'The Last Airbender' is the worst movie I have ever seen and will haunt me forever.

This review contains spoilers, but let's be honest you're not going to watch this film.

I'm someone who gives movies the benefit of the doubt because films are subjective, but I'm not doing that with this movie. It really is that bad.

The Last Airbender (2010) - IMDbStory

The story takes place in a world where some individuals can bend the four elements, Fire, Water, Earth and Air. The avatar is the only individual who can bend all 4 elements and is tasked with keeping balance in the world. However, he vanished for 100 years and in that time the Fire Nation started a war and wreaked havoc throughout the world in a quest to be the most powerful nation.

Katara and Sokka find an Airbender in an iceberg who turns out to be the avatar, and they travel the world trying to right the wrongs of the fire nation.

The story isn't the issue in this movie because it's an adaptation of a TV show that is easily one of the best-animated shows ever made (I am prepared to debate this). The skeleton of the story is still the same, however, this movie is based on the first season of the show which spans 20 episodes with each episode running for 23 minutes. This movie tries to cover over 400 minutes of story in 103  minutes which is virtually impossible. Some story elements were changed to condense the story, and I have no problem with trimming down the story. However, this movie makes fundamental changes to the source material which results in a movie that makes no sense and is inconsistent.
Did no one watch the show? And if they did were they paying any attention?

Acting

Before I address the acting, I have to address the casting. This movie is one of the most ethnically diverse movies I have ever seen. However, that is cancelled out by the whitewashing of two of the lead actors and the mismatched casting of everyone else.

Katara and Sokka are clearly darker skinned but were cast as two Caucasian actors, it makes no sense. Aang's casting is fine (his acting, however, is not.) I also mentioned mismatched casting, when you watch the show it's obvious that the people from the Fire Nation have names and physical attributes that we would associate with people from China, Japan, and other countries in that geographical region, but in this film M Night Shyamalan cast people who look like they're from India and countries in that geographical region. My issue with this casting is the inconsistency between what you see and what you hear. A man whose name is Zhao doesn't look like he would answer to that name in real life. However, I do give M Night props for making an effort to bring in some diversity.
How did anyone think this casting was okay?

Image result for katara last airbender comparison

The acting in this film is atrocious, it's tied with the writing as the worst thing in this movie. No one does a good job, all the actors are either over-acting or just standing there reciting terrible dialogue with no nuance or emotion.

Nicola Peltz's Katara is one of the worst offenders. In the show, Katara is smart, passionate and brave but you don't get any indication of that in the movie. She comes across as naive and whiny. You don't see her headstrong nature, iron-clad will or maternal qualities. M Night said his daughter's favourite character from the show was Katara, I'm surprised he didn't at least try to get her right.

Noah Ringer is not the worst actor in this movie. As far as his portrayal of Aang he isn't too far off. He's not as playful as Aang is and delivers a pretty boring performance throughout the film.

I hate Jackson Rathbone's portrayal of Sokka, he's not witty, clever or anything that the character is supposed to be. All he does is tell Katara what to do, and it doesn't come from a place of care or protection like it's supposed to, it just feels forced and out of place.

This movie is a waste of Dev Patel's talent. If you've seen Slumdog Millionaire or Lion, you know that he is insanely talented and you don't see that talent in this movie.  Zuko in the movie isn't as ruthless as he is on the show. Animated Zuko was someone to fear while live action Zuko comes across as petulant.
There is one similarity between Zuko in the show and Zuko in the movie and that is his determination. Zuko seems to think that his hunt for the Avatar is directly linked to the hunt for his honour and that results in him making rash decisions even though you don't see those decisions in the film at all.

The bad acting is more evident in the side characters, a lot of them stand around like Sims waiting for something to do. Those with dialogue have stale delivery with absolutely no nuance and made the film as a whole graning to watch.
Did any of the actors watch the show?!

Writing/Direction

To put it lightly, this movie lacks any valid direction. Tonally it's all over the place. M Night and the writers made some very odd choices with the script. You have odd character introductions and motivations. In the third act, Katara and Zuko have a confrontation (which should have been epic but wasn't) and she introduces herself by saying "My name is Katara and I'm the only waterbender in the Southern Water Tribe." Why would you give that specific piece of information to someone who has been hunting you and following you all over the world?!?! She's not the only character that has odd dialogue like this. Zhao and Iroh have a conversation and  Zhao make a very on-the-nose statement about Iroh's loss during the 100-day siege of Ba Sing Se. There is no reason for Zhao to make that statement except to give exposition to the audience.

Which brings me to my next problem, there is too much exposition in this movie. I have no problem with exposition and in a movie like this, it's necessary because world-building needs to take place. In this film, however, all the information is given directly to the audience either through voiceover or dialogue. This is one of the laziest ways to deliver information to the audience. The information could have delivered in a more creative way like visually. Even when the information is delivered visually we still have voiceover. I spent half the runtime yelling "I know!" at the screen because I had Katara and her stupid voiceover telling me exactly what was going on even though I could see what was going on. Who thought this was a good idea?!

