Northern Water Tribe. It introduced these characters, explored their often complex motivations, and chronicled their personal growth in a very organic fashion, while never forgetting that these characters were children. No matter how dire the situation, no matter how serious the responsibility, these characters always found time to be kids.

Conversely, The Last Airbender’s script seemed to run roughshod over this aspect. The trio in the film were introduced as mature adults straight from the beginning, robbing the film of any childish light hearted moments, and nixing their maturation altogether. Unfortunately, this left the narrative with very little complexity in the plot outside of the major plot points of Book One, which were themselves hastily glossed over to accommodate the sub-two hour running time.

The performances of the principal characters themselves weren’t extraordinary, but neither were they up to snuff with Night’s past child actor standards. Jackson Rathbone (Sokka), Nicola Peltz (Katara), and Dev Patel (Zuko) all turned in sufficient performances. Out of the leads, newcomer Noah Ringer’s performance as the titular last airbender (Aang) was the most convincing. Given the character’s sterilization from the prank playing, animal riding, care free nomad of the cartoon into the depressed would-be messiah of the film, the role did not ask Ringer to display much emotional range. However, the young martial artist brought sufficient gravitas to the role, with just enough fleeting glimpses of the child within sprinkled throughout to satisfy the more forgiving fans. Fans should also be pleased with how closely Aang’s core values in the film resonate with those of his cartoon counterpart, especially in the climactic battle with the Fire Nation’s navy at the Northern Water Tribe.

Sadly, outside of Shaun Toub (Iroh) and Seychelle Gabriel (Princess Yue), the rest of the supporting cast ranged from bad to unintentionally comedic. I can’t help but wonder what kind of audition could have possibly landed Aasif Mandvi the role of Commander Zhao. Far from the calculating malice teetering upon the edge of wreck less insanity, as portrayed by Jason Isaacs in the cartoon, Mandvi’s Zhao is essentially the same performance he gives on a nightly basis on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. I honestly expected him to gleefully utter, “Back to you Jon,” on several occasions.

The visual effects provided by Industrial Light & Magic were a mixed bag as well. For every breathtaking shot like Aang’s immense tidal wave, there’s a wholly unconvincing effect like the prison camp earthbender’s floaty boulder which appeared to be under the control of a handful of synchronized dancers. While not significant screen presences, Appa & Momo consistently looked good throughout the picture, and were probably the closest assets best replicated from the cartoon in both look and behavior.

Being a rather tremendous fan of the Track Team’s musical score for the cartoon, and believing it to be as integral to the spirit of Avatar as John Williams is to Star Wars, I was skeptical of the news that James Newton Howard’s score for the film would be an entirely original composition. This skepticism as it turns out was spot on, as Howard’s score bares very little resemblance to the Track Team’s wonderful work. That is not to say that Howard’s score is poor, because it works very well for the film, and has several very moving & powerful cues throughout. Sadly, it’s just another example of the film’s desire to be just a little too unique for its own good.

The Last Airbender isn’t the worst film I’ve ever seen, and perhaps I enjoyed it more than I otherwise would have for the simple fact that it was Avatar: The Last Airbender in live action. Seeing some of my favorite characters, settings, and scenes in a live action setting has always given me a certain thrill: Michael Keaton donning the cape & cowl in Tim Burton’s Batman, the T-Rex breaking free in Jurassic Park, Christopher Reeve making me believe a man could fly in Superman, Frodo bearing the One Ring across the treacherous lands of Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings, etc. Viewed objectively it’s not a good film, and sadly does not live up to Night’s best work. The epic fantasy adventure picture may not be the genre best suited for Night’s unique talents, and one can only hope he will return to his more personal stories. I for one would welcome Unbreakable 2 with open arms.

1 1/2 out of 4 PENGUINS!!

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70 Responses to “REVIEW The Last Airbender”

  1. Avataang Says:

    I think this is a good review of a not so good film.

    • ANIMATED AVATAR Says:

      are you kiding me!? this was the biggest load of crap since the Eragon movie! this movie has won my least favorite movie of all time award! the actors were crap and showed little to no feeling watsoever. also they skipped many amazing parts and took out a load of amazing bending. I dont know who paid you guys to say this was a good movie but i know that i wouldnt take a million bucks to say this movie was even partially good. my review is .0000000001/5

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Just how I felt. nice review.

  3. Eedeh Says:

    I loved the film and probably would have given it a 2 or 2 1/2 penguins LOL. But I commend you for giving a fair and objective review of the film and not once thought their was a back motive towards your reviewing process like I get from most critics. Thanks for your input and I hope they make a second book with more length and better character placement. I think the Azula will be spot on, just like Noah as Aang and I am glad some good has come from this movie giving Naoh Ringer a start at an acting career!

