AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER as the title should be, is the latest big project of M. Night Shyamalan. For those familiar with the lore, know it has potential, but did Shyamalan harness it?
Most of you will know the movie as THE LAST AIRBENDER, as the prefix of AVATAR would just confuse a lot of people. No this time we are not talking about the blue guy below, but about Aang, the bold kid with the weird tattoos.
THE LAST AIRBENDER is a “legendary” tale of well… the last Airbender, called Aang. He has the powers to bend the element Air. Imagine you can boost some air below yourself which helps lifting you for a few meters, or pushing someone away. In the world of Aang there are more people who can bend elements like water and fire, quite of few of them actually. However Aang is the chosen one, the so called Avatar, who can control all the four elements – for those who skipped kindergarten – those are Air, Water, Earth and Fire. (And for those familiar with the animated series, will know there is a 5th bending for Energy)
Besides being the Avatar, Aang also is the last Airbender, which means he has no family or friends and is just a scared little kid all alone in the cruel world. Almost makes you want to shed a tear now doesn’t it? In this cruel world the Fire Alliance or Legion – or whatever these Fire people call themself – have taken over most of the world. The story shows similarities to other big tales in which a protagonist has to find its inner self so he or she can fight evil. So this is hardly original, but the world the writers created is quite decent and certainly worth some attention.
I’ll quote Wikipedia on the setting of this lore:
Avatar: The Last Airbender takes place in a world that is home to humans, fantastic animals, and spirits. Human civilization is divided into four nations: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Air Nomads, and the Fire Nation. Each nation has its own natural element, on which it bases its society. Furthermore, people known as Benders have the ability to manipulate the eponymous element of their nation using the physical motions of martial arts. The show’s creators based each Bending style on a style of real-world martial art, leading to visual differences in the techniques used by Waterbenders (tai chi chuan), Earthbenders (Hung Ga kung fu, for the most part), Firebenders (Northern Shaolin kung fu) and Airbenders (baguazhang). Each country is also associated with a season: autumn for the Air Nomads, winter for the Water Tribe, spring for the Earth Kingdom and summer for the Fire Nation.
This is just a small part of the lore. The animated series is separated in 3 seasons and the first movie is basically the first season of the series. I recently got to it to watch the first few episodes of the animated series and I can understand why the fans love it so much. The setting is a lot better than the movie and completely different. This also goes for the various characters when you compare the animated version versus the motion picture. Of course there are similarities but those are very very little. So THE LAST AIRBENDER now results in pretty much a crap adaptation of a very popular animated series.
I really pondered when writing this review if I was being harsh or not, but I have to stand by my first opinion. The movie really and I mean really sucks. But in the end there is actually only one reason why the movie sucks so much…. no it’s not that they changed the lore so much, this almost always happens when series / games / books get filmed. C’mon we all know it… it’s the… yes… yes… the acting! Really, it was like watching wooden puppets go at it. I can honestly say I have seen better performance in your average X-rated movie.
The movie however does some things right, like the music and the special effects. I would expect no less from the masterminds of ILM (you know the folks who do the Star Wars FX as well). Also I – personally – do not mind the lore being changed to make the movie more appealing. Though I doubt this was really the case. The writers could have stuck a lot closer to the original if you ask me. But in the end it this does not help the movie one bit. The acting obvisously killed the entire movie.
Now with this being part 1 of the trilogy, can mister Shyamalan still set things straight? I think this really depends on whether or not they stray away even more from the lore and improve on the actors their performance. I am not even sure if it is still possible to improve, but most of the actors are still very young and there is room for improvement, so we can only hope for the best right?
With THE LAST AIRBENDER you are stuck with nice effects in one hand and a big pile of flying bison crap in the other one. The fact I got charged an extra 5 bucks to see a 3D conversion movie didn’t help either. – Really people, why all this 3D movies when it has no added value?! – We can only hope that the 2nd and 3rd movie will have much improvement, else it is just best to avoid this trilogy and watch the original animated series.