Escape to the Movies: The Last Airbender

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FrndlyMisanthrpe:
PLEASE PRONOUNCE CHARACTERS' NAMES CORRECTLY. Seriously, they pronounced Aang as "Awng", Sokka as "Sooka", Iroh as "Eerow" and the word Avatar as "Awvatar".

That's exactly what I was thinking. I swear, it's like they had heard about the Last Airbender show and saw the characters' names on paper but never actually watched the show.

Speaking of which, Bob, are you a fan of the show? Because it sounded like you had watched the show, but I'm not completely sure.

MovieBob:
The Last Airbender

This week MovieBob reviews M. Night Shyamalan's vision of the popular Nickelodeon franchise, Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Also don't miss MovieBob's review of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse from earlier in the week.

For more from MovieBob, check out Intermission.

Be sure to join Escape to the Movies Facebook Fan Page here.

Watch Video

Well, despite being a fan of the cartoon, I'm glad the movie failed. Any casting director that so blatantly racebends deserves a sunk picture.

Avatar set back the status of Asian American performers a good number of years.

Sixth Sense was okay, but the so-called "twist" ending was ruined for me the second the kid said, "I see dead people." Unbreakable was good, but too long. Signs was downright retarded ("Hey, let's go invade a planet that's covered in 75% of that thing that kills us!") And, I gave up on M. Night after that. Nothing interested me enough to give his other movies a shot (Mark Whalberg gets chased by wind?)

That said, I assumed from the second I heard he was going to direct Avatar (and fuck that other movie for stealing the title) that it was the worst idea ever. Couple that with bad casting, and the inherent difficulties Bob points out of compressing such a rich story, I had absolutely no faith that this movie would work.

Unfortunately, I've invested too much time and love into the brilliant animated series, so I'll have to watch this movie eventually. But, I think I'll wait till it hits Netflix before I let M. Night tarnish one of my favorite stories.

You know, considering the reactions of the fans, all I have to say is this.

Now you millennials understand why us X-gens were so butt hurt over the SW prequels...=P

starwarsgeek:
For fans of the cartoon:

Not having seen the animated series, parts of this post were an interesting read and some of it seems completely irrelevant.

I suspect MovieBob, much like myself, didn't see much if any of the last airbender animated series and thus reviews the movie on its own merits. As opposed to all the fans of the series reviewing it as something that should have been a straight movie adaptation of the series it seems.

The movie itself is alright. I don't feel like I wasted my time or money having gone to see it when it released at my local movie theatre Thursday. But that's not to say it wasn't without it's problems. Even without having seen the series I can tell that the movie is rushed. There really is too much narrative explaining things throughout the movie and it makes the entire movie feel worse for it.

But even worse than the pacing is the overall writing. The movie is written very badly and the entire movie ends up feeling slightly disjointed and shuffled because of it. I suspect that the casting team and the writing team had no communication with each other because they sorta worked towards different goals. A lot of people brought up the white actors playing Asian-based characters as something they hated, but really I don't see that as a problem because I could care less what the actors look like as long as their characters are written well. But even to me it seems sorta strange when you have these white actors use clearly Asian pronunciations of names, places, and titles. I then read that the pronunciations were "wrong" and laughed because apparently the original series had Asian characters with more English-sounding names. But then the same people that rage over white actors playing Asian character also rage over those white actors using more Asian-sounding pronunciations that match their setting? It would have been nicer (and probably helped the movie's flow) had they used either the white actors with the English-sounding names or Asian actors with the Asian-sounding names. But either way the fans of the series would have raged, now the fans just get to double rage.

I didn't really find the actors to be the dismal actors that so many people say they were. These actors were just more victims of bad writing (and directing most likely). You can't really add life to a character when they are written/directed (/forced) to be a downtrodden hero or a misunderstood guardian or whatever. Though I did get a stroke whenever that the girl who played that northern water princess spoke a line for some reason, but she only has like 3 throughout the entire film so it was bearable (probably has to do with her introduction, more on that later). I've read that Aang's character was "completely wrong" as well, but honestly I think the way he acted for most of the movie felt more fitting to how the character was shown in the movie. I'm pretty sure most people would be an upbeat, wise-cracking, bundle of joy if they awoke one day to find that everyone they knew and loved was dead because they weren't there to save them. I suspect if there is a sequel, then his demeanor will change more towards what people expected though (and it gives us hope for character development in the future! *gasp*).