  4. Okurasu Says:

    I don’t think it’s the best movie ever, but surely it’s not the worst. Probably the most ‘avatar-the-last-airbender-ish’ thing was children holding on to Appa’s legs while in the air

  5. Rich Inman Says:

    This is probably the best review of this movie I’ve read so far. Although I would like to add this bit of my own:

    The movie was full of build-up moments where you expected something amazing to happen, only to be let down by something anti-climactic (or with the characters ignoring that anything happened at all). I won’t go into specifics, but when the Dragon Spirit tells Aang that the Avatar was never meant to hurt anyone, this is where I lost complete faith in the story. In the series, even Avatar Kyoshi admits to killing Chin the Conqueror, and she shows no remorse over it. The Avatar is meant to keep balance by any means necessary. Neutering the Avatar like this in the movie was the final let down in a string of let downs.

    • Avatar Says:

      I totally agree on that! I don’t like the fact that Aang didn’t even use all that water to push away all the warships

      • TophFan Says:

        Me too. They didn’t copy the series’ “Big Coy Fish” and I was waiting for that moment to happen. But alas, they did not include it in the movie. They should have at least pushed all those fire nation ships. Even if Aang detests violence, he couldn’t control his actions while in the avatar state during the first book.

    • FatPizzaPie Says:

      “Technically, you didn’t kill Chin the Conqueror, he fell to his doom because he was too stubborn to get out of the way.”
      -Aang, on the Lion Turtle talking to Kyoshi in season 3.

      Kyoshi apparently doesn’t see the difference, but alas, she didn’t REALLY kill him.

      • Ri Says:

        She then goes on to say that while she did not see the difference she would have done whatever was necessary to ensure the safety of her people. Add this comment to the stone cold expression on her face and it is blatantly clear if Shin hadn’t fallen to his death, he would have fallen from the deadly strike of Kyoshi.

      • Roku Says:

        ”Do whatever it takes to save the world”
        -Yangchen, on the Lion Turtle talking to Aang in season 3.

  6. Chris Robins Says:

    I appreciate how honest this review is. It is a bad movie made worse when you realize what great source material it had to step all over.

    • ANIMATED AVATAR Says:

      you are so right chris, this movie has almost broken my love for other avatar the last airbender shows. The characters i believe had little to no feelings, and also Aang was supposed to be a funloving childish kid not some serious moron that wouldnt send his giant wave to wipe out an attacking armada

  7. Scotty Says:

    Your review is indeed the best I have heard. If a second movie is made it could be good. But I’ve noticed many fans wanting a different writer for the second one, or even for the first one to be redone.

    Even so, there is an occasional person that likes the movie. I did see this person on youtube, give a good review:

    Anyways, the TV show is still great. And if you are in the mood to see a great The Last Airbender movie with the same stuff in it as the theater version, you could always watch:
    Episode 1, 2, 3, 13, 18, 19, 20 (about 3 hours running time) B-)

  8. Scotty Says:

    But just to be clear, every episode in the first season is good in my opinion. “12: The Storm” episode is great, especially when zuko decides to let the Avatar go, to save his crew, after you learn why he is really after him. And of course my favorite is the “9: Waterbending Scroll”, the episode is just funny, has great personality, and great action.

  9. Tori Says:

    The actring wasn’t great for the most part, but the kid Avatar, Ringer, worked well for me, as did Dev as Zuko, Yue, and Iroh. 🙂 Looking forward to more of Dev and Noah’s films! And hoping Night will relenquish the script writing to someone else for the second movie. He just can’t write well. Let the co-creaters write the script, please. They know what’s needed out of Book Two to make a good film (I think)! 🙂

    3 out of 4 penguins.

    • Eedeh Says:

      I dont think its the fact that hes a bad writer just that it wasnt executed well enough for most people, I mean he did wright all his films and then some like Stuart Little. The creators ok the script and gave it two thumbs up I think what became its downfall was the movie short leantch and I think thats one thing everyone can agree on. When I think EPIC FANTASY I think of Long like LOTR and STARWARS. I hope Book 2 is anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 hours long, if their will be a book 2.

      • Tori Says:

        You’re so correct. It should have been longer. They had him cut a lot of the movie “for the sake of the kid audience’, I think. You know, because kids like rushed movies.

      • Fire Cat Says:

        @ And that is why they have such short attension spans, we don’t give them enough credit…

      • Boot-chan Says:

        Um, I don’t think kids like rushed movies. I don’t, and I’m 11.

  10. BrennenS Says:

    Well I agree… up until you started saying things positive about the film.

    • Tori Says:

      Close minded.

