Escape to the Movies: "The Last Airbender"

It’s not good.

It’s also not AS bad as you’ve heard.

But yeah, it’s very very not good.

If it makes money, Shayamalan might be “back” jus because he’ll have “proven” he can handle an FX-driven feature. If not… yikes.

“Intermission” has more elaboration about Twilight and such:

21 thoughts on “Escape to the Movies: "The Last Airbender"

  1. Hunter says:

    that intro sounds exactly like what the scott pilgrim movie has to do. only difference is those guys seem like they really can do it.


  2. Rubbav1 says:

    I said it before, Bob, and I'll say it again.

    You REALLY don't get the Harry Potter series.

    Also, I kind of have to call BS on your defense of the “LastAirbender”. The exposition of A:TLA was always said at the beginning of every episode. It took 30 seconds to say, that's not that difficult. Also counting the fact that a good 50% of the series was either filler or consisted of plot lines and characters that really didn't go anywhere.

    Obviously, the filmmakers failed to strip the storyline down to its base and instead decided to go with the always faulty “checklist” type adaption.


  3. tyra menendez says:

    Shame, that. Especially considering when everyone kept talking about “James Cameron's live-action Avatar project”, I thought it was this Avatar. Yeah, I was really confused, for a while, there. I think it was the inclusion of “live-action” which I know I heard from G4, at least once, that caused it.
    I watched the series and there was a lot of stuff that could have been trimmed, in the narrative. But that's episodic television: we want to get from A to B in this season, but we have 12 – 24 episodes to fill.
    So, is that a fault of Sham-a-lama-ding-dong? Probably. He's never handled a large-scope narrative, before. The good movies were all small, character-driven pieces.
    And the second Harry Potter was good. It was always a series meant to grow up with the audience. The third movie actually kind of sucked: the entire mystery (y'know, the plot?) got thrown by the wayside so we could… what? see them in moody lighting and street clothes? realize that Hermoine was growing boobs? see a bad, CGI werewolf? But then, I tended to like those books for the mystery element.


  4. Chris says:

    Sorry Bob but I'm not going to give that movie a chance.
    Being a big animation fan it really bothers me when Hollywood decides to adapt animation to the “real” screen.
    Why did they make this movie? The story had been told. The characters where good and the action solid. There was some filler but the story had a really nice progression. There was no chance at all that a movie could out do the series in ANY of these aspects. The ONLY thing the movie had was “live action”.
    And this is my big beef. Why is live action better than animation? It's not! But because “cartoons are for kids” apparently you need to make it live action to appease the “Hardcore” (as in the giant insecure douches you describe on your other blog).
    It's the same reason some people insist on calling some comics “visual novels” or “sequential art”. It pisses me of. Comics and cartoons are perfectly legit story mediums. Would WallE in any way benefit from having real humans play the ship crew with WallE being a more “realistic” CGI. Of course not. And Avatar does not benefit from being preformed by real humans.
    If you need something for your next intermission discuss this please. Why can't we just let cartoons stay cartoons and get over the immature dismissal of the medium because we watched part of it as kids.


  5. Anonymous says:

    A little more knowledge of the source would have probably changed your opinion here. Shyamalan messed with the show's tone, the smoothness of the Bending, the mysticism of the Spirit World and a really unimpressive way of ending the North Pole battle compared to how the show handled it.


  6. Anonymous says:

    “There are forces at work, beyond our understanding!” “It was an act of nature, and we will never fully understand it.”




  7. Taylor says:

    @Chris: Totally, totally, totally, totally correct.

    From Roger Eberts Review:

    The first fatal decision was to make a live-action film out of material that was born to be anime. The animation of the Nickelodeon TV series drew on the bright colors and “clear line” style of such masters as Miyazaki, and was a pleasure to observe. It's in the very nature of animation to make absurd visual sights more plausible.

    Since “Airbender” involves the human manipulation of the forces of air, earth, water and fire, there is hardly an event that can be rendered plausibly in live action. That said, its special effects are atrocious. The first time the waterbender Katara summons a globe of water, which then splashes (offscreen) on her brother Sokka, he doesn't even get wet. Firebenders' flames don't seem to really burn, and so on.


  8. Anonymous says:


    I wouldn't be so objective about these things. Bending could work in a live action film if they were as precise as they were in the original show in choreography. In the show they made damn sure the what each style of martial arts yielded the desired elements.

