Follows the adventures of Aang, a young successor to a long line of Avatars, who must master all four elements and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water Tribes and the Earth Kingdom.Follows the adventures of Aang, a young successor to a long line of Avatars, who must master all four elements and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water Tribes and the Earth Kingdom.Follows the adventures of Aang, a young successor to a long line of Avatars, who must master all four elements and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water Tribes and the Earth Kingdom.
Let's start with the characters or, rather, the lack there-of. One of the things that made the cartoon so great was the incredibly complex and well thought-out characterization. Every single character had dimension and depth. As for the movie, not one of the characters even had a personality. They were cardboard cutouts of their animated selves with no drive or purpose. Katara, Sokka, and Aang had no chemistry and were hardly even together during the length of the film. There's absolutely no motivation for either Sokka or Katara to assist Aang and, had your average movie-goer never seen the show, they would have been wondering what on earth they were doing in the movie at all. I didn't get a father-and-son relationship between Zuko and Iroh, which is one of the most important relationships in the entire series, one that eventually changes Zuko for the better. I could hardly see Zuko doing anything for Iroh in the film other than order him around. Momo and Appa got virtually no screen time and every time I got a glimpse of Momo's face I kept thinking "Zaboomafoo." I won't complain about the way either were rendered, as I don't think it really mattered considering the fact that they played no role in the story, anyway. Overall I felt the casting was dreadful. Both Katara and Zuko were too young, in my opinion, but Katara's lack of age could have been compensated by portraying a strong-willed character something that was never accomplished. None of the characters resembled their animated counterparts: Sokka wasn't sarcastically charming, Katara wasn't determined or motherly, and Aang lacked any and all of his lovable boyish-ness. Zhou was annoying, Iroh had no jolly, old-man qualities, and Fire Lord Ozai? There was absolutely nothing threatening about him at all. I didn't so much mind that he was in it in the first place, but couldn't they have at least made him unapproachable? I felt like I could have walked up and punched him in the face without any repercussions.
The story was botched at best and felt like nothing but a string of events pieced together through basic transitions. It's one thing to stray from the original source for the sake of flow and continuity, but nothing about the story made sense unless you had seen the show, and even then, I was left confused and annoyed when things were switched around without any obvious reasoning. I understand that re-writing eight or nine hours' worth of material into a two-hour movie is a challenge for even the most skilled screenwriter, but it's been done before and could have been done here. My biggest disappointment was the fact that Sozin's comet, the most important aspect of the plot and the driving force for the Aang Gang to defeat the Firelord, was only briefly mentioned at the very end. The fact that this movie left out major plot points, key characters like King Bumi and the Kyoshi warriors, and jumbled around the order of various events is inexcusable. The source material was there; all that needed to be done was to use it and mold it properly. Rather than write the script, M. Night should have hired a screenwriter who actually knew what he was doing.
As for the effects, I can't say much. It's not one of the things I focus on in a movie, even for something that was meant to be heavily influenced by martial arts and elemental magic. I will say that the bending was hideous, and not because of the way the special effects were done. In the original cartoon, every movement corresponded with a reaction; in the film, it took five or ten motions for anything to even happen. Because of this, the bending didn't look natural in any way and came across as pitiful and useless. The fact that the fire benders couldn't shoot fire out of their hands made their bending look much less powerful than it should have been. Perhaps the thing that annoyed me the most was Katara's obvious lack of talent at water bending, a fact that gave the story no benefit and looked more like M. Night just never watched the show.
Since I don't like to totally crush something, I will say a few things I found salvageable about the film. For one thing, I thought the scenery and costumes were decent. They had the look of the show but without much character to them. I liked Yue, who looked a great deal like her character, perhaps the most of any of the actors. The way they did Aang's arrow was kind of cool with all of the detailing, but it could have been a little more visible. The only thing I can say I thought was a nice addition was Zuko's mentioning that his father said he was "like his mother." That was the one and only nice touch. More than anything the first twenty minutes of the film gave me a good laugh as it was clear that the entire movie would be a disaster.
Overall I am sincerely glad I didn't bother to pay money to see this movie and strongly encourage anyone else to avoid it. Spend your money elsewhere, such as purchasing or renting the first season of the show.
- Jul 21, 2011