      • Anonymous Says:

        Because he’s got a different opinion than you, he’s close-minded?

      • Eedeh Says:

        no because his opinion is close minded, listening to only one side of the story….

      • Ri Says:

        That’s not how it works. The reviewer’s opinion is that there were good things that could be said about this film. This commentator did not. He was polite and simply said he didn’t agree.

        Calling him close-minded for politely stating his opinion is well…close-minded.

        And that’s your daily dose of irony.

      • Mitch Says:

        Id just like to comment about your comment earlier that ‘kids like rushed films’, thats completely untrue, maybe where you live or how you were brought up makes you want to rush things, but im a kid and i love taking my time with everything, id of prefered the film to last hours and show every single episode joined into the one film but als this was not the case.

    • Roku Says:

      yes, because he doesn’t want to see outside of his angry fan brain

      • Tori Says:

        Thanks to both of you for defening and understanding me. You don’t have to share the same opinion, you just need to be open minded to the thoughts of others. Right?

    • Anonymous Says:

      Maybe he has heard both sides of the story and still doesn’t like the movie … I hate how you guys think that just because you liked the movie you’re open-minded and that if somebody hates the movie, they must be close-minded. I understand exactly why you guys liked the movie. Try opening your minds and figuring out why we didn’t like it.

      • Tori Says:

        I KNOW why you don’t like it. The movie was rushed, some of the acting wasd terrible, and the writing was nowhere near what it should have been to be acceptable. I, at least, understand something even if I may not agree. You guys are the ones asking, “Did we see the same movie?” or flat out calling us stupid or crazy. We should both acknowledge that the movie wasn’t perfect . . . nor could it ever be so.

        There are good and bad things about this movie. For me:
        Bad script
        Good actors playing Yue, Iroh and Zuko

        Let’s just agree that we all have our own opinions, and try to see what others liked/disliked about the movie. Chances are, we’ll agree to more than we thought.

      • TophFan Says:

        I hated the movie at first then my sister told me to “just appreciate that they made it into a movie”, and yeah, she’s right. At least it was made into a movie……but I still wished that they made it good..

  11. Secretzfan Says:

    Hey thanks nice review you knew how to separate the bad parts of the movie from the good. You didn’t just blow it off. It wasn’t awesome, but is wasn’t bad but is was a good movie. I mean the sequel will be better like it or not. I mean in the series I found book 1 was very weak and I am hoping more from book 2. If you guys notice LAA is moving up it is like every time they make one it gets better and closer to the original. The movie is much closer than DBE, but it needs some of DBE’s comedy to make it better. I mean DBE was funny, but next LAA movie we might find balance between the story and comedy.

  12. Amp Says:

    EPIC REVIEW!

    it must have been a lil bit hard for you sharing this review for someone who’s a really really really die hard avatar: the last airbender fan… kudos to you! ^_^

    this critic line definitely relate to me…

    “alter it too much and you risk losing the meaning and essence of the material, not to mention your audience. The Last Airbender is a poor adaptation.”

    \m/

  13. Christy Says:

    My son is such an avatar fan that my whole family got hooked . We own every episode and any avatar memorabilia we could find. We’ve waited for this movie for over a year. My son went in full costume and daughter in katara braids! Remember that avatar was made for kids and they loved it. Let’s pole some kids to make these reviews too. We are looking forward to the next one.

    • Moody Says:

      Nicely said.
      I personally enjoyed the movie more than disliked it.
      There were little things that could have been added and things changed to make the movie run smoother and so much better.
      The main thing I didn’t like is the way it was so rushed and way too short. It made the movie choppy with little or no emotion. At least 20 more minutes could have been added in through out the whole movie to use in building up relationship or emotion between the characters.
      Over all I still enjoyed it and can’t wait until it’s released on Blu Ray and DVD. I’m also looking forward to book 2 being made.

    • Eedeh Says:

      You know many younger viewers(who the movie is targeting) actually do like this movie and their opinion in greater than the adults opinion. They say the movie had horrible dialog and whatnot but seriously younger kids wont understand the more sophisticated word that could have been used, Like when he asks for a spiritual place I mean what would have been better line ” A place of worship” well it practically the same so…..

      • Ri Says:

        I think while Avatar was originally marketed soley as a children’s cartoon one of the things that made it so special was that it transcended it’s intended audience and appealed to all ages. Thus I can’t say any age is more important than the other as I doubt this show would have become the phenomenon it is based on children’s support alone.

        That being said while I’m happy children liked the film I sort of liken the response to how I liked many cartoons and movies as a small child only to grow up, get some depth and realize how…awful they were. Is this absolutely true of Avatar? Maybe, maybe not. None the less I do pity the way the entire storyline was just shopped together for this film. That’s the biggest sad part.