Another issue with the writing was that it gave a weird sense that things were out of order. Like when the team reaches the northern water tribe the princess is introduced as someone the older brothers became close friends with, but then they go out of the way to show them becoming close friends. Why waste time telling us something you are then going to just show us anyways? It's like the writers tried explaining the effect of something and then showing the cause. Like when Aang tries to get the earthbenders to rebel against their captors by talking about what they are going to do when they rebel and after they succeed in rebelling and then introduces himself and solely starts a rebellion (which they then just end up running away from? Really? Did I miss something? Seems mean to attack a bunch of occupation soldiers and then leave the inhabitants to their fates.)

Besides the bad writing though, the movie wasn't bad. The plot was alright, if strangely revealed. The CG was pretty good and I liked the action scenes for the most part. The actors were acceptable given the roles they were forced to play and the lines they were forced to say. And I saw the movie in 3D and it was either amazing 3D or terrible 3D, I still can't decide. The movie doesn't go out of it's way to throw things at the screen like some other 3D movies (looking at you Alice) and I didn't really notice that the movie was in 3D except for a few of the landscape scenes. But those few scenes where you could tell it was 3D were great, you really could tell the depth of the objects on the screen and it added a good feeling of immersion to the world.

As someone who hasn't seen the series or someone judging the movie on its own, it's probably worth going to see (not much else this week unless you like Twilight). If you're just going to see it as a fan who wants to see a straight adaptation of the source series, don't bother going and you won't be disappointed.

Signs was the only horror movie I've ever seen (and I thought it was called something else, like Crop Circles), and I saw it when I was like 10 or 9, and even I knew that it made no sense for

.

I just thought I'd say that seeing as I'm very excited about it being mentioned there.

Anyway, good review as always, I'm pretty sure it's not released yet in the UK, but I doubt I'll go to the cinema to see it.

Riven Armor:

Well, despite being a fan of the cartoon, I'm glad the movie failed. Any casting director that so blatantly racebends deserves a sunk picture.

Avatar set back the status of Asian American performers a good number of years.

Seconded! When I saw the casting, I gave up on this movie. Sokka and Katara look idiotic as white kids, and making the Fire Nation Indian is just flat out terrible.

Beliyal:

starwarsgeek:
For fans of the cartoon:

That is ... quite disappointing :/ I really am a fan of the cartoon and I was expecting this movie eagerly, despite all that controversy about the casting, but this is disappointing. Dunno, I will see the movie eventually when it comes to my country, but only because we have cheap tickets. I've heard different reviews by now, so I'll try to watch it without being biased, but if all this what you wrote is completely true, I'll be a really really sad panda.

No mispronunciation. That's the "Asian" way of pronouncing it, and M S thought he should keep it that way. But aside from that, yeah, pretty much everything else is correct.

I'll be interesting to see how they handle the sequels either way.

And am I the only one who's happy that M made the world a REAL world that is being conquered by a tyrant nation, who's enslaving and oppressing every person they're taking prisoner? In the cartoon, everyone always acted fine. Very cheery and what not. And yes, they did take out the horribly lame childish jokes and I'm glad they did. They had some funny jokes, don't get me wrong. But most of the time, they were doing very childish antics, and the jokes were VERY childish.

Ugh, I gave it a shot and it slapped me across the face. I'm sorry, but the dialog and the actors are just so PAINFULLY awkward and quite frankly awful that I couldn't even enjoy the action sequences. The only good thing I can say about this movie is the costumes were top notch. But other than that...jesus it was just SO bad.

EDIT: Oh yeah, and they don't even pronounce Aang's, Sokka's or Iroh's name right in the movie. Just, wow, really? So much of the movie feels like it was just meant to alienate the fans on purpose.

Gonna go see, just hope I don't get slimed.

Skeleton Jelly:

I'll be interesting to see how they handle the sequels either way.

And am I the only one who's happy that M made the world a REAL world that is being conquered by a tyrant nation, who's enslaving and oppressing every person they're taking prisoner? In the cartoon, everyone always acted fine. Very cheery and what not. And yes, they did take out the horribly lame childish jokes and I'm glad they did. They had some funny jokes, don't get me wrong. But most of the time, they were doing very childish antics, and the jokes were VERY childish.

