Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Last Airbender.... Broke my Brain.

Okay so this was the first movie I have ever gone to that left me extremely clueless as to whether or not I liked it.

So I went home and read about a hundred reviews on it and they all said the same thing: This Avatar movie SUCKED.

But I'm the type of girl who at least tries to find some good things about these movies so I will provide a list of pros before I rant and rant about the cons.

1. It kept very well with the plot of the Animated Series. This has always been the classic complaint of moviegoers everywhere: "Why do they have to change it so much? I like the original!" Well here is where their wish was granted. The movie kept to the major plotline of the series almost without flaw. Of course, there are things we gotta leave out. Omashu, for example, with the mad King Bumi and the crazy cabbage guy, was a great part of season 1, but not needed to keep the Fire Nation plot going and therefore unneccessary for the motion picture. I get that. And there are some things that were added in... that whole tidbit about Aang's past with the Monks where he is supposed to officially announce his acceptance of becoming the Avatar was new. But the big things were all there, as they were in the series. They got all the characters right, down to the costumes all the people wore. The voices even sounded alike (I was particularly impressed with Noah's little Aang voice). So I was not disappointed at all at how well they were able to cram 20 episodes of great plotline into a hundred-minute movie. Good job.
(I will say now, however, that the things that WERE changed from the original are definitely things that turned what would have been a great movie into a complete disaster... but we'll get there later. I'll try to stay positive until then.)
2. I'm a boy-obsessed fool, so I gotta say that Sokka was adorable. I hesitate to admit this, but I only figured out he was Jackson Rathbone -- who recently graced us with his gorgeous presence as Jasper in the Eclipse movie -- about halfway through the film... I should have been able to have recognized that intense stare anywhere! I was touched by the love affair between Sokka and his dear Princess Eweh (how DO you spell her name, I wonder?). Probably the most touching part of the film was when he has to let her go... just as it was in the animated movie, except moreso because now it's actual people kissing each other, not just 2D anime replications.

3. The beginning was very good. It got me pumped for the rest of the movie. Seeing those REAL people doing the moves that I've seen over and over at the beginning of every episode was quite thrilling. Actually, the bending moves in general were pretty good. It's nice to know that yes, people can actually move their bodies that way and it's not just fun drawings. They maintained the separate martial arts well, too, as far as I saw, though I'm no expert on that kind of thing.
4. The whole movie was very pleasing to the eye. You got some cool 3D effects in there (I particularly liked the water sequences) and the scenery was gorgeous. Costumes were ACE. Exactly how I would picture them to look like from the drawings. And I actually found it quite fun seeing who they picked for each role. We had a rainbow of ethnicities in this movie... though it did seem a little backwards. We've got the Indian/Middle Eastern types for the Fire Nation. There's Eastern Asian people representing the Earth Kingdom. So far, so good. But then we've got two water tribes filled with Caucasians and a couple Innuit... I always thought Katara and Sokka were a bit, well, darker than that in the animated series. And then there are those Air Nomads who were pretty much every race you could think of except white.... and then there's pasty Aang in the middle of all of them. Monk Iatso (whatever) was black. That was something I did not expect. Not at all. But I surprisingly liked it. Maybe it was just the touching memories of the fatherly monk that got me saying "Awww, how CUTE!" during that part of the movie, but I think they cast it rather well. I'm sure these actors did the best they could with what they were able to work with....
5. More on the casting. My two favorite characters in this besides Sokka were Zuko and Iroh. I was surprised to see Iroh cast as a tall skinny guy, but his acting and lines were definitely the best out of everyone's. I always see Iroh as the kind of guy who has this AMAZING power but he willingly chooses not to use it in a way that is destructive. A great example for the fiery young Zuko, played by that one guy from Slumdog Millionare. He did rather well. Though his lines were a little forced, I always got that impression from the Zuko in the animated series as well, so it wasn't as annoying. This kind of went for Katara as well. Everything Katara says is really overscripted, even in the animated show, so it's only to be expected that Katara is a bit plastic in the live movie. It's when you get people like... say... Commander Zhou and other adults in the movie who are perfectly capable of good acting who get stuck with these crappy lines. I can't cut them as much slack as I can with the kids.