  14. alee Says:

    PENGUIN!!!!!!

  15. alee Says:

    yeaaaa well i have to wait a few months till i can see the movie BUT WITH MY HIGHT SPRITS IF I CANT WAIT OVER 3 WEEKS FOR SOMETHING IN THE MAIL I CAN pretty much wait forever for this movie hahah

  16. derek Says:

    Thanks for the review; I agree that a live action production of a cartoon is always interesting and despite how bad the movie maybe it will just mean we watch the originals again…. wish there was more “books” to watch!

    • Fire Cat Says:

      Or get a whole new group of people watching it. I’ve seen some of the non-fans with positive reviews, say they want to pick up the original series, because they know the movie can’t possibly cover all of the amazing stuff they did see.

  17. Fire Cat Says:

    “No matter how dire the situation, no matter how serious the responsibility, these characters always found time to be kids.” I am so happy, for an acutal reason why the movie failed as an adaptation, that makes actual sense for once!

    I say this, seeing to many people, nitpicking things they didn’t like. A good deal of what they’ve been complaining about, has been for the most part, ‘fan catoring’, things that a fan might want to see in an adaptation, but don’t necisarily fit in with an adaptation.

    Actually, I prefer looking at nitpicks not as faults in a movie, but interesting little conversation peices or triva. They’re supposed to be fun, but to many people have turned them into something else in this film.

    Oh… and there are the people who simply state, they don’t like the film, and bash anyone who does like it.

  18. Socka_rocks Says:

    I gladfully acknowledge you for writing the most best explained and worded review on the movie. As all of you may have also noted that Aang’s name was pronunciated so badly I almost cried lol. I wanted to smack the actors and tell them, “noo! that’s not how you say his name!”.

    On the other hand, I expected a little more of Iroh though I guess his acting was indeed suited to his character. Plz let’s all of us mourn on the death of Fire Lord Ozai and his character lol, becuz first of all he is not even supposed to be in the movie. (The flashbacks of Zuko and Ozai made more sense that his presence be shown)

    I also hope that If they do continue on to make the trilogy, they better make the sequel more exciting as I liked the second season of the show a lot. Additionally, sorry M.Night but I dont think you should write and produce the next sequel and even the third one.

    • Sokka & Zuko rock Says:

      and oh yea Haru’s character (if the kid in the movie who runs behind Sokka was really him) seemed extremely random in the movie even though I know he comes with a real intro in the show. His only dialogue was “dad”, and why is he played by a kid? I wouldve just taken that character out if the movie needed to be shortened to quickly show the struggles of the earthbender prison camp.

  19. Mining.com’s new magazine « I THINK MINING Says:

    […] I have taken my grandson to two movies: Despicable Me and today The Last Airbender.   The former is to be seen as it is clever and entertaining.  The latter is to be avoided as it […]

  20. bugsbane Says:

    This is the only review where I’ve seen The Track Team compared to Howard. You’re spot on with that comparison. Howard is good. But the sound track was as much a part of the show as, say, the pronunciation of Aang, Sokka and Iroh. I don’t mind Of-atar being pronounced wrong.

    The calculus that went on in M Night’s mind bespeaks of hubris, which, if given free reign, will cause Book 2 to be an even worse adaptation than book 1 was.

    I urge you to correct a couple of spelling mistakes in your review. This is one of the best reviews I’ve seen. (i.e. Zhao is wreck less? more like reckless. I agree that Mandvi does not at all capture the megalomaniac that is Zhao. – Zhao lacks restraint. creates speeches celebrating his capture. Wants everyone to admire him. Devious enough to use the archers and burn fire nation references in Won Shi Tong’s library. Cheats at Agni-Ki.) The other spelling mistake is your use of “bares” vs “bears”.

    Here’s what I think book2 should contain at a minimum:
    – establish that Katara can heal. receives water from the spirit oasis.
    – establish that zuko and Iroh are on the run. pursued by Azula. establish that Azula can make lightning.
    – establish that if Aang is killed in the avatar state, the cycle stops.
    – establish katara is a master waterbender
    – aang gang leave the watertribe and reach the shores of the earth kingdom.
    – suki and sokka meet up and get close.
    – sokka gains knowledge that firebenders lose their bending during an eclipse.
    – since the library was mentioned – it might be mentioned again.
    – perhaps suki visited the said library and obtained that knowledge
    – zuko and iroh make their way to ba sing se.
    – Azula and Aang confront each other. intro mai and ty lee.
    – The confrontation causes Appa to be separated from the Gaang. and capture of Suki
    – Aang meets Toph. katara makes reference to zuko chasing them.
    – Toph begins to teach aang earthbending. Aang has a hard time.
    – Aang enteres Ba Sing Se
    – Zuko frees Appa from captivity
    – Aang recovers/reunites with appa in ba sing se
    – Appa finds the Guru at the eastern air temple. Guru ties a message to his head and instructs him to go to Ba Sing Se.
    – Aang meets the earth king.
    – Azula infiltrates ba sing se with Mai and Ty Lee
    – Aang goes to visit the guru
    – Azula successfully turns the dai li
    – coup happens. Katara is imprissoned with zuko.
    – Aang returns to ba sing se w/ Sokka.
    – Aang frees katara, azula shoots aang.
    – Zuko sides w/ azula.
    – Iroh gives them time to escape.
    – Azula welcomes zuko back to the clan.
    – katara heals aang. movie ends with aang gasping.