There are also very odd character introductions. When we meet one of the main antagonists he is walking in a corridor. This is how he is introduced in the show

Image result for fire lord ozai introduction

From that introduction, you already know that he is a character that should be feared. In the movie, this how he is introduced
Image result for fire lord ozai the last airbender movie

It's obvious which one you're more afraid of. And that has to do with how each one is portrayed. One appears as a malevolent ruler and the other a man with nothing else to do except walk around.

The dialogue is clumsy, it's not funny and lacks any real depth or emotion. This is an actual quote from the movie.
"We need to show the fire nation that we believe in our beliefs just as much as they believe in theirs"
No real person would talk like that, you already have a tough job making a world like this grounded in reality. Having characters speak like this isn't helping, I'm less likely to take your movie seriously if the characters have ridiculous lines like this. You can't tell me that the script wasn't rushed, I mean some proof-read this right?

This story has such a rich lore and the people who made this movie paid it no mind. One of my biggest grievances with this movie is the utter disregard of the pronunciations of names and places. These are things that are clearly set out in the lore that is completely abandoned for reasons that are unknown to me.
There is no reason for fire-benders to have a bending source, you can't say it's to ground the film because this is a movie that has a flying bison called Appa. A change like that has a ripple effect throughout the film because fire benders literally have to have a candle, campfire or torch near them at all times which make no sense visually and is also very distracting.

CGI/Set Design

The movie doesn't fail in regards to the set design, a lot of the sets reflect the show, but they're underutilized because a lot of them are dimly lit. When there are action sequences going on you can barely see what is going on which removes any sense of realism because you can't see what is going on. And when you can see you don't believe it because the fight choreography is dreadful.

The fight scenes in this movie should have been nothing short of amazing. You have characters that can bend elements to their will. Their movements should be fluid (with the exception of earthbenders) but for the most part, when the actors are bending they just look like they're waving their hands about.

They should look like this

Image result for aang airbending gif

But they look like this



For the most part, the fight scenes are dimly lit, I assume that was due to the budget constraints on the film. When scenes were lit properly, it looks very fake. Aang and someone known as the blue spirit, that should have been one of the best fights scenes in the movie and you can see glimmers of greatness, but as a whole, it's badly choreographed and doesn't look realistic at all. There is no contact between the blue spirit who uses dual swords and the fire nation guards who mostly stand around waiting for their turn. What makes this film even more laughable is the fact that it's in slo-mo. Personally, I'm not the biggest fan of quick editing (even though I'm not opposed to it when used in moderation) but this would have been a perfect time to use it. Having this scene in slo-mo means anyone paying attention (which I admit is hard at this point in this crappy film) can see all the flaws in that scene.

The CGI is terrible. It's well known that this movie was converted into 3D, and it really shows. A lot of the scenes are obviously green screen and the movie looks incomplete. For a movie that cost over $100 million, that's embarrassing. It makes me wonder why they even bothered in the first place.

One thing that bothered me is how frequently characters changed their location. Passage of time isn't addressed in the movie even though a lot of time has passed. However, these characters are moving across the world and the world in question is this big
Image result for the last airbender map
The characters change location like they're going down the street. There is no real scope or a sense of location. The locations on the map could be in the same country rather than halfway across the world.

Score/Soundtrack 

James Newton Howard is a brilliant composer and that is evident in his work. The score is just about the only good thing in the film. It has more emotion and weight than anything the film visually presents. It's too bad the score which was beautiful and at times haunting is brought down by the boring, shallow, thankless film surrounding it.

Overall Thoughts

I'm a huge fan of the source material, it means a lot to me and because of that  I was always going to be skeptical going into this movie. I hated this movie the first time I saw it and I hate it even more now almost 10 years later. When I started this movie I wanted to watch it as a movie and not as an adaptation of something that I love and regardless of how you look at it, this movie is bad.

What annoys me the most about this movie is the fact that it doesn't address the themes that the show does. Misogyny is a very important theme that is explored throughout the show, you see it in the way Sokka treats his sister and the Kyoshi warriors (who aren't even in the movie) and in the way Katara is dismissed by Pakku when she reaches the Northern Water Tribe (which also isn't in the movie). Books are open to interpretation as that can differ from person to person, but the show has laid out the structure and blueprint clear as day and this movie still didn't get it right.
I mean DID ANYONE WATCH THE DAMN SHOW?!?!

It's obvious that no real care was put into this movie. Important character moments and character developments were left out in lieu of unnecessary voiceover, dimly lit action sequences, ridiculous character motivations and inconsistent storytelling.

As I mentioned earlier there are glimmers of what could have been. This film franchise should be up there with Harry Potter but alas one can dream. It's possible that the movie would have been a lot better if a different director took over, but I guess we may never know. I have heard that Nickelodeon I thinking of revisiting this franchise and I'm not sure that this a good idea. If they really wanted to, they need a director or directors who are used to telling large scale stories with a lot of characters, much like the Russo Brothers for the MCU. If Nickelodeon really wants to make a live-action movie, the person or people who make it need to be massive fans of the source material because they will care about the little details that seem insignificant.

I am not exaggerating when I say I hate this movie. It is a chore to watch from beginning to end and I would rather watch paint dry than subject myself to this again. However I don't have enough good things to say about the TV show, I would highly recommend it.

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