By: Corey Lack
The Last Airbender was a live-action movie released in 2010 that was written, co-produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Anyone familiar with Shyamalan’s films know that his films are either seen as great enough to be seen as one of the best or so bad that they generate genuine hate from the viewers. There is no middle ground. This one, a movie version of the first Avatar series originally aired on Nickelodeon, is definitely one of the second choice.
The story of the movie covers the first season of the show, going from Aang being found in the iceberg by Katara and Sokka to the Battle of the North Pole. That said, it takes a lot of the show’s events and character development out of the movie. Major characters that appeared in the show were never seen or only appear for brief moments. For example, in the show, Sokka’s character started out immature and even a little misogynistic, but after meeting the Kyoshi warriors, he not only started to mature, but also got a bit of actual fighting training. Also, a major recurring character and one of Sokka’s love interests is introduced during this period. This doesn’t happen in the movie and, as a result, Sokka’s character suffers for it. Both Aang and Katara similarly suffer from lack of development. In the show, Aang started out as a goofy child in both mind and body who wanted to avoid the responsibility of being the Avatar, but slowly came into his duty as the Avatar, and Katara started out as a starry-eyed girl seeking merely to learn waterbending, but after seeing the suffering of the people she meets as a result of the war, she begins to insist on doing more. Neither of these really happen in the movie as it was sped to the conclusion of the events of the first season.
In short, this movie is a major failure not only as a movie by itself, but also as a reiteration of the beloved show. Sure, people can argue about the “white washing” that occurred in connection to some of the characters, but that is a small issue that can and should be ignored considering the characters were still recognizable. Also, yes, the special effects were certainly impressive, but that’s only a minor point in its favor. In an interview, Shyamalan claimed to have seen the show with his kids and I honestly have to question it. Sure, the beginning of the show was geared towards the very young, but as the viewers of the show grew up and learned more responsibility, so did the characters themselves. I’m not saying there weren’t childish moments later in the show. There were. I’m saying that, by that point, the show was as much for adults as it was for kids. It was journey to adulthood that young viewers could join the characters on, learning as they learned, and Shyamalan missed it. Instead of having a movie that paid homage to that theme and journey, Shyamalan carved the story to pieces and stitched it back together to create some soulless Frankenstein’s monster of set action sequences and sudden climaxes with no payoffs. I give this movie .5 flying lemurs out of 10.