I think one of the problems is that the movie is rated PG, but isn't directly targeting children. It's a dark movie with dark themes and centered around a war against an oppressive tyrant. And when they do try to have some of that childish humor in the movie, it comes off as sort of out of place (like when Katara tries attacking the guards and freezes her brother, not really funny).

Bob, no matter the shortcomings of this movie, real though they are, I've got to think you and a lot of other reviewers are just about on your knees in thanksgiving for ANYTHING to get the rancid taste of "Twilight" off your sensory apparatus.

That too shall pass.

Abedeus:

SilentHunter7:

Felis Leo:
I would go so far as to say that it is the best American cartoon series since Batman: The Animated Series.

No offense to Batman, but IMO that should read the best American cartoon series since Samurai Jack. :)

If Samurai Jack was before Batman, I agree. SJ, while unfinished, was like... epic and stuff. Although he never caught Aku...

Still, I've got to catch up on Airbender as I have yet to see a single episode (yay, no cartoons like that in Poland till they started running Tsunami, by then I felt too old for cartoons).

Dude, regarding "Samurai Jack" and "Avatar: the last airbender", you are never too old, i was 21 when i first got into Avatar :P and Samurai Jack is positively arthouse compared to the shit on tv these days. You should definately check airbender out, its more anime than traditional "american" cartoon, and in my opinion it was that same eastern influence that made Batman so dark and brilliant (not saying airbender is dark, cause it isnt, but it is brilliant)

Nomanslander:
You know, considering the reactions of the fans, all I have to say is this.

Now you millennials understand why us X-gens were so butt hurt over the SW prequels...=P

amen to that brother.... damn you LuuuuuuUUUUUUCAAAAAAAAS!!!!! *shakes fist to sky*

skibadaa:

Dude, regarding "Samurai Jack" and "Avatar: the last airbender", you are never too old, i was 21 when i first got into Avatar :P and Samurai Jack is positively arthouse compared to the shit on tv these days. You should definately check airbender out, its more anime than traditional "american" cartoon, and in my opinion it was that same eastern influence that made Batman so dark and brilliant (not saying airbender is dark, cause it isnt, but it is brilliant)

Hell, first time I saw Avatar the cartoon series was a couple months ago and I'm almost 30, and I think it's pretty outstanding.

Although the funny part is I made a comment to the friend who introduced me to the show that it looks like American anime, and he got all pissy about it. Since he's not a big fan of anime he demanded I take that back, and the thing is I've been watching anime since the 80s way way before the Pokemon boom, and I know what anime looks and sounds like...=)

JonnieWest:

Skeleton Jelly:

I'll be interesting to see how they handle the sequels either way.

And am I the only one who's happy that M made the world a REAL world that is being conquered by a tyrant nation, who's enslaving and oppressing every person they're taking prisoner? In the cartoon, everyone always acted fine. Very cheery and what not. And yes, they did take out the horribly lame childish jokes and I'm glad they did. They had some funny jokes, don't get me wrong. But most of the time, they were doing very childish antics, and the jokes were VERY childish.

I think one of the problems is that the movie is rated PG, but isn't directly targeting children. It's a dark movie with dark themes and centered around a war against an oppressive tyrant. And when they do try to have some of that childish humor in the movie, it comes off as sort of out of place (like when Katara tries attacking the guards and freezes her brother, not really funny).

I didn't think it was all that funny either (I gave out a minor chuckle, but the rest of the packed movie theater was in an uproar). But that was certainly humor much, muuuuch greater to what was in the show. Aside from the actual good jokes in the show. And the humor perfectly fit the situation. It was humorous, but not too childish, and not too mature.

This will be the 4th movie where i saw the movie before seeing Moviebob's review of it, and again i have to agree with him on every level. I personally never saw the Avatar series on Nickelodeon seeing as i am too old to properly enjoy the characters. By that i mean i am not part of the era of pre-teen popculture no more nor have i been for many years. Therefore i did not actively seek to watch the Avatar. However with that said, I have always appreciated the technical directing that M.N.S. exhibits in this movie. My ultimate opinion would be that the kids will enjoy it, and grownups like us will be bitching about the details (like i am now).

WilliamRLBaker:

Good thing he got it all wrong, not only did he make idiotic changes to the source material he had scenes that made no sense.
oh and what happened with 2 and a half hours? why was the movie a paltry 1 hour and 43 minutes? he could have added so much more with that extra 40 minutes or so.

