FUCK YOU, M. Night Shylockmalon. Fuck you all the way to your own personal dirty Hell! Burn... forever.
Where does my anger towards the Indian filmmaker come from, you ask in shock and awe at how I could use such naughty language against a man I once worshipped as the second coming of Spielberg? Well, my frustration towards M. Night Shadowofcollosus first started with his third big movie, Signs. The last 1/4th of that otherwise most excellent film sucked shaved alien scrotum (the aliens who get killed by a drop of water decide to invade a world where 70% of the surface is made up of the substance that they fear most — and H2O occasionally falls from the sky too — and yet they don't wear any clothes or even carry umbrellas? Really?). Then came The Village, which in hindsight was really not all that interesting (and kind of dumb). After that I could only stand The Lady in the Water for 45 minutes before theater hopping to another movie, and I didn't even bother with the supposed travesty of Marky Mark fighting killer stationary trees in The Happening. Yes, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable are fantastic movies, but the M. Night ShastaMcNasty who made those is long dead due to a case of Ego-itis larger than anything even Lady Gaga and Kanye West have ever been diagnosed with. M. Night will apparently never make another [enjoyable] film again.
That brings us to the present. A few years ago M. Night made the announcement that his children got him into an action and adventure cartoon on Nickelodeon that he himself soon became fascinated with. He then got in touch with the producers and creators of the show and made a pitch to adapt the story into a giant, epic, spanktastic trilogy of movies the likes of which the world had never seen before. The television show was, of course, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and I must admit that I got a little excited over the news... Then I let reality set in and I realized that I should be a bit more apprehensive toward this development. M. Night Shallowgrave's track record was kind of crappy at the time (see above), and Avatar turned out to be the greatest television show that I'd ever seen. The combination of those two facts made the movie property as volatile as 100 year-old TNT found on a decaying hull of an 18th century slave ship sitting in the middle of a tropical island jungle... It could either blow up in everybody's faces if jiggled the wrong way, or there was the slight possibility that it would make it through to be used for its intended purpose and blow open the secret hatch where Desmond was living (Pssst! That's a Lost reference). Though more than likely it would kill us all.
I learned to be positive though, and even when news came that M. Night ShamWow had hired all white actors to play the parts of Asian characters from the show in the first movie of the proposed trilogy, I just grit my teeth and said, "Heh-heh, well, he knows best... I'm sure he has a vision or something... He made The Sixth Sense for Christ's sake! Haley Joel Osment! Haley fucking Joel! Trust him with child actors!"
Then the first trailers and official high resolution photos appeared online, and they looked amazing. Other than everybody being white people (oh and one Indian guy), it all LOOKED like the magical and mystical world of the original cartoon series. That was good, right? The entire internet fanbase of Avatar then held their collected breaths (well, those who weren't all-out boycotting the movie due to the "race-bending" that M. Night SabastianShaw was pushing with the cast). And for a while, it looked like everything would be okay. Somebody who partook in an early test screening of the flick even had some very hopeful things to say about the semi-finished product (well, other than the "punch the fish" reference about the climax of the movie, but that easily could be fixed with a special effect of Fire Bending thrown into the scene for some real "Oomph!"). I then sighed to myself in relief. Then I ate some sushi and drank myself into oblivion with Yebisu in memory of the now-forsaken Japanesey Fire Nation from the cartoon (which was exchanged with Indian culture due to M. Night hiring that kid from Slumdog Millionaire to be his Prince Zuko).
Then, the day before its release, M. Night ShaggyDA's The Last Airbender movie went out to professional film critics. Never before in my life had I seen almost every critic in the country rag on one film in one voice. That voice declared in no uncertain terms "This movie is awful! It makes Sex in the City 2 look like Lawrence of Arabia. Please, America, do not give this piece of garbage your money. If you have to see a movie this weekend, why don't you see that shitty new Twilight flick... I know! That's what we've been telling you! The Last Airbender is WORSE than the new Twilight movie. Wrap your puddin' heads around that one." Then I cried.
