Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Last Airbender

The Last Airbender is based on an “American” anime series on Nickelodeon called “Avatar: The Last Airbender”.  Sadly, they couldn’t call the movie Avatar: The Last Airbender because the name would’ve been confused with that shitty movie that we don’t dare say the name of.  Quick sidebar; everyone thought “OMG AVATAR IS SO ORIGINAL!” I’m sorry, but it’s not original. It was original when it was called “Dances with Wolves/Matrix/Battlefield Earth/Ferngully”. Yet those idiots wasted money to watch a fanfic of all those combined movies... Sorry… Just had to get that out…
Anyway, the TV series was split into 3 “books” and each episode is essentially a different chapter in the story. Since this movie only covers the first season, I will briefly sum up the story of that book. If you already know the story, you can just skip ahead to the review.
In the first book we meet Aang, a member of the Air Nomads. Through a special ceremony during his childhood, he learns that he is the new reincarnation of the Avatar. An Avatar is the only person able to control all four elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water). Following this discovery, he was told he can’t have time for family and friends because he has an incredible responsibility of keeping peace between all of the clans. Under the pressure of his newfound power, he runs away from his tribe and gets caught in a storm with his companion (a flying bison named Appa).  They are both sent crashing into the ocean where his Avatar state took over his body and formed a protective ball of air around him. He and Appa are instantly frozen in time.
100 Years later, Katara and her brother Sokka (members of the southern water tribe) find them and break their bonds. They discover that he and Appa haven’t aged a day since being frozen.  Katara and Sokka (Knowing that the next Avatar is supposed to be an Air Nomad) ask Aang if he knew who the Avatar was, Aang only tells them that he knows people who know who the Avatar was. The duo brings Aang and Appa back to the Southern Water tribe to give him a place to stay for a little while.
Upon arriving in Southern Water tribe territory, everyone in the village is surprised to see an Airbender since they are now extinct. Katara has a talk with her grandmother Kanna who talks of Aang as being a possible threat to the village. Katara convinces her “Gran-gran” that Aang can teach the village many good things and also teach her waterbending. One day, the trio is messing around when they stumble across an abandoned Fire Navy ship. Aang obviously has no clue about the war going on, and becomes curious about the boat. Aang convinces Katara to go with him and explore it when they set off a booby trap which shoots off a flare in the air. Meanwhile, the light emitted from the flare attracts the attention of Prince Zuko of the Fire nation (who was previously exiled by his father, Fire Lord Ozai), who watches on seeing Aang use his airbending powers to get out of the navy ship. Zuko now believes he’s found the Avatar and sets out to capture him.
When they return to the village the tribe members banish Aang. Prince Zuko soon arrives in the village and starts harassing the water tribe, grabbing and threatening people on a hell bent quest to find the Avatar. Aang witnesses this happening and is infuriated. He calls Zuko out and tells him to stop. They both begin to fight, but eventually Aang gives up not wanting any innocent bystanders to get hit by stray blasts of fire. Zuko handcuffs him and brings him to his ship where Aang later with the help of Katara and Sokka. Aang admits to them that he ran away before his tribe had taught him the other elements, so Katara suggest they learn waterbending together by learning it at the Nothern Water Tribe (Since all the waterbending villagers in her tribe are battling the Fire Nation on the front line).
Aang, along with Katara and Sokka make a stop at the old Southern Air Temple that Aang used to live only to find it abandoned. Katara explains to Aang that he is the only surviving member of the Air Benders and that during the Fire tribes’ quest for domination, they killed off all of the Air Benders to find the Avatar. Meanwhile, Zuko is visited by General Zhao who learns that he let the Avatar escape and they both have to duel to see who has the right to track and capture the Avatar.
The next few episodes seem to be taken out from the movie script so I’ll just skip those to prevent this overview from being too long.
They leave the Air temple and eventually arrive near a small earth village, now controlled by the Fire Nation.  They happen upon a boy named Haru and convince him to use his Earth Bending, which is now considered illegal in the village, to save someone. That someone tells the fire army about what happened and gets the boy imprisoned on an offshore mining rig. This leads to Aang and his companions being caught and tossed into the sealed off village. They eventually start a rebellion which leads to the Earth Benders to commandeer the fire nation ships and escape.
Again the movie skips a bit and adds a little bit. For example in the TV series there is a separate episode which shows how the group gets their hands on a Water Bending scroll to teach them the very basic Water Bending moves. However, in the movie they get the scroll after they help out the Earth Benders become free.
Back on their way to the Northern Water Tribe, Sokka and Katara become sick, and Aang looks for a herbalist to find a cure. After searching around he finds the cure, but ends up becoming captured by Zhao. However, a masked guy called “The Blue Spirit” breaks in and rescues Aang.  “The Blue Spirit” is knocked unconscious and Aang quickly discovers that it is actually Prince Zuko in disguise. Aang, being the nice guy he is drags the unconscious Zuko somewhere safe where he talks about one of his old Fire Nation friends from 100 years in the past. After regaining consciousness Zuko tries to attack Aang, who easily escapes and goes back to his friends giving them the cure.
Again, the movie jumps quite a few episodes and skips to the last few when they reach the Nothern Water Tribe.