He obviously didn't care otherwise the actors would have been better, the acting better, the martial arts better, and the bending actually frequent instead of being few and far between.

What changes are you talking about?
besides fire bending, and the lack of humor (which is a big complaint I have) He was pretty much spot on.
The actors were good (besides sokka and kitara) and the martial arts and bending were excellent.
im not trying to dog you or start an argument about this but it feels like we went into two different movies.

I can really understand why people hate this, Im actually suprised I dont hate it myself, but I just dont get how you can think M. Night would spend countless hours with a project he didnt care about.

movie sucked ... m night wht ever sucks ... maby the poeple who watched the show will figure out why it sucks ... when you say "his vision" be better just to go watch the damn show

mikeydangerous:

Riven Armor:

Well, despite being a fan of the cartoon, I'm glad the movie failed. Any casting director that so blatantly racebends deserves a sunk picture.

Avatar set back the status of Asian American performers a good number of years.

Seconded! When I saw the casting, I gave up on this movie. Sokka and Katara look idiotic as white kids, and making the Fire Nation Indian is just flat out terrible.

Yeah, it's so interesting how the only 3 characters in the Water Tribe village with names and speaking parts are white...and the rest are Inuit.

Villains are brown, good guys are washed.

I'm a conservative and I don't usually pull race, but Hollywood invited it this time.

Jorias:
This will be the 4th movie where i saw the movie before seeing Moviebob's review of it, and again i have to agree with him on every level. I personally never saw the Avatar series on Nickelodeon seeing as i am too old to properly enjoy the characters. By that i mean i am not part of the era of pre-teen popculture no more nor have i been for many years. Therefore i did not actively seek to watch the Avatar. However with that said, I have always appreciated the technical directing that M.N.S. exhibits in this movie. My ultimate opinion would be that the kids will enjoy it, and grownups like us will be bitching about the details (like i am now).

The cartoon is actually a very good series on its own merits, even outside of its age group. Try it out sometime if you haven't given it a chance.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am a fan of this tv show and will see the movie, but ever I;ve gone all the fans have complained about one thing after another. One thing I heard was that they cut out the Kyoshi Warriors all together which does piss me off if they did, but way I see it, I know what it's missing from other reviews but I'm going to go see it anyways.

You made the best point all day though, this is obviously a franchise, and they had to condense a whole season into one movie, so there's a chance that things will get better as the progress.

I've seen Sixth Sense, and Unbreakable, haven't seen the others because my dad didn't like SIgns at all once I heard of the whole plant twist in The Happening I lost interest in seeing it. But one of the best things that came out of Shayamalan is this:

image

This lovely comic by http://takeru-san.deviantart.com/ on deviantart

The characters do take a while to flesh out, and the story does strangle the plot a bit, but when you're watching it just to enjoy it and not to give a review I don't think that will be too much of a concern.

Most of my concern was focused on the characters. Most of 'child' characters just seemed off whenever they spoke, either lacking emotion or not being fluid with their words/sentences (stiff)... sometimes it just seemed like they were trying too hard.
This bothered me for the first half of the movie, by the middle it started to change for some of the characters and by the end most of the young actors seemed to have become more comfortable and 'one' with their characters.

They all have a lot of potential and I do think that making it a franchise would not only be wonderful, but would give the characters and actors more time to 'get in the groove'.

Since the movie was a darn good adaption of the first book of the series, I certainly do hope Shyamalan will continue with the series.

Jorias:
This will be the 4th movie where i saw the movie before seeing Moviebob's review of it, and again i have to agree with him on every level. I personally never saw the Avatar series on Nickelodeon seeing as i am too old to properly enjoy the characters. By that i mean i am not part of the era of pre-teen popculture no more nor have i been for many years. Therefore i did not actively seek to watch the Avatar. However with that said, I have always appreciated the technical directing that M.N.S. exhibits in this movie. My ultimate opinion would be that the kids will enjoy it, and grownups like us will be bitching about the details (like i am now).

Actually, my two adult friends really enjoyed the series themselves, it's a cartoon show but if you enjoy campiness at times, it's a good series even for adults. It had so much development and character compared with some cartoons.

baseline: I enjoyed watching the Transformer Movies, didn't think they were good movies but at least fun to watch. I appreciate Great movies and popcorn flicks a like. And i can separate the two :P

Saw the Movie and heres my review:

Upside: This movie is a complete (i mean totally complete) synopsis of Season 1. Probably the most faithful translation of any original source material i've yet come across.