Yes, after waiting over two years (from announcement to theatrical release) for this movie, I had to go see it for myself. I just had to. I had to witness for myself how one of the most complex, funny, and fulfilling stories I'd ever seen could become a hundred-million dollar fubar shitfest that was crapped all over (like bums on a dumpster baby) by a man with a sense of unearned self-pride the size of the second Death Star (You just know that he brushed aside any help or suggestions the studio and his fellow director friends offered him when he showed this pile of fetid crap to them). How could one of the things that I love most in this world inspire something that caused such fear and hatred? This was something I had to experience first hand. I of course bought a ticket to Toy Story 3 though to make sure that none of my money went to this [alleged] cesspool of failure. No, I had no hope at all that I would come out of this thing liking it. Even internet reviewers that I trusted as much as my own opinion (and who liked the cartoon almost as much as me) were out for The Last Airbender's blood in order to warn their readers away from the viewer-hating experience within. I simply had to witness how BAD Shamerlamer fucked it up.
I will just talk about the movie itself here, without any comparisons to the cartoon series. I'll get to that shit later, but for now there's so much wrong with just the flick on its own merits that this may take a while.
The movie starts with scrolling text. Fine, that's cool — so did the original Star Wars. It tells us all about the world we're about to enter: there are 4 element-based nations — fire, water, earth, and air — filled with people who can "Bend" their native element, and there's this guy called the "Avatar," and he keeps the peace in the world by being the only person who can use all four elements, but he's been missing for 100 years for some reason, and because he's missing, the world's gone to shit in a hand basket because the Fire Nation has gone all 1930s Japan on the world and declared war on everybody and fucked their mothers in front of their tearful and disbelieving eyes (And if you've never seen the show before and you're already lost and confused, tough luck, just try and keep up with this. M. Night DARES you).
Then, we meet the gloomiest two teens on the entire fucking planet — a girl named Katara who can Bend water to make it float and dance around, and her older brother Sokka, who SUCKS at hunting, HATES himself for it, and who is so fucking miserable that he wants to commit suicide. Well, no, they never state that straight out (and that's the only thing they DON'T state openly in awkward monologues, dialogues, or voice overs), but the fact that he, his sister, and everybody else we ever meet in this thing all wear a constant frown with knit eyebrows (when they're not mouth-breathing) makes me think that life just ain't worth living in this wonderful, magical world of element bending and giant flying bison-beavers.
Oh yeah, soon the boy and his sister find a magical bubble under the ice that houses a young bald boy and a giant, six-legged, flying bison-beaver. And nobody's surprised, shocked, excited, or happy over saving this kid's life. They all just frown on. And so does the audience. Then WHOOSH, they're back in the kids' Eskimo Water Tribe village, and WHOOOOOSH, the Fire Nation appears and steals the boy (who we've only known for 30 seconds), and WHOOOOOSH, Katara and Sokka go on a mission to save the boy because crazy, kooky Grandma says she thinks maybe possibly the boy is the lost Avatar, because *WARBLGARRBLE*.
The Avatar saves himself from the lamest security on a military ship ever (by simply running to the open deck and flying away using his Air Bending mad skillz), then all three kids meet up again (after 45 seconds of being apart, after knowing each other for a total of 75 seconds) and take off and WHOOOSH! WHOOOOSH! WHOOOSH! Fuck, they just go bananas. They go to an "Air Temple" to see all of the Avatar kid's (whose name is Aang by the way) long dead teachers and friends, then they jump into the Earth Kingdom (Where the hell is that? Is it nearby? How long do they have to fly on that buffalo thingy to get there?) and tool around for a while while the Fire Nation baddies chase them. Oh, there are two groups of Fire bad people: the banished Prince Zuko, and Zuko's nemesis Commander Zhao. Both are annoying and angry all the time, and Zuko's just a whiny douchebag punk-ass bitch. Zhao is supposed to be the biggest bad guy of the thing, but he looks and acts like a wimpy teddy bear of a man.