  21. Alex Says:

    Finally a review that isn’t aiming to humilliate Night Shyamalan –although he very much deserves it, there WAS material to work with; Shyamalan lost an opportunity of a lifetime. Avatar: the Last Airbender could be good as a movie. But COULD is the keyword in this sentence.

    I’m glad you’ve written a review that gives an honest, objective opinion about the movie. I have to admit I didn’t want to believe when I read some others, but given you’re someone who knows where the fandom’s coming from I trust more this review.

    Sadly, we’re just gonna have to stick with old good Avatar cartoon’s greatness.

  22. Jared Says:

    Avatar was a fantastic series on Nickelodeon, the story line was clever and easy to follow and it left it’s viewers wanting more. When it was announced that a movie was to be made on this television series, the expectations were high. After viewing the whole entire television series and then viewing the movie, they did not appear to be related in any way shape or form.
    Names changed in the movie, the story line was hard to follow, and the acting/directing did not portray that of the cartoon. Overall I was very disappointed in the movie, and I do not recommend it to anyone.

    Read other reviews, the audience has already said everything that needs to be said.

    • Fire Cat Says:

      I think that it should be noted though, there is a difference between opinion and fact. We can’t back up our opinions of whether the acting was good or not, but there are things that we can go and back up.

      Like whether or not the movie actually follows the storyline. Most of the ones I’ve seen, nitpick things that are concidered normal cuts and minor changes…

      • TophFan Says:

        In my opinion, the changes in the storyline are not minor. They didn’t even mention about the summer solstice and that Aang has to master all bending before the summer’s end because Sozin’s comet will return and fire lord Ozai wants to use it to end the war and dominate all the other nations. And it was not stated in the series that the Avatar is not allowed to have a family. In fact, Avatar Roku, the avatar before Aang, was married and Zuko’s mother was a direct descendant of Avatar Roku. Aang took off because he simply wasn’t ready to become the avatar.

  23. Avatarfan Says:

    Great review and very objective.

    Hopefully, Paramount will listen to some of the suggestions and ideas circulating when they look to produce the next movie.

  24. Secretzfan Says:

    I still don’t completely get why it was disappointing or suckish except for the fact that everyone had too high expectations. I actually got used to the name pronunciation like Uung and the fact that Iroh wasn’t fat. In fact if you think about the movie was better than most people claim. I mean it was pretty awesome. I can’t treat it like DBE and say it was alright because Wong didn’t even try hardly mostly thanks to him being Chinese,and DBE being Japanese.

    This is proabaly the best review I mean it is pretty wells said. I mean most people just blow off the movie and other might not blow it off, but still say it is bad and start nit picking.

    • Fire Cat Says:

      Or, they simply don’t like th dierector.

      I personally think it was on the level of the first two HP movies. I feel some of the problems came about, because they didn’t wait. But the fifth movie… the director cut to much, even went and made a canon character OoC, because they cut out her friend, so she had to take on her friends role.

  25. bugsbane Says:

    I know I said a mouthful up above. One of the things I most want to see can be summed in one request:

    I want to see Shyamalan’s kid’s review of the movie.

  26. FireNation! Says:

    If you followed the series, this movie will be a great big disappointment.
    I was upset to find out that none of the characters were even Asian… not a single one… The acting was horrible! Whenever they spoke it felt like in their heads they were saying ‘Oh… it’s my line… and just blurted out their lines without any feelings… then they look blankly at eachother waitng for the next line… they had no presence… none at all… it was terrible…
    They couldn’t even pronounce the names right…
    If they do a sequel… i hope they work on their acting skills…

    P.S. When I heard M Night was doing the movie I knew he was going to ruin it… he should not be directing movies anymore… his last good movie was The Sixth Sense… or his only good movie… but that was owed to the acting and effects… not the director…
    Mr. Shyamalan!!! Please leave this series alone!!! You don’t deserve it!!!