Downside: A piece of you will die every time they say each others names (as i had.)

Bad Guys steal the show completely. Good guys are too serious

B+ to A- compared to the Show

C as a stand alone movie

Riven Armor:

mikeydangerous:

Riven Armor:

Well, despite being a fan of the cartoon, I'm glad the movie failed. Any casting director that so blatantly racebends deserves a sunk picture.

Avatar set back the status of Asian American performers a good number of years.

Seconded! When I saw the casting, I gave up on this movie. Sokka and Katara look idiotic as white kids, and making the Fire Nation Indian is just flat out terrible.

Yeah, it's so interesting how the only 3 characters in the Water Tribe village with names and speaking parts are white...and the rest are Inuit.

Villains are brown, good guys are washed.

I'm a conservative and I don't usually pull race, but Hollywood invited it this time.

I don't think the movie really 'failed'. Personally I think some people are nit-picky over the stupidest things, though some have valid points.
I also don't think this movie is as bad as people want to make it out to be, but it's no gem either.

For example, the 'races' in Avatar the cartoon are all over the place. People saying they're all supposed to be asian are probably thinking such a thing because the cartoon 'looks like an anime'.

It is very possible that those who did try to audition for the parts, who were of the 'right race', just didn't have the right feel or look to them. There are many reason that could be perfectly valid, but people just want to cry racism when that might not have been the case. Not when the general audience lacks any sort fact.

I hated the show personaly it was awful and I have no hopes for the movie so its cool it fails. Also a three leged ant is beter then eclips

Wait, he made Unbreakable? I love that movie, I keep teling my friends to watch it. I also love Avatar, but odds are I'll rent this one.

o dont waste extra money on the 3D. This movie was NOT made with 3D in mind!

Hardly notice any 3D except for when you got a view of the Fire-Nation Battle ship towards the end. Soooo pointless!

DTWolfwood:
o dont waste extra money on the 3D. This movie was NOT made with 3D in mind!

Hardly notice any 3D except for when you got a view of the Fire-Nation Battle ship towards the end. Soooo pointless!

Yeah if you do have the option to skip out on the 3D i say go ahead an skip it. I didn't have an option the Alamo Drafthouse i guess only carried the 3D version. But yeah, you're right i didnt see much of a difference between 3 and 2D.

I'm scared of being crushingly disappointed by this....

It's insulting to say that Airbender is intended to "satisfy bored kiddies." The animated series, which Movie Bob obviously hasn't seen, is incredible. I happen to know a dozen adults who LOVE it, not to mention an entire fanbase. I know it's not Movie Bob's job to review the animated series, but don't talk as if this is a "kiddie film" or an "action blockbuster." The animated series is neither of those things and the film shouldn't have been, either.

Save your money and go rent or buy something good: the real Avatar The Last Airbender.

I consider it mispronunciation to say established characters' names completely different from their source material. Why is he so hell-bent to pronounce the characters' names "the Asian way" if he's only going to use white and Indian actors in the film instead of Chinese, Japanese and Inuit actors? Racebending sucks.

I still have to wonder what goes through people's minds.

Let's condense a huge, highly regarded and very long running series into 90 minutes. There is no way this can back fire.

I respectfully disagree with Moviebob, the series isn't for bored children. It has everything you'd expect to see in a series. Hell, it's one of the only series I've ever seen that has a huge, constant plot as opposed to just a bunch of randomly strewn episodes. Characters develop and conflict occurs.

A lot of other cartoons can't say that.

Batsamaritan:
dunno really, i always kind of thought the tv series was americans desperately trying to recreate the style of anime but with enough western sensibilities that the din't have to edit the shit out of the material, so the whole thing ended up coming across as a sub par naruto style show.

but i may check the film out, as i'm not nearly as offended by the casting as some.

Your comparing of avatar to a sub par naruto is honnestly insulting. Yeah it went to reacreate the japanese anime style and it did. In fact it did, it honnestly did it better than alot of jappanese anime. It had very deep characters who actualy had arcs and changed. It had a well paced narative that had many points that were amazing. And it never presented a character in one dimension, especialy Zuko who is probably one of the deepest characters ive ever seen in a cartoon series.

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