Okay, back to the depressed children and the Avatar on Quaaludes. They go to the Earth Kingdom and WHOOSH, fuck me WHOOSH, they meet some Fire soldiers and get thrown in "jail" (an open to the environment holding cell for Earth Benders) because some Earth Kingdom kid ran to them as soon as they landed.... Okay, so by now we know that Water Benders can manipulate water if it's around them, Fire Benders can fuck you up with fire, and Air Benders (like Aang) can whoop you with a hurricane whenever they want... And the Fire Nation is holding Earth Benders prisoners in a "jail" that is basically a large piece of open land with a small fence around it. When I tried to explain this to Captain Rugged he asked, "Isn't that the same thing as holding Water Benders prisoner in an aquarium?" Ugh... And it takes the young, bald Avatar to tell them all "Hey, fuckers, you're Earth Benders... You're proud people! Stand up to the Fire Nation.... Oh, and dumbasses, you're STANDING on your own nuclear fucking weapon. Fire that shit at your 'prison guards.' Jesus fucking Christ, people..."
Then, in one 5 second bit of exposition we find that the three kids decide that they must free all the other captive Earth Kingdom towns from the Fire Nation, despite the fact that they had decided earlier that they needed to get to the Northern Water Tribe lickity split in order to have a Water Bending master teach Aang that martial art. Because although Aang CAN learn how to fuck people up with all the elements, he never learned HOW to before pussying out of his duty 100 years ago, getting flash-frozen in ice, and thusly allowing the Fire Peoples to start conquering the world.... Okay, yeah, there's a whooooole lot of information to take in during this 100 minute movie, but everything I just told you happens in the first 35 minutes. It's just ZIP, WHOOOOSH, BING, BANG, BOOM, on to the next set piece.
You never get to absorb anything, and all our information is simply SHOVED into your face by talking head scenes... This movie was about 3/4ths talking heads (one character looking at another character right in front of the camera simply asking questions about what was going on and getting answers in monotone voices).
To give you an example of how this bland storytelling style was overused I'll tell you all about how Prince Zuko explains to the audience how he got his giant face-burn (which actually LOOKS painful and scarred in the cartoon, but just appears to be slight acne in the movie): He turns to a child in a restaurant and asks the kid, "Have you ever heard about Prince Zuko, the Fire Lord's son?" The kid nods. Zuko then recites in a dull voice, as if he were reading a car maintenance manual instead of sharing with us the moment that changed the very course of his young life, "He embarrassed himself in front of his father by asking a question about a military tactic that one of the cold generals had suggested which would sacrifice many of the Prince's good friends in order to attain a marginal victory on the battlefield and was challenged to a duel. When he showed up for the duel he found he was to fight his own father, he refused to raise a fist against his daddy, and the Fire Lord bitch slapped him down, and he had to leave his country until he could redeem himself by bringing back the missing Avatar.... The end." The cartoon handled the same story by showing Zuko reflecting back on his past in a flashback episode that showed what led up to that insult incident, what really and fully occurred during the Agni Kai duel with his father, and the full pain and humiliation that came about because of it, leading to the fool's errand of finding the 100 year-lost Avatar.
The movie TOLD you (rather blandly), the cartoon SHOWED you (in one of the best episodes of the whole series). I was so bored with M. Night's "vision." A movie based upon one of the most exciting and fun TV series of all time BORED me, even with all the pretty visuals. Just imagine how the 7 year-olds in the audience felt.
Whatever. Aang soon abandons Sokka and Katara to run to a nearby Air Temple. He's captured by the goofy Commander Zhao, and then freed by the Blue Spirit (who happens to be Zuko in disguise, who when we last saw him must have been about 3,000 miles away, but fuck logic by this point).
