The Last Airbender movie had the potential to be great. Based on the Nickelodeon cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender, movie director M. Night Shyamalan had an engaging plot, great characters, and exciting fight scenes to use to create an epic movie. Unfortunately, something got lost in the translation from small screen to big screen since The Last Airbender movie felt more like a watered down and very stale version of the original series.
Some very important question weigh on the mind – how can the movie be less dramatic than the cartoon? How can a movie with a reported $150 million budget and a crew of special effects artists be less engaging than a cartoon series? Why did the movie creators change the way many of the characters names are pronounced, including the star of the whole series – the Avatar (which is supposed to pronounced with an “a” similar to “apple?”)
This review won’t get into a large discussion about the cast. Noah Ringer, who plays Aang, has a strong martial arts background but no acting experience. His performance in the movie reflects that. The supporting cast was passable as their characters, yet none of them embraced the spirit of their character, which resulted in bland, emotionless acting. The lone standout of the cast was Slumdog Millionaire star, Dev Patel, who convincingly embraced the “Zuko” spirit of determination to regain his honor.
Unfortunately, the weak acting was the least of The Last Airbender‘s problems. The biggest deficiency of the movie was how the writers completely decimated the spirit and the story-line of the original show. They removed all of the fun and lightheartedness from the stories and the characters, resulting in a somber, sleepy, and almost depressing movie. Scenes that demonstrated Aang’s truly awesome power were dialed back several notches, which minimized how powerful Aang is as a bender. In addition, some changes were made, such as making firebenders require fire in order to bend (instead of being able to create their own) or implying that Fire Lord Ozai cares about his son, Zuko’s, well being have serious implications that will require major changes in the subsequent movies.
Even the special effects, which were brilliant and exciting, missed their mark when the fight scenes failed to engage the viewer. Most of the bending effects were overall screen shots of fighting instead of bringing viewers close into the action.
Sadly, a movie that had the potential to leverage a large following of pre-made Avatar: The Last Airbender fans fell far short of expectations. Weak acting, distorted story lines, and major plot changes prevented The Last Airbender from being the epic movie it could have been.
Sources: Wikipedia, The Last Airbender. The Last Airbender Movie Website.