Aang and the group arrive at the northern water tribe and are warmly welcomed. Sokka ends up falling for Princess Yue, and Aang and Katara try to learn Water Bending form master Pakku. However, the master, due to sexist customs, refuses to teach Katara. Although, Katara proves herself in combat and the master decides to teach them both. Zhao hires pirates to assassinate Zuko, who ends up surviving and sneaking onboard Zhaos ship as it heads to the Northern Water Tribe. The Fire Nation reaches the tribe, and prepare for an attack at dawn, so Zuko sneaks into the tribe to capture Aang, who believes that meditation to get into the spirit world to talk with the spirits will give him information on how to defeat the Fire Nation. Zuko kidnaps Aang’s body while he’s in his trance. Sokka, Katara, and Princess Yue look for the two. Meanwhile, The Fire Nation infiltrates the city. Aang is eventually saved, and General Zhao kills the water tribe’s sacred moon spirit (which is in the form of a fish), which causes the Water Benders to lose their Water Bending ability. In a fit of anger, Aang gets possessed by the ocean spirit, La, and destroys the armada. However, since the tribe’s princess was imbued with the moon spirits energy, she sacrifices herself to revive the tasty fishy morsel. Meanwhile, Zuko and Zhao are fighting when he notices that the moon spirit has been revived. The moon spirit takes Zhao and sends him into the deep blue. HAPPY ENDING!
Surprisingly, Zuko doesn’t try to recapture Aang… Again. Instead, he pulls a whiny “I’m tired,” move like some sissy little bitch. We later see Ozai who learns of Zhao’s death, and sends his daughter Azula to chase after Aang.
Altogether, the script seemed straight to the point and cut out almost all of the jokes and slapstick bits of comedy (Not to mention quite a few episodes) that the television series had. The two main issues I have is that when Aang was tested to see if he was the Avatar or not (Yeah after his initial capture he was tested), the rock and water moved on their own. Which shouldn’t have happened … After all, he still needed to learn how to control the other elements, and he didn’t have those abilities yet. Then the biggest concern, his daughter was credited for the script. I’m not joking. She’s credited. I know that the reason why he wanted to do this movie is because they spent their family time watching it, but to actually have your daughter help out with a re-telling of a TV series season summary isn’t really a good thing. Other than that I didn’t have any of the same issues that most people had with this movie. Sure, It was a lot darker and more serious (which is to be expected from M. Night), but I think it was more like that because the comedy bits were removed, not because of the director himself putting forth any effort into it.
The casting consisted mostly of random unknown actors, that I think might actually have a decent future ahead of themselves. I personally feel that the actor playing Aang would be best suited for children’s comedies, since his serious side seems a bit… odd. They could’ve picked some better actors for Katara and Sokka in my opinion… See, each of the tribes seemed to be groups of different races. Earth tribe was Asian, Fire was Iranian-Indian (the dot kind, not the woo-woo kind), Water was Eskimo Indians, Air… I’m not sure what they were. But when you see Katara and Sokka standing side by side with their tribe, they don’t look anything like the rest of them. They’re basically two little white kids hanging out in Alaska. Beyond that, I still can’t get over the fact that Zuko is Anwar from the hit BBC show Skins because I can’t really see him as any other character. Everytime he came on screen I expected him to start talking about chicks and getting laid, or hanging out with his gay friend. It also bothers me that M. Night has a tendency to recycle actors from his past movies. Did anyone else recognize the kid who played Bobby on The 6th Sense?
Regardless of the main casting, some of the background characters (I.E. martial artists) were some pretty decent rare guys you see. Like… Well I honestly can’t remember where I’ve seen him from but if you’ve watched the movie he was the guy in the front when you see the earth benders taking back their land and they were stomping on the ground like it was some sort of retard dance troupe. He’s one of those guys that you recognize his face, but you can’t place a name on him. I’m sure people walk up to him on the street and go, “Hey! You’re that one guy from that movie”.
This brings me to choreography. If you’re familiar with the series at all then you know that each tribe has their own distinct fighting style, which is based on an actual martial art style. Water was Tai-chi, Earth was Hung Gar, Fire was Northern Shaolin Kung-Fu, and Air was Ba Gua. They did stick with that throughout the movie which made me happy. However, whenever they did a move, the non-CG elements lagged behind the finished sequence. For example, with the fire nation kick, a trail of fire follows behind the movement sequence (which I’m assuming makes the kick more powerful somehow?).  The animation series seemed to be more fluid, but the movie just didn’t pull through with it. I’m not saying the timing was constantly behind, but there were some cases that it seemed really off. It was mainly when fire was being used, and seeing as how they probably didn’t want to injure actors with the non-CG parts I guess it makes sense.
Now I’m not a big fan of M. Night, but this movie was actually kind of decent. Then again he didn’t really do that much to it. I know a lot of people hated it because it’s “Not like the series” but honestly it was. It was just a dark mash-up of the key points of the first season without all of the. Besides, if any movies based on a show or game were completely the same, it’d both make the movie too long and the whole thing pretty boring because you’d already know everything that’s going to happen.
The locations used for filming were great, but since I didn’t get to see this movie in 3-D it wasn’t as beautiful as I wanted. Speaking of 3D (another rabbit trail here) there is one thing that I can’t get over and that’s when a 3D movie uses the gimmick of taking an item or some other CG thing and shoving it into the camera. This happened in a couple of the fight sequences. Still not as bad as when a character in a movie purposely breaks the 4th wall and shoves things at the camera going “GRAB ONTO THIS!” or something else completely cheesy and stupid.
…God what if porn was in stereoscopic 3D? *shudders*

1 comment:

  1. If porn was in the 3D there will be lines
    like: "Blow on this".

    The air nomads are actually mixed.

    I didn't catch the part were the script was credited to his daughter.

    I also thought the effect could have been better. In the show they move their hands to perform moves and they would have a streak trailing to show that they are about to use bending.