  27. Violet Says:

    Honestly, I thought he did a great job. The critics are absolutely histrionic in their complaints about this film. Yes. The Fire Nation is Indian, and not Asian like in the CARTOON SERIES, which how much can you honestly pull out of an animated series so seriously anyway? Some of the fans are so, SO serious about all the nitpicky crap. If you hang on details like that, yeah the movie is going to suck for you! I agree that maybe Mr. Night was somewhat racially partial to having his own ethnical background play a large role in the film. Heck, I’m sure in some of the shots he was one of the fire bender soldier guys: what do you expect from him after seeing his other films?

    I agree that Commander Zhou was not the greatest. There is always going to be something there that we may not like. But he died. So, get over it.

    Additionally, Sokka and Aang: their names were different in the films more than likely due to the fact of proper enunciation. In the cartoon, it was extremely Americanized to say an Asian-esque name like Aang as AING, or Sokka like SOCKA.

    Night’s objective was making this film as if it were real life, that is why the characters weren’t as goofy and fun-loving because, to be honest, if you were being hunted down by an extremely dangerous, murderous and powerful government army I’m pretty sure fun and games would not be in the picture, like in a child’s cartoon show. Think, people!! Yes, Sokka could have been a MORE clusmy, Aang could have been a LITTLE more rambunctious as pictured in the animated series. But you have to understand where M. Night was getting at: we came in on the film as Aang runs away and guilty of doing so from the enormous responsibility as the world’s peace-making “Avatar”. Sokka was stiff, I guess you can say, because he had to protect Katara from the impending dangers shown in the film. Therefore, there was some sense as to why he changed some things. Also, for some of the child actors, this was their first movie so be nicer, pat them on the back, ect ect…

    So, let’s get over the racial details and the complaints of whether or not the actors played their parts right. Admittedly, the special effects and action were really good for a Nick film. I think he stuck to the storyline really well. M.Night could have refined the rougher edges for the audience that have never seen the cartoon series, like making the inside jokes a little more standout, maybe introducing a little more minor-ish characters like Appa and Momo better. We all should have known that this wasn’t going to be the cutesy kid’s show, it was going to be a little more serious!

    I have a request from all the Airbender fans: Give M.Night a BREAK. GOOD GOD. Let us all just hope that the second one will be a little more like you hoped. I will give Night’s Last Airbender a 3 out of four. I think we are all being too harsh here.

    • avatarman Says:

      SMDH, I wish to say to you that giving M. Night a break is completely out of the question. This man has made the worst movies ever created and I’ve seen some pretty bad films. Did you see The Happening? I will give him credit though, his trailers for every single move he has made are beautiful, they pull you in when you see them and make you want to run to theaters. You must remeber any movie made by this man will be a complete let down. Now how he destroyed this movies is amazing, just everything was horrible about it. The characters did five minutes of movement before they could even bend their element. The fire nation soliders could not bend fire without a source and Aang not Uung didn’t have the fun loving attitude that made the show popular. The thing about the cartoon is that no matter what happens, no matter the problems you face, love and friendship get you through it. That’s the thing about a “childrens show”, they have morals and messages that transcend throughout generations. The show also chronicled the journey in phases even though this all happened in a few months. It’s amazing how something so “childish or cutesy” can impact people for generations. The same thing goes for HP these works show someones pure idea in creation and can inspire so many kids all over the world. The Last Airbender was a complete mockery of what the show is about. M. Night screwed us again, I’m glad I didn’t pay to see it.

  28. yugilious Says:

    i havn’t seen the movie yet but the peviews and teasers i hav seen i feel im very disappointed. i think the problem is that he doesn’t know the anime good enough. say u got some1 who has seen all the eps and loves it they would b able 2 write a better script ause they know wat they r doin. the guy they chose would only know parts of it, so we cant really blame him. i would blame them 4 hirin him so late! if they gave him another year then he could have watched the 1st book and b able 2 look at it more depth. but of cause they would never do that (it would probley coast more) so lets live wif wat we got n hope de next 1 is better.

  29. ivan Says:

    nice review….. hehe. how i wish to watch the part two.

  30. Avatarfan Says:

    I saw the film and was disappointed in it-not because I had high expectations but because the movie failed as a basic story telling in my opinion. as a standalone film without references to the tv series alot of which don;t make it into the movie, it does not stand on it;s own feet as a self contained story and it just lost me. it just jumps around, telling you what happened rather than showing you.

