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Movie Review: Avatar, The Last Airbender (July, 2010)

Director: M. Night Shymalan
Screenplay: M. Night Shymalan
Release Date: July 1, pathopsychology 2010
Actors: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi, Cliff Curtis
Based on the anime on Nickelodean

By now everyone knows the general critics consensus of this movie. A big fat D- to F grade.

I saw this film with a group of friends that were mixed in their knowledge of Avatar, the popular Nickelodean series. (Not to be confused with the blue people, as many people I mentioned to, gave me a strange look when I mentioned the title.) A few of my friends absolutely loved the Avatar tv series, and were very excited with the prospect of seeing the movie. I had only seen small parts of the popular anime, but did not know much about the story or who the Avatar was. My movie buddies had never even heard of the series. The consensus? Those who had watched the series – hated it. With a passion. I thought it was okay. My boyfriend liked it, and the opinion was split between one friend who really enjoyed it, and the other friend who didn’t like it at all.

Having now watched about seven episodes of the anime, I have a better grasp as to why my friends did not like the movie. The humor is all but lacking in the film. First, let me explain the plot (which they kind of glaze over in the film.) The world that Avatar lives in are separated by the elements of fire, air, water and earth. Each element has an associated nation, of which some members of the nation have the power to use their associated element and bend it to their will. Avatar represents the world in human form that masters all elements, and is reborn if he or she dies. To learn more about Avatar and Aang: Avatar wikipedia (be careful, it spoils on Book One/Two/Three). When we enter Book One: Water, we are greeted by Katara and Sokku, members of the Water Nation. Katara and Sokku stumble upon the Avatar, Aang (played by newcomer Noah Ring), who, along with his flying bison friend, Appa, are stuck in a huge block of ice. Aang discovers that 100 years has passed since he froze Appa and himself in ice, and the Fire Nation is now engaging in war with the other nations and turning their heads back against the spirits. Aang, who has only mastered airbending, must master the other elements in time to protect the other nations from being invaded by the Fire Nation.

The series contains a lot of humor, mostly coming from Sokku (Jackson Rathbone of Twilight fame), which seems to be completely non existent in the script. Aang is also supposed to be very playful (as he is 12 year old), despite the fact that he carries the burden of being one of the last of his people alive.

There is a lot wrong with the film. First of all, the script is horrible. No amount of good acting can save the script. But, with the horrors of the script, the acting is also horrible. The inexperienced actors are wooden in their delivery, and make cheesy lines seem cheesier. The only few things I enjoyed was the cinematography, the sets, and the music. It’s a shame because the story is in itself, very interesting. But the lack of heart and time invested into the script (or so it seems) does a huge disservice to the television series. M. Night Shymalan did absolutely nothing in terms of character growth for the supporting characters of Katara or Sokku. By the film’s end, I wouldn’t have cared if they lived or died. There are a couple scenes involving Sokku and Princess Yue, who lives in the Water Nation, that were created to evoke emotion, but all I could do was sit there and roll my eyes. Noah Ringer did a decent job as Aang, but with such a weak script and supporting actors, he has to go down with the rest of them. Dev Patel as Prince Zuko, of Slumgdog Millionaire fame was, I thought, unbearable. Perhaps the words were to blame, but his desire to capture the Avatar due to being banished from the Fire Nation lacked, what I felt, depth. The one scene that showed us what had happened to cause his father, the King to banish him, evoked no emotion from me. I did not care.

What it comes down to, is that throughout the whole film, I felt I was watching two dimensional characters instead of three dimensional. There was nothing to make me feel for them, and it was the sad combination of acting and the script that is at fault here.

I don’t know how good the movie will do at the box office, but the series deserves its ending with Book Two and Book Three, minus M. Night Shymalan (or at the very least, he has got to stop with the writing, and let someone else do it). There was a time where I would have wanted to see any movie he directed, but disappointment after disappointment has left a bitter taste in my mouth.

I did think the effects were, for the most part, decent, and the music (composed by James Newton Howard) terrific, and I can say once I got over the fact that I was going to be watching some terrible acting and listening to cheesy lines (much like George Lucas’), I enjoyed the overall story.

How would I recommend this? I would say, avoid if you are an Avatar television series fan. If you’re still curious, check it out. I’ve heard fairly mixed reviews, but I think if you are prepared and know what to expect after reading countless negative reviews, I think there is a slight possibility one might enjoy the film. Overall, I would wait for rental if you are wanting to see it.
2 Appas / 5 Appas

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0938283/

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