For Avatar: The Legend of Aang (Avatar: The Last Airbender) fans, nothing is more terrifying than the Fire Lord gaining absolute omnipotence. That is until M. Night Shyamalan’s live-action movie adaptation, The Last Airbender.
That’s pretty much the review right there, but since I already dropped the bomb, I might as well justify myself.
1. Casting Caucasians in an Asian-themed film always raises eyebrows but casting bad Caucasian actors, who by sheer cultural difference obviously can’t breathe enough life to the colorful characters the series set, is just terrible judgment.
-The spirited Aang, who was reduced to bland one-dimensionality, was as empty as his bald head. First-timer Noah Ringer can’t be faulted (especially since kids are sensitive and impressionable to criticism) but if he ever wants to make it big in the movies, it’s not about starring in a big budget film. It’s about getting rid of the “acting-in-a-big-movie-for-the-first-time” look that just translates as though he has no idea why he’s playing an Asian shaolin-looking character. For Texan Ringer though, he has to work extra hard to get rid of the flared nostrils thing, too. It’s really not cute.
-Meanwhile Jackson Rathbone (Sokka) is capitalizing too much on his constipated Jasper Hale (Twilight Saga) expression. Avatar: The Legend of Aang doesn’t require any vegetarianism, vampire or otherwise.
-Shyamalan’s version of Appa has quite a likeness to the weird creatures from Where the Wild Things are (2009). Too cute to be true.
-Dev Patel doesn’t disappoint but an all-Bombay fire nation? Not to mention a Caucasian water tribe and oriental Asian earth nomads? The segregation may have been for consistency but it’s easy to misconstrue it for racism.
-And to add to the list of discriminating qualities, converting the otherwise kick-ass Katara into a wimp was definitely needless especially since stick to her aggressiveness wouldn’t have made a lot of difference to Shyamalan’s (blurred) vision for the storyline. The director has this unfortunate habit of getting rid of anything that might have helped him make the film a few notches higher than awful.
2. Where Shyamalan learned to pronounce Aang “Aung (as in augment),” Sokka “Soak-ha,” Iro “Ear-oh” is beyond comprehension as it is but mispronouncing the title as “Aug-vaugh-tar” is completely unforgivable. Didn’t he watch that hit James Cameron movie? It’s similar to how the Chinese produced the iPed as a (bad) copy for the iPad.
3. Taking the above into consideration PLUS ridding the entire franchise of the comedy that makes the series extra entertaining in order to make it “darker and more grounded” was again bad directorial judgment. Shyamalan ended up with nothing but a cluttered misinterpretation.
But then again, we can’t expect much from a director who hasn’t had a hit since Sixth Sense (1999). So save yourself the heartbreak and expect the disappointment in the next two sequels.
Not really a review especially since I’m a fan of the series hence heavily tainted with great expectations.