“The Last Airbender” Will Not be the Last…

Genres: Kids/Family, Science Fiction/Fantasy and Adaptation
Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.
Release Date: July 1st 2010 (wide)
MPAA Rating: PG for fantasy action violence.
Distributors: Paramount Pictures

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

JJ Rating: B

See it again: Maybe…
Own it: The Director’s cut.
Recommend it to: Those who are not overly sensitive to anything I mentioned below as a problem.

The first season of “Avatar: The Last Airbender - Water”, that’s about 8 ½ hours of material, condensed into an 1 hour and 43 minutes. The Last Airbender.

The Last Airbender plays like a recap of the first season, a quick recap. M. Night Shyamalan had a gallon of water (information on Airbender) to put into an 8 oz glass (movie’s running time). It, of course, overflowed and created somewhat of a mess. The look of the film was beautiful. The scenes were awesome. The cities looked just like the cartoon. The CGI looked great. I loved how Appa and Momo looked and acted. There wasn’t enough Sokka (Jackson Rathbone). One of the critic complaints was that it was cheesy, but that doesn’t matter since the cartoon was very cheesy. What matters is if they balanced it or not. That, though, was their problem. Also the editing had a jarring affect.

Airbender moved swiftly telling a lot of information in a short period. This created a problem for character development. However, with the Uncle Iroh (Shaun Toub) they hit all the main points: his love of tea, his calmness, and the love for female attention via massages. That was something that would have worked with the other characters such as Sokka, Katara (Nicole Peltz), Aang (Noah Ringer) and Zuko (Dev Patel). Those characters became information givers in ways that made them almost all narrators. The acting is hard to judge, because the editing might tamper with how the acting looks a little too much. The looks of all the characters worked for me. Zuko’s scare seemed tame, but I suppose that had to occur because the cartoon version was over the top.

I believe the second film could be very, very good. Why? Because I have a feeling someone got trumped, via time allotment, editing it down to an hour and 40 minutes. That is beyond ridiculous. This movie (and the rest of them) could so be 2 and half hours easily and should be that length.

I stand alone on this, but I think Shyamalan’s a good director. He may need a good friend who’s a writer that helps him write better, but zero help in filming. I think that if he had a good writer friend he wouldn’t make the mistakes he did this go around. I think that I could help him write the second film because I do love the cartoon, but I don’t over love it that I’m going to hate anyone who tries to do it again.

Last year Star Trek had mere moments to set up a dramatic scene with two characters we just met. The scene pulled many people’s heartstrings and even made some people cry, it was between Kirk’s mom and dad. Every time I see a scene that doesn’t muster the emotion needed for the short period of time it has to set it up, I think of that moment and ask why is it so difficult to pull off? I thought of that moment with the Moon Princess and Sokka.

I’m hoping that the director’s cut will be released along with the actual film on DVD and I’ll get it. I heard about what he cut and just maybe it’s better. Giving Airbender 2 and half hours would be enough time to allow information to smoothly come out correctly and character development to be sharper. If I disliked Shyamalan I would destroy this film like some are doing. Some are using their “love” for the show to fuel their hate for the film and hope it’s a viable opinion. All opinions are worth sharing, but just because you’ve seen the show doesn’t mean you are more creditable than someone else. I really dislike when people preface their opinion with “I’ve seen the original content and…” because it’s not only unnecessary, it doesn’t make their opinion valuable.

Not enough Sokka, he’s my favorite. Katara as narrator, as she was in the show, was not a bad idea, but they overused her and used her at the wrong times. Aang’s playful self appeared more in the childlike flashbacks than in the present movie time. The bending CGI worked very well. The look of the film, as I said before, was splendid. That part couldn’t have been any better, but the character development fell short.

When I saw X-Men I loved it. It was so far removed from the comic book that I had good reason to dislike it, but didn’t. I view Airbender in the same light, except for the fact that X-Men tried to get personalities into the film that were close to the comic book. What they failed on was the development of Cyclops as a character. Something they failed on for all three movies. It ticked me off, but I still loved the films. The flaws I noticed in Airbender do piss me off, but not so much that I can’t see the remarkable work that was done. I hold out hope that it’ll make enough money so the planned Earth and Fire sequels will happen.

Oh and the very best part of the entire film (outside of how clever Appa and Momo were used – which is where some of my hope rests for better to come) was the end, because that glare from one obnoxious and annoying character made me grin. I hate that character so much. The Last Airbender might be a disappointment for some, but for me it was ok and I believe that the next two will be better. I really do.

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