The Last Airbender Review (Part II)

I hope my own characters don’t betray me

I had to lift the above picture from my friend Jamion. It pretty much explains everything that was wrong with Shyamalan’s presentation of The Last Airbender, but from the perspectives of the misrepresented characters.

Jamion is full of good little tidbits. On several occasions, he’s said:

it is just a long “Previously on Avatar…” segment, and it has just about as much character development and depth as an episode recap.”

And he’s absolutely right.

I might be late on this, but a tip: If you haven’t ever seen or heard of The Last Airbender before this movie, use your money instead to invest in season 1 of the show.

Shyamalan faced a daunting task attempting to successfullyrepresent a property that’s loved and acclaimed as much as The Last Airbender. His ultimate failure is the same as any creator who attempts to spin a winning franchise to their own design: He changed too much stuff.

Plain and simple, (budding cinematographers take note) when you are adapting an existing property, Do NOT remove the elements of said property that endear it to its fans! Change the negligible things. Like Sokka in the picture above. I didn’t mind three inches of extensions, but Sokka with no sarcasm is like a veggie burger: you eat it, and the whole time you’re grimacing because SOMETHING IS MISSING.

I could go into intricate detail of what all is wrong with the movie adaptation, but i’ll instead look at two things essential to a good story (because I enjoy a good story).These things are:

  • Characters
  • Pacing

I dismiss plot, because, C’mon Son. You have a whole year’s worth of material to work from. How you get that wrong? That’s like failing a test that the teachers gave you the answers for.

Characters

 

 

Not one Asian, but I digress…

 

Some of my peers think that the acting was bad. I disagree. The acting wasn’t bad so much as Shyamalan cast the entirely wrong mofos as the main characters. I’m a firm believer that Seychelle Gabriel should have replaced Nicola Peltz as Katara. Jackson Rathbone as Sokka was a bad choice too. Not only is dude like 30, but he has the deadest face in all of humanity. If he had found someone even just a little more animated, Sokka would have gone over better.

I have a question for you.

Did you at any point during the movie care at all about what happened with Sokka and Katara, or did you feel like they were cardboard placeholders? Did you feel that Zhao was ambitious to the point of malice, or was he just an a-hole? Was Dev Patel actually about to cry in all those scenes? Did you care about his tears?

I didn’t.

And that says about as much as I think needs to be said.

Pacing

One of the key elements to a gripping tale [and I should know, I’m a writer] is to make sure that all of the characters, scenes, and events that drive the plot are planned out very carefully so that the person who is absorbing the story is entertained. This can be difficult when you’re creating an original work. One has to consider many things, like the motivations of the protagonist and antagonists and the world that surrounds the characters. However, since The Last Airbender was essentially a recap of the first season, Shyamalan didn’t have to actually do ANY OF THIS.

He was given a template with which to make the film: The entire first season of the show. Sure, some episodes were throwaways, but some episodes transfer magnificently to film. The Siege of The North, I think was done beautifully. As the climactic plot point, it had to be done well. The earth kingdom trips, however, were terrible. They felt rushed and half done. And the people in the world were idiots.

How can you be confined in  prison composed almost entirely of the element that you control and you only think to escape when some bald kid shows up and tells you to?

Come on, M. Night. That’s some bullsh– That’s not believable.

Couple that with the fact that there were at least four scenes in the film were spoken exposition was used in place of actual images giving backstory, and you have what Jamion described: A two hour long “Previously on Avatar” Segment.

But hey, there’s always the show. Plus, M. Night has two more movies to get his act together.

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