    In retrospect, the should have probably just gone with actual world class martial artists.
    80's style.


  9. beyrob says:

    I loved the series, the move however….yikes. I actautly have to disagree with you on the action. Sure the kid who played the avatar did well. However the other benders took far too long to use their attacks. it was like DBZ in slow mo. And instead of at the end, turning into a gaint water spirit and crushing 30-some ships? A wave? just kinda lame by conparison. Also one more thing. PRONOUNCE THE NAMES CORRECTLY. There's no excuse for that.


  10. Dave says:

    I'm rather disappointed that you never went into to racial politics of the movie whihc will likely be remembered long after it is. Instead you chose to give us information we already had.

    Oh and the village was awesome. It and signs are the only movies I have ever seen that have scared me. Unbreakable was mediocre.


  11. Taylor says:

    Dave, how is whether the movie is actually good information we already have? I mean, the racial politics is stuff we already have (I mean, you clearly already know about it)

    I'm glad Bob didn't go into it, since it's really a simple analysis. Hollywood is racist an this is bad…going into it would be an industry analysis and not an actual review of Avatar. I mean, the Last Airbender.

    Fucking James Cameron…so unoriginal who couldn't even come up with his own name.


  12. Anonymous says:

    Man bob you gave this movie more of a bone then I thought you would. The acting had some major burps, some times even comically bad. Remember when the head general was telling Ozia that the blue spirit was his son? Remember the pause and then the abrupt ending of the scene with “YES”? Or how about the romance between Sokka and the queen? Being told they fell in love is a piss poor way to bring about romance. Then with the romance the pin even more piss poor exposition and pass it off as dialogue.

    Plus when ever Aasif Mandvi talked I though he was gonna tilt his head, raise a brow, and say “Jon?” as if the whole thing was a another skit on the daily show. Which is odd because in other roles he was In i din't get the feeling at all.


  13. Taylor says:

    Well yeah, Electron, but Avatar: TLA was a well recognized and significant series when James Cameron released Avatar, and he should have shown some respect to that.

    If had been working on an epic spy movie about the Office of Secret Intelligence and I released it today and called it “The Office” I'd be criticized for it, even though the word has been around.

    And I really doubt that James Cameron has enough creative integrity not to try and subtly latch his magnum opus onto an already well regarded fantasy franchise.


  14. Dave says:

    @ Taylor. Guy found the time for 2 reviews this week, and he also find time in every 3rd review or so to remind us that he doesn't like tranformers or michael bay or new spiderman or anything else that he's decide he's pissed off about this week, and he can't talk about one of the largest issues surrounding the film?


  15. CrunchyEmpanada says:

    No, this movie was terrible. The only two movies I've seen recently (read: in the past two years) which were worse are Bandslam, and stupid Legend of Chun-Li.

    All that stuff you said was great? Maybe the costumes were cool. Everything else? Awful. Cinematography and fight scenes especially. I can't get over that stupid scene where Katara and Aang are just TALKING, and the camera decides to hang mere centimetres away from their faces during their lines. It was so they couldn't even fit Aang's whole face in the shot!

    The martial arts had no connection to the bending in this. They'd do these stupid long slow-motion moves and the element they were supposedly bending would do something completely unrelated, or hell, do something after they had already finished with their stupid dance.

    The affects were crap. When that earthbender “threw” a rock at that one firebending soldier, I think they would have done better to just use a foam boulder suspended with string. It looked like that's what they did, except it was clearly just bad CG, making it worse.

    If it was a choice between this or Eclipse, everybody should go see Eclipse. And it's so sad that that's the truth.


  16. Taylor says:

    @Dave: Exactly, it's one of the biggest issues *surrounding* the film. It's not that it isn't a big issue, but I think it's perfectly valid for a critic to focus on the film and not on political issues surrounding the film.


  17. GEL says:

    Bob, I SO hope you watch the actual series sometime. It was one of the best shows on TV and I am interested to hear your thoughts on it.

    One thing that's especially interesting is that Shamylan was actually a friend of the show. Listening to the commentary on the DVDs, the show's creators actually talk about Shamylan calling them up on the phone and just chatting about the latest episode. I wonder if that may have been part of the problem? Shamylan's fanboyism not letting him cut anything out, perhaps?

    In retrospect though, it WAS a terrible idea to make a movie out of this. The show had REALLY good pacing if you ask me and that makes it practically impossible to condense well.


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