Then right after that, WHOOOSH, the kids make it to the North Pole Water Tribe... Holy fuck, didn't they just start off in the South pole two days ago? And how much did they really help the Earth Kingdom with what appeared to be an hour of their lives dedicated to freeing them (in a 20 second montage... You think I'm kidding. I looked at my watch. Trust me. My time piece was more interesting than watching Fire Nation soldiers acting goofy, about to attack, and then WHAMMO! Get blown away like a leaf in a wind tunnel by Aang. It's not played for laughs [hell, nothing in this life-sucking movie is], but it IS the funniest part of the whole damn movie)?
Anyway, at the Northern Water Tribe the trio of despondent travelers meets the tribe's princess and WHOOSH, we skip to another scene and we're told via voice over that mopey Sokka and Princess Yue are now a couple, and Aang and Katara are learning Water Bending like champs (no montage this time, we just have to accept this). Then, WHOOOOOOOSH, the Fire Nation attacks, and Zuko infiltrates the city to kidnap the Avatar, and then Zhao stabs a fish who's the moon and the world turns red. Then Yue dies to give the fish life again, and then Zhao is killed by some nameless Water Benders, and Aang has his eyes inexplicably glow (no mention at all about the "Avatar State" or what it means... His eyes just glow) and he builds up a giant wave between the Water Tribe Ice Gates and all the invading ships (like the aliens did in The Abyss: The Director's Cut)... And that's it. He doesn't bring it crashing down on the Fire Nation boats or anything. All those Fire Bending troops are allowed to just retreat, leaving them to terrorize and kill more innocents in the future. Way to go, savior of mankind!
Then Aang looks all forlorn when people bow to him, and then the Fire Lord tells his cackling daughter that now it's HER turn to stop the Avatar before a comet comes and gives the Fire Nation power to finally take over the world. SHAZAM! Roll credits.
I have absolutely NO goddamn idea how anybody who hasn't seen the (fully fleshed-out) show before would be able to follow this mess. It jumps from one location and scene to the next with no explanation most times, and what's even more frustrating is that the scene you just left could have used another minute or two of time to expand itself (and the world, and the quests of everybody involved), and the scene you jump into feels like it was halfway through and you already skipped the important part of it by the time you got there, and the rest of it feels like it too is missing something big. But don't worry, 'cause you'll soon cut to yet another scene and the subtitle will tell you that you're on the other side of the world now for some reason, so just keep moving and forget about the past crap.
Without a doubt, the absolute WORST part of this entire flick is the "acting." Both kids and adults (and hell, even the CGI creatures) "act" in only one voice (muted, uninterested, and monotone) and two facial expressions (all frowny or mouth agape, as if they had no nose with which to breathe through so that they can all look like a bunch of slack-jawed yokels for the entirety of the movie). Nobody is ever happy, and they look like they're all on the brink of tears most of the time. Bunch of emo loser benders.
Good directors can get a lot out of a bad script, even if they only have B-List actors. The only direction M. Night must have FORCED down his actors' throats in this movie was "Be more like Anakin in the first two Star Wars Prequels! Act more wooden! NO SMILES! Now, act all whiny! That's it! MORE whiny! Now more wooden! That's how ALL people should act in real life too! Yes! YESS!!!! More wooden! Like a tree!...".... Holy shit! It all makes sense now! M. Night wants to fuck trees! Go back and rewatch every last movie he's ever done. Everybody in all his movies (except for gods made flesh like Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson who never bothered to listen to the man's directions) act like trees! And in The Happening it is the mighty TREES that rise up and take their place in the world as its new leaders! Holy fuck! Directing people in this style is like PORN to M. Night Shadowland!
The second worst aspect of this shitty shitfest is the fact that everything of importance is said, never shown (but I already talked about this major "Film 101" mistake). It all looks and sounds like an awful play put on by third graders.... No, that's not true. I've seen a play that my nephews and niece put on for me and even THEY understood pacing and exposition well enough to make shit interesting, and the oldest is 9.
Anyway, now to talk about everything that was RIGHT about the ORIGINAL CARTOON that M. Night Sugardaddy inexplicably fucked with for one reason or another... Well, maybe not EVERY reason (that would take a goddamn encyclopedia to cover it all, with every person, location, and plot element studied), but at least the biggest ones.
