In general, I try to be fairly positive. I try not to have too many expectations, because typically having them leads to disappointment. I wish I had stuck to my guns about expectations when it came to the movie The Last Airbender.
First, a little background. I was first introduced to Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender a couple of years ago. Yes, the show is a cartoon; yes, I am 30 years old; yes, my friends are of similar age; and yes, we ALL loved watching this show. If you look beyond the animation, there is a great story line to the show.
The general idea is that the world is made up of four nations, with each nation being able to manipulate a certain element: air, earth, wind and fire. The four nations live in harmony with one Avatar, a person with the ability to control all four elements, helping to keep balance in the world. Then one day, the avatar disappeared and the fire nation begins to take over the world. 100 years later, the avatar returns in the form of Aang, a twelve year old boy who is the last airbender. He is discovered by two kids from the southern water tribe, Sokka and Katara. The entire show documents Aang’s journey to accept who he is, master all four elements, and then face the Fire Lord to regain balance and peace in the world.
What makes the show so great, and so appealing to audiences of all ages, is that there is a wonderful light-heartedness and spirit of fun that can entertain both the kids and the adults. There are also subtle lessons and truths for people who are looking for ways that they can grow and develop – such as realizing that all things are connected, as well as the ability to detach from the world so you can have clarity. Great stuff.
So after years of watching the Avatar: The Last Airbender DVDs over and over again, my friends and I were completely excited to learn that they were coming out with Avatar: The Last Airbender the movie. “Woohoo!,” we thought. We waited eagerly for the movie to be released, sustained by awesome movie trailers such as this one:
The movie was released on Friday, July 2nd, and that night, at 9:50PM, the four of us were in our seats, with 3D glasses on, ready to enjoy the movie.
I’ll start with the positive – the effects of the movies are top notch. The way they depict the bending was exciting, colorful and really, really cool.
Now, the not-so-positive stuff. The most obvious thing was that they changed the pronounciation of almost all the names. It should be Avatar, where the “a” is like “apple.” It should be Aang, where the “Aa” is like “angel.” It’s Uncle Iro like “Eye-row” not “ear-row.” I think it’s horrible that they changed the names like that. I mean, can you imagine if they changed “Emma” to something like “Erma”? You especially can’t do it if there is a following to the show where thousands if not millions of people know that the names are supposed to be spoken in a particular way.
I understand that it is very difficult to show a whole season of the show into a condensed, less than 2 hour movie. I get that you’ll have to filter out some scenes and focus on others. However, whoever chose which scenes to show, chose poorly. They selected scenes and then changed them completely. For example, in the original show, it was Katara, not Aang,who tried to inspire the earth benders to break free from their prison. Plus, they were on a large boat, not on land. And then the group did not go town to town with the intent of freeing the towns from fire nation control. I won’t even get into how the entire fight scene at the Northern water tribe was a total let down, where they missed out on the opportunity to show how utterly powerful Aang can be when he’s channeling the avatar powers. In the Nickelodeon show, he did much more than scare the fire nation ships with a tall wave while standing on a wall. Why, M. Night, why would you suck the powerfulness of the scene out and make it so blah?
Maybe M. Night didn’t watch the whole series, because that would be one explanation for why he completely changed the vibe of the whole thing. The Nicklodeon show is bright, fun and happy. The movie is somber, dramatic, and in some instances serious. It lacked the vibrant energy that the show sustained through all the seasons – so much so that I nodded off during a couple scenes. Eek! In the show, both Aang and Sokka are funny and entertaining characters. In the movie, Aang is much more stoic and serious while Sokka is just…well…kind of bland.
Finally, I can’t believe they changed the name of the movie from “Avatar: The Last Airbender” to just “The Last Airbender.” I mean, I know it was because Avatar, the blue people movie, was such a big hit, and you can’t have movies with such similar names, but *sigh.*
I walked out of the movie feeling incredibly disappointed. I can’t understand why the writers and director would make the movie so much worse than the show. My only explanation is that they didn’t actually watch the whole show, and they just didn’t get it.
I can understand if you’ve never seen the show and you liked the movie. The movie in and of itself can be entertaining. But when you know what the movie could have been, when you know the quality of material it had to play with, then the movie is a let down.
If you want some real entertainment, don’t spend the $14.50 at the movie theater (remember, 3D adds $3 to the price.) Instead, buy the first book of the series, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.