Why Should "The Last Airbender" be The Last: The Characters
Millions of fans left cinema houses with utter disastisfaction (understatement?) due to the film's huge failure of effectively bringing the animated series to the big screen. M. Night Shyamalan failed big time.
A Beautiful Disaster
The movie The Last Airbender is the biggest disappointment this year. In fact, it is one of the worst movies I've ever seen so far. Apparently, M. Night Shyamalan knows very little about Avatar: The Last Airbender, the animated series where the movie was adapted from. And he had the nerve to make a movie out of it! For an ardent fan who knows the whole story by heart, book by book, episode by episode, and action by action, the storytelling and details in the flick in addition to the lame portrayal of the characters are disrespecting and also to millions of fans around the world. The stunning visual effects are shadowed by the umpteenth errors in the direction and story details. As a huge fan of the Avatar, my excitement continuously grew as the announcement of a movie version was given more than two years ago. As it turned out, the project is not worth my excitement at all. More so my money.
My advice: stick to the cartoons. Here are some reasons why watching The Last Airbender is quite a waste of time and money.
The Overall Character Portrayal Spells Disaster Everywhere
Noah Ringer, the real-life black-belter kid who played Aang can't even act for crying out loud. He's far from Aang's personality which is not seen in the movie at all. It's not like I'm looking for the animated antiques. But Shyamalan should have retained even a bit of the jolly personality Aang has in the original. After all, Aang ran away from the Southern Air Temple because he didn't like his childhood to be forsaken for the responsibility of being an Avatar. Where is the childhood in the movie? Noah Ringer acted exactly like Monkey Gyatso, his parent-like master in the Southern Air Temple.
Katara's character is worse. Although Aang has the title role, Katara is really the leader of the group who burdens the stress from everyone, dismisses the melancholic atmosphere when they are under dark days, revives their morale especially of Aang who often gets discouraged from becoming the Avatar who he is destined to be. How come in the movie she acts so lame and unreliable? She's like a little sister who needs babysitting from his older brother, Sokka, although he is supposed to be slightly more immature than her. And look at the siblings. Don't you think they seem to have a five-year age gap although Sokka is just a year older?
Katara will be the last master of Aang in learning Waterbending. And that is for a reason. That reason is not in the movie. Nicola Peltz seems incapable of being a formidable Bloodbender at the end (Bloodbending is the highest form of Waterbending, you'll see that in the last book, Book of Fire). She is the last Waterbender from the Southern Water Tribe. She should be the pride of the tribe, and not just a pretty face who she is in the film. There is no conviction.
I have no problem with Jackson Rathbone who played Sokka although he still looks like a vampire in the Twilight Saga than a warrior from the South Pole.
Honestly, I find it awkward to see Dev Patel play Prince Zuko. It's somehow awkward to see that the reigning family of the Fire Nation are from India (No offense meant to our beloved Indian friends. It's just so different). Same as how the Southern Water Tribe is comprised of Eskimos and pure Caucasians (er, crossbreeding?).
Back to Dev Patel, he should have stayed with dramas and Slumdog-like movies than play an angsty and forever-brooding Zuko. The acting has no tinge of being natural in it. His acting did not reach the expectations supposedly exerted from the Book of Water's main protagonist. he is not effective at all. Seeing him act on the screen is like seeing him in a play. The Zuko I saw is very different from the excellent actor from Slumdog Millionaire. Aasif Mandvi who played Commander Zhao is even more laudable for the role.
Nevertheless, the biggest surprise from a character comes from Shaun Toub who plays Iroh, the most powerful Firebender (probably even surpassing his brother Fire Lord Ozai as indicated in the series) and original heir to the Fire Lord's throne. He acts good enough to be an actor but I'm not really sure if that's Iroh I was watching. They have different dispositions. The Iroh in The Last Airbender is a mere uncle trying so hard to guide his nephew (Zuko) from veering away from the way of the White Lotus. Iroh is more than that. The reason why Iroh is my favorite character in the movie is because he is so deep, unfathomable with wisdom, yet so transparent and shallow. He is so powerful yet he acts too lousy and lazy.
The General Iroh in the movie is very different. What you will see in the movie is a good actor playing the strongest Fire Nation general for over a century. However, what you are supposed to see is the strongest Firebender, the last person to gain the wisdom from the last Firebreathing dragons (thus the monicker "Dragon Of The West"), and the Grand-Lotus of the Order of the White Lotus, a secret society of powerful warriors from different element-bending tribes and kingdoms. Avid fans surely know what the Order of the White Lotus is all about. Shaun Toub doesn't look like a member, more so the leader of the secret organization. He acts so stiff.
Overall, the terrible acting ensemble transformed the film to be the best disaster movie of 2010. Hopefully, Summer Bishil who will play Princess Azula in the Book of Earth will live to her character, all for the sake of saving the cast from further shame. I am anticipating formidable foes, not more lousy actors on The Last Airbender.
* Watch out for the part two of my review discussing serious mistakes on many scenes in The Last Airbender. See why the Earthbenders looked idiots in the film, why the Moon and Ocean Spirits were desecrated, why the visual effects were rendered futile, why some interesting characters were left under oblivion and why M. Night Shyamalan failed terribly and should pass the movie to a new director.
My rating: BIG FAILURE