    Although vague references are made to underlying material(i noticed gran gran mentions her friend Hama was the last waterbender taken years ago but i bet she doesn;t make it into any of sequels) , it glosses over much of the background material that is supposed to tie it together.

    i get that it;s an adaptation, entirely the director’s vision and only so much can fit from a 20 epsiode tv series condensed into a 94 minute movie. some parts will have to cut out and some inadvertently might get lost in translation. it;s fine if you are going to exclude some extraneous stuff that might not work in the film. However, I completely puzzled by what was added to the movie that did not exist in the tv series. with so much source material, why go out of your way to create stuff that is not relevant?

    what we have left is a movie that completely missed the mark other than to be a disposable, mindless, special effects driven money making vehicle. the dialog was laughable, lots of the fight scenes and choreography don;t seem to work. you don;t get to know the characters enough to get attached to them. how is this series going to have any staying power if you don;t know enough about the characters? Hint to the director-the real star of the cartoon is Katara-in my opinion, she;s the biggest reason the tv series is so popular. your own daughter love for the character is the reason you chose to make this movie!

    was it the worst ever? that’s debatable but it certainly isn;t in the league of long standing franchises like the original Starwars, Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings in terms of creating a world full of wonder worth exploring-for which it was originally being compared to being on par with. this movie looks like a rushed attempt to deliver something and attempted to please too many people but was only successful from a monetary standpoint. Kudos for the decision to convert to 3D. It artificially inflated ticket sales dollars numbers but did not really add much to the actual film.

  31. INCEPTION: the fall of ‘the last Airbender’ | PoetLostLicense* Says:

    […] out a better film review of M. Night’s film “Avatar: the last Airbender” on this link. It’s informative, fair, and well- thought […]

  32. Mai1117 Says:

    I have not seen the movie yet, and honestly i’m to embarrased to go out in public and watch it. So many bad responses! I have watched the entire cartoon series, and personally i think it was great. It was so full of depth, and even though it was a kids show it was more serious than most anyway. I feel some people who wrote reviews and didn’t watch the cartoon don’t understand it wasn’t like it was Spongebob. It wasn’t for the sole purpose of comedy, it was so much deeper. People need to understand aang and everyone else is still a kid! You need a little comedy. I feel as if minor details that add up later in the series were left out like the Harry Potter Series. Later that is going to leave one big mess. Why did they have to change the names. I’m going to get the disc when it comes out and watch the movie in privacy. I’t would be to painful any other way.

  33. Someonewhocanplaytoph Says:

    I actually thought this movie was pretty good, and I am a big fan of this series. Sure the acting wasn’t that great but the visuals and special effects were pretty well done. Give Mr. Shyamalan a break it takes a lot of guts and a lot of hard work to put together a movie that was originally a series. I can bet a lot of money the sequel will be 10 times better.

  34. Avatarfan Says:

    just my opinion(like everyone’s got an opinion) but the film came across is pretty cheap and a curious use of 150 mil in special effects. Maybe he exhausted a large amount for his location scenes in Greenland.

    should the director be given a break for a “nice try”? the effort came across as mediocre and half baked to me(but then that;s just my opinion which seems to be shared by alot of others if you believe the ratio of bad reviews to good). I don;t know the director from my next door neighbor so I don;t have anything against him personally. He took a swing at a fat pitch that was lobbed to him and simply hit a weak pop up.

    the movie already made about 125 mil-150 mil on the strength of fans going no matter what and inflated sales do to high ticket prices. it needs atleast 280 mil to break even and that won’t guarantee the triolgy being made. Imagine if it got good reviews? could have made 600-700 mil easy.

    in judging this film, do YOU think it;s as lasting as LOTR, Harry Potter or Starwars? Or is it more forgettable like Narnia, Golden Compass or Eragon?

  35. Tiger Says:

    A well-written review, but I think it was a little too forgiving of some aspects of the film.

    Personally, I’m very sad to see how the film failed on so many levels. After watching it, it doesn’t seem so bad- You get to see all the characters and places realized in a live action world, put through new designs, etc. But then I watched the animated series again, and couldn’t believe the difference in quality of storytelling, scriptwriting, directing, and soundtrack. While it was a ‘poor adaptation’, there are many other things of the series the movie failed to capture.

    My only real complaint of the review is commending the work of so many actors of the film. To be fair, I’m unsure if the fault lies in the actor’s abilities or in M. Night’s directing- but I found all of them to be stiff planks throughout the entire film. Yes, it makes sense to dull down some of the slap-stick silliness of the series to make the transition to film. But after watching the series again, I’m struck at how every ounce of the characters we love simply evaporated in the live action film. Sokka, a source of comical relief, but also someone wanting to be like his father and take care of his family and friends, was reduced to a handful of lines that consisted of ‘Don’t touch that, Katara,’ or ‘Stay away, Katara.’ Aang fared only slightly better, with any hints of being an actual child erased entirely. Instead, he has all the patience and mind of a 70-year-old man. The fault lies primarily in the poorly written script, showing none of the characters we all know. (Zuko being a possible exception- his acting was better than most of the others, I feel. Even then it pales in comparison to the fury and intensity of his animated counterpart.)