(these will get a little specific)
1. Zuko's scar needs to be more noticeable, particularly when you got a dark-skinned Indian Actor playing the part.
2. The words AANG, SOKKA, IROH, and even AVATAR are said over and over in the animated series. Can't we just pronounce them that way in the movie? I almost had issues remembering that Ahng was the kid with the bald head and tatttoos blowing wind around. When he gets caught up in those spirit-dream sequences, I hear Katara shouting his name: "Ahng! AHNG!" and I keep thinking she's saying, "Mom! MOM!!!" Just pronounce it the way we're all used to. We've all seen the series, it's not like you're hiding it from us! Why add one more thing about this movie that frustrates us even more?
3. As I said before, the movie takes hold of the important parts of the first season and compacts them pretty nicely. But the transitions between each new scene are sloppy. We have trouble recognizing where exactly people are, what exactly they are doing there, and where they are going. We have to wait forever until someone mentions it in an overscripted soliloquy. In one review, I read that the whole movie was a series of starts and stops -- the starts being the bending action sequences and the stops being the jerky dialog in between. I must agree. There was little acting going on. Little characterization at all, as a matter of fact.
4. The lack of character development deserves its own number. Take Sokka, for example. Sokka, in the series, was the comic relief, who falls victim to almost all different types of humorous situations. He wants to be a man, like his father. He's got a sister with an incredible gift. But Sokka always seems to fall short over and over again until finally he meets this princess who makes him feel strong and loved and able to be somebody. Then (spoiler) the princess has to die -- or at least not live anymore -- and that part of Sokka is gone. He's a great character. But we miss all of that because between the opening and the kiss at the end, all we hear from Sokka are about two words. There was SO MUCH MORE we could have done here! So much more of Sokka we could have seen! Where is the headstrong, take-charge, clumsy Sokka we all know and love? All we have in this movie is a paranoid and wishy-washy moonstruck waif. Mr. Rathbone, good looks can only take you so far. Talk to your scriptwriter and maybe he'll think of some more clever scenes for you to go along with that gorgeous face you got.
5. I don't quite understand the idea that Iroh can make fire out of "nothing." They do that over and over again in the series.
6. Where is Avatar Roku? I liked him better than that dragon spirit thing that haunted Aaang in his visions. Furthermore, Roku gave more information (which was always concise, informative, on point, and NOT BORING) than this dragon did. We figure out at the end of the movie that FireLord Ozai knows about the comet... but how and when does Aang find out? That question is left unanswered.
7. Speaking of that comet... 3 years? Not three months? Okay so I suppose that's a lot more realistic of a time frame for a guy like Aang to learn and perfect three forms of bending, but still... three years? Aang will have finished puberty by then! And Sokka... Sokka would be an adult by that time. Same with Zuko. Didn't think that all the way through, didja?
8. Why do we actually get to SEE Fire Lord Ozai? One of the most mysterious parts of the whole movie was the idea of this unseen villain, this evil with no bounds, shrouded in flame, ready to kill. But we see weakness in Ozai. He questions the honor of his son, he questions the might of his troops. He's actually seen as this old Indian guy wearing funny clothes. Not quite the Ozai I would have pictured.
9. While the action scenes were on the whole pretty good, they didn't run as smoothly as I would have liked. One scene in particular really annoys me: That earthbending kingdom scene. Pretty much that whole thing. Aang provokes fire bender. Two seconds pass. Firebender finally attacks at Aang. Katara (though she seemed to have had plenty of time to respond) doesn't come out to protect Aang until he's about to get hit. Then she mutters this really badly-given line "Leave him alone!" And while the Firebender takes about five seconds to prepare to hit Katara, Aang still doesn't seem like he's in too much of a hurry to help her until she's about to get hit. It's all very slow, jerky, not exciting. All the bending takes a while. In the animated series, you're able to throw fire, water, and rocks around with lightning speed. Aparently not in live-action land, despite our advanced technologies.
10. One final thing before I go to bed. This whole pacifist Avatar thing is beginning to bug me. I really liked the giant fish spirit thing that Aang become at the end of the animated season 1. He shows just how powerful he is by kicking some major fire nation butt. But in this movie, he seems to do all he can NOT to kick any butts. One thing about being the Avatar. You've GOT to kill some people in a war. That's just the way things are. So quit trying to supress those offensive emotions, Aang. They are natural, and they are legitimate. Remember, these guys will scorch you alive if you get too close! So attack 'em! I'm a young american teenager. I demind some bloodshed!! I mean, it is rated PG after all... that's enough for at least a little violence.
Okay I'm done for now. Don't see this movie until it comes out on the dollar theater or until a fanatic friend of yours borrows it. It ain't worth going in theaters unless you got amazing seats and some good friends to compare notes with.

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