THE CHANGES FROM THE CARTOON
Let's start with the tone of the whole shebang... The cartoon is fairly light-hearted at first (the first season especially), with bits and pieces of real threats and terror sprinkled throughout. There's actually tons of really funny jokes and situations to keep things lively, and it's not just "humor" aimed at children, it's humor that's simply hilarious for all.
And the ENTIRE POINT of the whole story of the Avatar and his quest to stop the war that the Fire Nation began is watching Aang grow from an 11 year-old kid who just wants to have fun (and ride on the backs of penguin-seals and turtle-bears) into a solid hero who must find the honor and strength within himself to physically fight and defeat the most powerful bender in the world: the Fire Lord himself.... Only not as cheezy as I just made it sound.
See, Aang is just a real kid in the beginning of it all: he wants to play and simply enjoy life (which is why he ran away from all his responsibilities in the first place). He's almost always smiling and peppy, and he's always in a good mood. In the movie he's the world's most emo loser (well, next to all the other moping losers in the flick) — he only frowns and looks like he's about to cry in every scene (not to mention that he can't act at all, and that was the biggest reason M. Night gave for hiring a white dude to play an Asian youth, but whatever). I don't think Movie Aang smiled once during the entire runtime.
The same problem (no smiling or emoting) goes for every character, true, but Aang's situation was the worst... Oh, and Sokka in the cartoon is the funniest, most upbeat fucker in the world, and here he's just an incompetent loser who can't even track a baby seal in order to club it to death, and he constantly seems to be just seconds away from pulling out an Eskimo fish hook and carving up his wrists with it.
Another huge change that M. Night should have known better from making was giving Fire Lord Ozai a face, and putting him on screen for so much of this movie. In the 'toon, Ozai is mainly just a man in the shadows (or the "flames" as it were) who we can only catch tiny glimpses of up until the last season. Everyone fears him, and barely anyone is allowed his audience. He's mysterious and terrifying... In the movie he's almost the main character and he looks and acts like a pussy. You wonder WHY the world (and especially Prince Zuko) is so afraid of him. Christ, it'd be like having the shark in Jaws show up in the beginning of the film and walk around like a goofy, pudgy fuckwad, who never hurts or threatens anybody, and still expect the audience to fear him like Unicron approaching Cybertron. Goofy, pudgy, Indian dudes do not inspire fear, they actually make me think they're going to break out into a terrible song and dance number at the drop of a hat.
Also, there's no love story between Katara and Aang. Aang's devotion to Katara is why he does everything he does in the later half of the first season. Cutting that out would be like eliminating Han Solo and Princess Leia's courtship in Empire. Sure, you can get the main gist of the story without it, but then you lose a helluva lot of what makes the whole movie so special. You have no real ties to the characters and can't understand why they do what they do in the next movie. Though personally I understand why neither Katara nor Aang like each other in The Last Airbender movie: they're both awful and annoying whiners. But whatever.
Now beyond the changing of the entire tone of the story, making characters emo pussies instead of vibrant 3-dimensional personas, and eliminating the entire point of why Aang chooses to do his duty in the end (his love of Katara, and her making him understand his place in the world), the absolute WORST elimination from the cartoon to the movie has to be M. Night Shaggydick's leaving out of Suki, the Kyoshi Warrior.
See, Suki is my all time favorite character from the animated series. She's smart, playful, powerful, and just looks awesome in her battle uniform and face paint. What really cheeses my goat about her not being in the movie is that they actually MADE a character poster for her for theaters to display! There were character posters for Aang, Zuko, Katara and Sokka, AND Suki, making it look like she was a major player in the thing. Yet in the end M. Night must have edited her the fuck out. How the hell he planned on explaining her appearing out of nowhere (and covering her and Sokka's early relationship) in the two sequels (where she's a big thing) makes me wonder... But I highly doubt M. Night Shavemydong ever even thought of that. Hack. Cock-smoker.