    To support the notion of the film being a ‘poor adaptation,’ M. Night picked strange things to emulate to the movie. Of all the adventures to put into the film, Aang’s journey to talk to Avatar Roku was cast aside in favor of ‘The Waterbending scroll’- which served very little purpose in the overall scheme, or even in the rest of the movie. Meeting Roku was a very important thing, establishing a dire need for Aang to complete his training before the comet arrived. Because of this, when Aang speaks to the dragon in the film, no one knows what it is- It’s only a random dragon that happens to talk, and happens to know what to do.

    I would have an easier time forgiving the film if it held some form of decent writing or directing, but sadly, it’s lacking in that as well. With Zuko creeping around as The Blue Spirit, there was no suspense or hint of mystery. Some camera shots were borrowed from the series, but then overused and had no emotion to the entire ordeal. The bending looked nice, yes, but was considerably less thrilling. Downgrading the bending so it takes 5 earthbenders 10+ seconds of movement to lift a two-foot long rock up into the air? It doesn’t seem like a logical way to fight when your enemy just stands there while they finish their movements.

    I could go on further, and I realize some might say I’m being ‘too critical’ of the film. To those who think this, or fans who believe the movie is good, I can only urge you to watch the series again. The series had excellent pacing, use of music, character, depth, and even excellent, thrilling action sequences with a close attention to detail. I was honestly hopeful for the film, but am only disappointed that a story with so much potential was handled so clumsily. I honestly feel the best way to handle the live action transition would be to start from the beginning, and to involve the series creators with the scriptwriting process.

  36. Avatarfan Says:

    most people out there agree, it was a poor movie overall even if you don;t compare it to the cartoon source material.

    i don;t think it;s unfair that it has to compete against the excellent cartoon source material. the director could have used the excellent existing material to his advantage. however, what we got was mostly his own interpretation of the Avatar world and by most accounts he missed badly. that;s the main problem-if it had been a decent stand alone movie most except the diehard fans would have probably accepted it. it may have even drawn new fans to it.

    what we do have instead is a bunch of scenes that were shot and stitched together as if he was running on a deadline and running out of time and money. some of the scenes look great(mostly the visuals) and others look like maybe an 1st take or blooper reels that some how made it into the final product. there is alot of wooden dialog and awkward, painful pauses. how that escaped the editor is beyond belief.

    I guess the director;s vision was to make a more “serious/epic” film so I guess that;s why the light hearted humor is taken out. that;s fine with me but the biggest problem was that the firenation comes off as anything but scary. Ozai and Zhao look out of place but I guess that is what you get when you cast a comedian as your main villain. nobody actually ever seems like they are in danger so why care?

    also, it seems like the main focus of the movie switched from Katara(the real heroine of the cartoon series) to Zuko. I don;t agree with his choice but that fine since it;s the director’s interpretation and it explains the lack of character development on Katara and Sokka. However it was still poor to non existent character developement on Zuko(and Iroh) too!

    they are probably going to show this film in schools to demonstrate how not to make a film. it;d be in the running for worst “montage of film and action scenes” of the year if there were so many other candidates.

  37. bleh Says:

    i think the ember island players did a better job then shyamalan… and they did that in like…5 minutes?

    just sayin..

  38. The Bei Fong Sister Says:

    This review was right.

    It was perfect and wonderful at some points-the points where no one talked. They lacked emotion and feeling, something the director left out. The Ember Island Players were a better mash-together of the episode of this movie, because they had actual feeling. People could laugh at what they did because it was funny-and was supposed to be funny. Unlike this movie, where I was laughing throughout the whole thing.

    The 10-minute ‘I’m saving the earth kingdom’ montage was from nowhere. Seriously. You run around the Earth-Kingdom getting caught by the fire nation at every curve.

    One thing I thought was a really bad idea was the fact that only Iroh could summon fire from his own chi and not have to carry a torch with him where ever he went. Something else, Katara could’ve just put out all the fires with waterbending!

    The added things had no purpose, and the director/writer could’ve written ‘with feeling’ somewhere and maybe they could’ve been better. But the fact that Sokka’s ‘comedy gold’ had been taken out was disappointing, and I hope for the sake of God that M. Night Shaymalan doesn’t do the next one.
    And I hope that Sokka gets something comedic in it. Although this one is supposed to be ‘darker’ so I can’t hope for anything. I would’ve given it a 2 of 4 penguins.

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