Saturday, July 30, 2011

Avatar: The Last Airbender

I just watched the film The Last Airbender on TV. I think the film came out in 2010. It was badly reviewed everywhere so I wasn't expecting much. Which is just as well, it wasn't very good.

It's a pity. The film was based on Avatar: The Last Airbender which was a really great cartoon, one of my favourites. I watched it on Nickelodeon, all three seasons, something like 60 episodes.

I remember the first time I saw it. I was just flicking through TV stations and the cartoon immediately caught my attention. As it turned out, I'd stumbled onto an all-day Avatar marathon on Nickelodeon so I abandoned all other plans for the day and watched every episode they showed, rushing into the kitchen during the adverts to make tea and biscuits.

After that I followed the show relentlessly, catching up with the episodes I'd missed and watching all the new ones. There were many times, when watching Avatar: The Last Airbender that I'd find myself amazed at something that had just happened, and I'd think 'This is such a good cartoon.'

It was like a mixture of an Anime and an American cartoon and, it was full of good characters, all using their elemental powers for fighting, and traveling between adventures on a flying-bison. I was sad when it all came to an end at the end of the third season, and still sort of hope they might make some more.

So the film was a big disappointment. The cartoon was set in a fictional world that was mostly Asian, and the characters were basically Asian. Avatar Aang was like a young Chinese monk. However in the film, all the main young characters were played by white actors. It was very strange. This caused a lot of adverse comment when the film came out, I can see why. Plenty of people loved these characters as they were, and for the film studio to suddenly make them not Asian but white, seemed weird, and maybe racist as well.

I watched the film thinking 'Who the hell are these characters meant to be? I want to see them like they were in the cartoon' (There was one Asian actor as a main character. Unfortunately, he didn't seem right for his part either.)

This was only one of many problems. There were great characters in the cartoon but they didn't come across as great in the film. The dialogue was hopeless. And it was all so rushed. The film covered the first series of the cartoon, which was twenty episodes, but they crammed it all into 90 minutes. It was all a great disappointment. (I notice the film got awarded some Golden Raspberry awards for being the worst film of the year. To be fair, I'm not sure it was quite that bad. It was bad, but there were some reasonable action sequences and parts of it looked good.)

I saw it on TV so I don't know how the 3-D was. But I'm not interested in 3-D, and hope I never have to watch it.

There were another two series in the cartoon, so I suppose if the film had been a success there would have been two more films, but it doesn't seem like they will happen now. In a way this is a shame, because the film, being based on the first series of the cartoon, didn't even have some of the best characters, who arrive later. Toph, for instance, a young earth-bender. And Princess Azula, who is a really great villain. And is also one of the many cartoon females I fined myself strangely attracted to.

Well, I still recommend the cartoon anyway, it was great. I don't know if its still shown anywhere but if you come across it you should definitely watch it.


  1. Bryce2:43 pm

    There was potential for an amzing film with the cartoon being so good,and then they gave the movie to a director I knew would ruin it.Even my children didn't like it.The creators are making a new t.v. show that should be coming out next year.It's about he next Avatar,70 years after Aang's story.I think it's called the Ledgend of Korra :)

  2. Anonymous3:12 pm

    I absolutely love the cartoons. I have the entire box set and I even collected the stuffed toys I'm that obsessed so I was so disappointed with the movie. I agree on the whole changing the asian characters to all white characters. It didn't make any sense considering a lot of them were mixed ethnicities within the same families. Dev Patel (Zuko) is Indian as is the girl who plays Azula and Cliff Curtis who plays his father is a Maori from New Zealand. Weird much. Another great story ruined by film makers.

  3. Bryce is right about the follow-up. Here's a link to the teaser trailer they just released at SDCC:

    On a side note, my girlfriend is, at this very minute, attending an anime convention as Azula. She'd never forgive me if I didn't show these to you, there are a few photos of it here: She's going to be excited when she hears you like Avatar - she's a big fan of yours, and attended a Halloween party last year as both Beauty and Delicious.

  4. Bryce, that's good news about the follow up, I'm really looking forward to this now.

    Bella, I wish I had the boxed set, now I think I might buy it. I wouldn't mind some of the stuffed toys either.

  5. Justin, I love the picture of your girlfriend as Princess Azula! Azula was such a great character, I was always sort of supporting her.

  6. The unforgivable sin of the live action version was that it had no sense of humor. The charm of the cartoon is that you've got this goofy little kid who has to turn into the world's savior. The beauty is that he lives up to his Avatar role without sacrificing his playful good nature.

    Also, Shamayalan seems to think that amping up the excitement of a battle sequence involves liberal doses of slow-motion.

  7. Martin, when I finally watched the cartoon, I sat down with episode one and watched all the way through to the end. It took me a whole weekend. I thought that Avatar was one of the best cartoon sagas I've ever seen. I bought the 3D movie -- and I watched it in 3D. Not only did the movie stink -- the the 3d effects stunk too -- they were barely in existence.