Thursday, July 1, 2010

Movie Reviews: The Last Airbender


Ye-gads this movie was awful! I want my ten dollars back! Granted, that would net me a five dollar profit, since I only paid five dollars to see this movie. I think the theater was disguising the discount as a student discount, when in reality it was an apology for how terrible this movie was going to be.

I'll be fair, it was fun to watch, kind of the same way watching a train wreck is fun. What? Am I the only one?

There were script problems (oh boy were there script problems), there were acting problems, pronunciation problems (why is Aang so hard to say? Did none of these people see the original show? If no, then why did you let them work on this thing!?), Katara problems (ye-gads she sucked!!). You name it, this movie had problems with it. It was Murphy's Law the Motion Picture.

When the movie started with Katara failing her water bending and dumping water on Sokka, was I the only one who half expected him to rip her throat out with his fangs? Was I the only one who wished this had actually happened once the movie was half way through?

All the scope, the potential that I saw in the trailers, it wasn't in the movie. It was so much wasted potential. I could literally see their budget shrinking as the movie progressed. It looked like it was supposed to be a big budget movie, but instead turned into an expensive Nickelodeon direct to TV movie that somehow sneaked into the movie theater.


I guess I can't write this review without addressing the casting issues. Yes, most of the main cast was white. Oddly enough the background characters were Asian, so it was quite clear that this wasn't "white people in asian society." The background characters were Asian, meaning the people living in the Last Airbender world did not just dress Asian, but were Asian. This makes white people being cast in the lead all the more stark than I thought it was going to be. Though I did detect something of a theme in the races cast for the different nations. The Earth kingdom was Asian. The water tribe were a mix of Whites and Asians, depending on whether they had a speaking role or not. The air nomads were kind of strange as they seemed to range between White, Asian and Black. I could tell that they put a bit of effort into trying to make Aang look Asian, proving that Hollywood is as sensitive as ever.


The Firenation were all consistently Indian, which was a nice touch at least. But if you want to get reeeeaaally picky, then anthropologically speaking Indians are not Asian. They are Caucasoid, meaning that, again, anthropologically speaking, they are more closely related to White people than Asians. Proximity of India to Asia notwithstanding.

On that note, for the entire movie I could have sworn that M. Night Shyamalan cast himself as General Zhao. A quick visit to imdb.com once I got home proved that was not true. Could have fooled me. Aasif Mandvhi is so bad an actor that I mistook him for a director. Probably could have done a better job with this movie.

Continuing the thread of bad acting. Cliff Curtis was a terrible Firelord Ozai. His character was indistinguishable from Zhao, and had none of the threatening presence of the Ozai from the cartoons.

Oh yeah, and Katara sucked, most of the mispronunciation is her fault, and Sokka didn't do anything. He didn't even fill the comic relief role. Sigh. Even his brief romance with Yue was painfully written. Geez, go back to making constipated doe eyed looks at Alice.

The worst part is that my fear that adapting a twenty episode series into a two hour long movie was right. The pacing was terrible, and even when they cut out most of the events from the series there was still too much background that had to be explained. And that's exactly what happened. It got explained. In dialogue. No showing, telling. And it got told in the most painful, awkward, unnatural way possible. I was cringing, wondering why nobody took M. Night away from the keyboard and let a real screen writer finish the script.

And if that wasn't bad enough: Firebending. Needs. Fire. As. A. Source. This means that if there is no fire the firebenders are useless. I cannot convey my rage in any eloquent form. To properly show exactly how angry I am I would have to type in all caps. But, I'm sure you feel the exact same rage I do as you read my words. In the end Iroh turns out to be capable of creating fire out of nothing, proving that no matter how much the director may try to screw everyone else over, Iroh is just too much of a badass to be contained. That part might have been cool, but I was too busy being enraged by the fact that something so simple, yet major, was changed.

In fact, Iroh was the only cool part of this movie. Dev Patel is a good actor, and he pulls off Zuko pretty well, but Shaun Toub steals the show as Iroh. He may not look much like Iroh, and his portrayal may not have been spot on. But he was the only good thing in this movie and I will not hear any criticism of him!

For that matter, why was Iroh the only one they could afford a wig for? Every other firenation character looked like they just drove around Los Angeles and picked up every Indian actor they could find, put them in costume and called it good. Seeing every firenation head, that was not covered with a helmet, sporting a perfectly gelled hairdo made it quite obvious that these were not the characters I had grown to love. These were just a bunch of schmucks dressing up for Halloween.

But all this is nothing compared to the biggest letdown of the entire movie. It is only comparable to the giant squid monster being cut out of the end of Watchmen. I am of course speaking of...

WHERE WAS KOIZILLA!?!?! I'VE BEEN KEEPING CALM THIS ENTIRE TIME, NO MATTER HOW MUCH I JUST WANTED TO BURST OUT SCREAMING. I TRIED TO KEEP A CIVIL, ELOQUENT, ETHOS FILLED PERSONA, BUT THIS IS THE LAST

I apologize for that. Needless to say, I was quite disappointed when the most awesome part of the finale of season one was cut out. Sure it might be silly, a fish-headed giant made out of water, but compared to the rest of what went on in this movie it was freaking Oscar material.

Despite my overly negative review of this movie, it was still enjoyable to watch, even if the entire time I was cataloging all the errors and painful moments for this review. So as a blogger and a reviewer I enjoyed this movie immensely, even if I can't decipher the last note I made on my arm. So if you plan on writing about how bad this movie was, and enjoy writing negative reviews, by all means you will have a blast. But if you're expecting a movie faithful to the original, just go watch the cartoon. And if you don't know anything about the franchise but are going in expecting some kind of movie, just go watch the cartoon. Even if you hate cartoons it will still be more satisfying.

3 comments:

Raven the Foolish said...

Oh yeah, Iroh was the best. I'm so glad my favorite character was not ruined...and Zuko was pretty okay. Could have been angrier though. Sokka...is NOT funny. Katara made me cringe and Aang not saying his name properly is going with me to my grave. I was disappointed with the firebending, making it seem that they have their weaknesses and water was pretty damn limited. As I know it is expected of movies based off other series, this one moved way too fast. And the acting was horrifying, just absolutely- why isn't Hollywood bankrupt?! WHY ARE THEY NOT BANKRUPT?! I'm sorry, I can't even keep to writing a sane review for this one. Overall, it was like you said, watching a train wreck. I counted up a lot of things that the movie failed with compared to the original. A lot. I didn't make a list though. I just noted them. As it is a movie based off a cartoon based off Asian civiliation, as an Asian, I am very, very, very, very, very angry. Oh and when the movie started, when it showed Paramount, I noticed that Viacom got to it.

Anonymous said...

I think another thing that was failed to be pionted out was why did they have these diificult exagerrated moves to lift a pebble or water, it wasn't like that. THe moves where fluid and graceful, not complex to do nothing. We know you can CGI things, make it look preety. ugghhh, Pissed now I hope if they finish the seris they fire.. M. Night.. and get me Steven Spielberg.

Derek Bown said...

Indeed. Though, my best laugh came from that moment in the earth kingdom prison camp. Right after another hilarious moment.

Aang: "There's earth all around you!"

Earth Peasants: "Huh? Earth, what's earth?"

Fire Nation Soldiers: "Oh shit, maybe we shouldn't have imprisoned them somewhere where they have an unlimited supply of weapons!"

Earthbenders: "It takes six of us to move this rock one of us could have just thrown at you!"

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