Avatar: The Last Airbender

There are probably spoilers. Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the movie and want it to be as close to completely surprising as possible today.

If you like the Nickelodeon series, this movie will probably disappoint you.

I love the series for it’s color and humor and treatment of serious issues (war, death, loss, fate verses desires) in a way that engages the audience without minimizing the issues presented.

The movie failed at that. It was heavy handed and slow. I checked the time on my phone several times during the movie to see how much longer until it was over. The sad aspects, like Zuko being banished by his father, should have been sadder, and the funny aspects, like Katara teaching herself to waterbend, should have been funnier.

Deadpan is fine if the movie’s subject can be played flatly, but The Last Airbender is an action comedy. It needs life and discernible change in emotion to be engaging.

Aside from the flatness of the story and acting, I missed the color of the characters. I don’t mean in their actions, but in the series, the main characters are non-white. That was one of my favorite elements of the story, because for once, a science-fictiony story on TV was not dominated by whites. It’s a trap that most science fiction stories, even adaptations, fall into, and it’s detrimental to the genre. In the live action The Last Airbender, the characters become white, which diminishes the story. Many of the background characters and extras were non-white, but the main characters, with a few distinct exceptions, were white.

My nerd complaint is that the characters couldn’t pronounce their names, or Aang’s title of Avatar, correctly. The entire series the pronunciation follows Southern Californian pronunciation with the short a for Aang and Avatar. Sokka sounded like “sock-ah”. Every time anyone pronounced Aang or Avatar or Sokka in the movie, I had to think through who they were talking about. If the series had been an adaptation of an Anime, I could understand the change. But Avatar: The Last Airbender is a US series. If you’ve seen the end, you can definitely tell there.

The graphics were flat and more silly than interesting. And I missed following the character development of the series.

All in all, it was a movie. I didn’t expect it to be great, and it wasn’t. I wasn’t disappointed,  but I’m glad I caught an early show, which meant I only paid $6. I didn’t find much in the movie to recommend, but I wouldn’t say avoid it like the plague. My review boils down to “meh”.

If you’ve seen it, what did you think? I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks.

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2 thoughts on “Avatar: The Last Airbender”

  1. aside from the bad acting, I really enjoyed it…In your review you didn’t seem to talk about the story staying true to the original series (which is very difficult it seems these days) and, for the most part, was done pretty well. I loved the cinematography. They did a great job of depicting the “bending” as a martial art form (which is why the actors where so terrible at acting, because they were so flipping believable as martial artists). I’m sad it has gotten such a bad rap, I’m concerned they won’t make the other two movies if it doesn’t catch on. And even though you didn’t care much for the movie, I know you’ll still see the next one…and then blog about it…

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