WHAT THE MOVIE GOT RIGHT
Oh, the movie DID in fact get some things right, but the credit for these moments of brilliance usually goes to people OTHER than M. Night. For example, the movie LOOKS beautiful for 90% of the shots (thanks to the special effects crews and the Academy Award-winning people who lit the scenes), but there's a good 10% of its run time in which it looks like the shot was set up and filmed by a mongoloid with a super 8. Consistency, M. Night... Consistency.
The Blue Spirit parts were pretty cool too, but only if you'd already seen the cartoon and knew the whole backstory behind him, and understood the full reasons for Zuko taking on that costume and what it truly meant for him to rebel so much in such a secret manner. Otherwise you'll be like the parent behind me who kept asking "What the hi-diddly-ho is going on NOW?! What the hell is up with that guy in that mask? What? Was that really that prince guy? What the fuck? And how did Zhao know it was him without ever seeing the prince fight without his Fire Bending and with twin swords before? Why did I pay $30 to bring you two kids to this shitty movie?! That's it, you're both GROUNDED when we get home. Blame that M. Night Shalom for it. He's a bad man. He's a very bad man!"
Some of the set pieces were STRAIGHT OUT of the original series; the cool room of statues of past Avatars was truly amazing to see (even though they got the previous Water Bender Avatar wrong), the arrival at the Northern Water Tribe was pure eye candy, and some of the fighting and bending scenes in the final battle are the only real parts of this movie that matched the cartoon's awesomeness... So I know what the whole thing COULD have been. It was like M. Night was dangling these few tasty carrots in front of us after whipping us for most of the movie just to get our hopes up, only to then remove the carrot almost immediately, and continue the flogging, this time with a morning star whip... Like it was all just one giant social experiment to see how long the average viewer would handle torture if he had the option of leaving.
You got me, Shabbylong. You got me... That paper you publish better get you a goddamn Nobel Prize because I am coming to fucking get you. Unless this experiment was to cure some sort of huge psychological ailment (like depression, or emo-twat-itis), it wasn't worth sacrificing the honor of all that is Avatar: The Last Airbender. I swear, I'm going to shove a flying bison Appa action figure so far up your rectum that YOU'LL be able to hover six inches off the ground. And I'll do it tail-end first, so that when you try to have your children pull it out (to save the embarrassment of going to the emergency room, and I'm sure you already have a "let's hide stuff up daddy's anus" night every Wednesday anyway), the horns on Appa's head will imbed themselves in your colon.
What was my favorite part of this whole disaster? That would be the very end. No, I'm not being snarky and saying "I was ecstatic when it was over," even though I was, but the final scene when the Fire Lord is talking to an unseen character, explaining that his own brother has become a traitor, his son is a loser, and Commander Zhao is now dead... "but YOU (and he then looks at a teenage girl) are my last hope. Go, Azula, capture the Avatar before Sozen's Comet returns to Earth and gives us the power we need to finally end this war!" Then Azula smirks and cackles like a lovely lunatic.... Just like she should.
Goddamn you, M. Night Schpadoinkle.... You just ass-raped one of the most glorious stories ever told for your shitty "reinterpretation" in film form. I hope you get cancer. I also hope somebody else directs the other two movies (if they get made now, thanks to your incompetence), but I hope they have to GET somebody else to direct them because you died of cancer. Testicular and colon cancer preferably, but I'm not picky.
This movie has a 9% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.com.... That's like 10 points lower than Cabin Boy, and 5 lower than Major League 2... WHY should I pay good money to see it? WHY should I waste an evening in a theater watching crap? Why are you even reading this? Didn't the Rossman just say it was terrible? Just forget it ever even happened. It sounds like you'll be a whole lot happier.
I'm not shitting you. This movie was just plain terrible. It's not "Oh, it's just so bad it's good" bad either... It's "Full-blown, five alarm, step on your scrotum with metal cleats and piss in your open mouth while you scream in agony" bad.
Please, just watch the cartoon. The cartoon is sooooo goddamn good. Don't give a nickel to the makers of this garbage.