Fans of Nickelodeon’s "Avatar: The Last Airbender" were treated to three seasons of drama, suspense, action, and comedy. The series concluded with Aang defeating Phoenix King Ozai, and returning balance to the world. When the movie version was announced, some fans were skeptical about the idea, especially since they heard M. Night Shyamalan would be writing and directing it. On the other hand, some fans were excited to see the series move into the live action world.
Paramount Pictures released many stunning posters to promote the upcoming movie and to build the anticipation of fans. In addition to the posters the company released a number of teasers and trailers. Some of trailers appeared before such movies as Iron Man 2, How to train your Dragon, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Nickelodeon began showing marathons of the series to get fans caught up and to grab new followers. Children were also able to get toys from the series within their happy meals. Paramount Pictures truly spent a lot of money to make this film a big hit. On July 1, 2010, the wait was finally over and “The Last Airbender” opened in theaters with a 3D and 2D option for viewing the film. Fans rushed out to see the movie on opening weekend; in fact the film opened in second place just behind The Twilight Saga. Although the movie had a great spot at the Box Office, it was still considered a failure due to the delivery of certain events and aspects.
Aang Vs Ung…Sok-ka Vs So-ka
The first thing that was noticeable while watching the film was the different way the names of Aang and Sokka were pronounced. The director decided to stray from the series and go with the authentic way of calling the names. For those familiar with the series it took awhile to get acquainted with these changes. Some people could not stop mocking the change.
M. Night Shyamalan has a tendency of writing dialogue that sometimes comes off as mellow and a bit stale at times. For this film he stuck to this trademark and much of the dialogue seemed sub par when compared to the animated series. This was one of the main reasons why some fans were skeptical of Shyamalan writing and directing the film. Dialogue that was supposed to go with dramatic moments came off as stale and comedic to the audience.When a movie has viewers laughing unintentionally at dramatic moments it usually loses some believability.The movie delivered quite a few stunning visuals and effects such as the scene where Aang (Noah Ringer) goes into the Avatar state and creates a giant wave. The amazing fight scenes were also a joy to watch but these visual beauties were sadly over shadowed by inferior dialogue. Most reviews you will read on the film will mention something about the dialogue.
Drama and Characterization
The acting was just like the script, mellow and stale. Noah Ringer was a new comer that was casted well for the part of Aang. Ringer resembled the character and performed excellent martial arts moves, however his acting seemed to be missing an element that would of made him a great Aang. The role of Katara was filled by Nicola Peltz who can be considered a fair choice for the character. Unfortunately just like Noah she also missed the mark on delivering the passion and desire of the character. Jackson Rathbone portrayal of Sokka was also a let down, the comedic essence of the character’s personality was unimpressive.
A majority of people were surprised and annoyed to see the Fire Nation become a race other than Asian. However Dev Patel performance as Prince Zuko was nearly on the money. The Prince’s anger and desire to restore his honor was all noticeable when Patel was on screen. The choice for Shaun Toub to play Uncle Iroh was a big let down, any previous mental images of the character was all erased with this choice. In this case, the same can be said for commander Zhao played by Aasif Mandvi. The Fire Lord is suppose to be a sinister and ruthless man that burns his own son and banishes him. Actor Cliff Curtis who played the Fire Lord did not seem to portray any of these qualities, therefore the entire thought of the ruler was changed in the movie as well. At some points it became hard to believe that this man burnt his son and banished him. The actor’s look just wasn’t ruthless enough.
Handicap Fire Benders
The fire nation is the most powerful and tech savvy nation out of all the four, however they were down graded in the film. In the series they are able to create and bend fire out of nothing. Shyamalan took this ability away and forced the benders to only use their abilities when fire is present in the environment. In an interview the director mentioned that he purposely changed the style of the fire benders simply because he noticed in the series that every other nation needed an element around them in order to bend it, and so he decided that fire bending should be no different. Shyamalan’s defense does make sense, however the series explains that fire benders are allowed to make fire from their chi (a metaphysical energy that travels through the body of humans). Taking this ability away from the Fire Nation was a severe blow to fans of the series and also to members of the nation.
In the entire first season of the series, the Fire Lord’s face was hidden from view and he usually sat on a thrown surrounded by fire. All of this made him seem invincible, mysterious, and a bit scary. In the film Fire Lord Ozai is shown to the audience without any thought of mystery or invincibility. If Shyamalan presented the Fire Lord like the series, it would of allowed the audience to show more interest in the character and look forward to seeing him on screen.
Avatar Roku was completely left out of the film. He is a spiritual mentor and a part of Aang. Roku is suppose to inform the air bender about his destiny and the Avatar State, however this information came from his Dragon. The information coming from the previous Avatar would have had more credibility.
What’s To Come?
Although the film presented excellent visuals, it failed to live up to the hype. Shyamalan is considering making a sequel, we can only hope that the director listened to all the critics and presents something better for fans. If he fails again, perhaps a reboot with a different director would allow the movie to become a respectable representation of the remarkable series.