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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

The lost Airbender

 
 

I still remember opening day when I saw Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, and realized for the rest of my life I would be excusing my unhealthy love affair with Star Wars with the disclaimer: not the prequels.
Similarly, for fans of the Emmy Award winning cartoon, The Last Airbender is another abysmal adaptation, which will leave followers forever excusing the television program.
I wish I could say it took M. Night Shyamalan the full 103 minutes to alienate Avatar fans and discourage newcomers from seeing the show, but Shyamalan has become the shaman of making miserable movies.
The film starts by introducing the audience to the world, where individuals called benders can control one element: earth, air, water or fire. Each bender is restricted to controlling only the element of their nation, except the Avatar, Aang, who is the link between our world and the mystically vague spirit realm.
The movie’s major flaw is it never stops summarizing the plot, not to develop the characters or to use some special effects. Instead of recognizing the difficulties in cramming a TV series into an hour and a half, Shyamalan copies and pastes plot lines from 20 episodes. The result is dialogue which simply skims over events with stilted narration and never gives the audience a reason to care about the characters. To say the acting is horrible is almost unfair, because the script never gives the child actors an opportunity to connect with the characters.
Even effects that seemed so promising in the previews are the wrong kind of “special.” Animated fight scenes in the cartoon offered more than watching a bender spend an eternity performing an endless Kata only to shoot a simple stream of fire and have it immediately blocked by another element. Aang occasionally gets inventive by hurting others with his attacks, but his air bending leaves what appears to be a vapor trail. This wouldn’t be a problem if the master of all elements wasn’t forced by the director to deviate again from the show by struggling to manipulate water.
Too many inexplicable changes to the story are perhaps Shyamalan’s greatest sin, other than continuing to write and direct films after The Sixth Sense. Two years past its initial TV run, Avatar still has millions of viewers from every age, drawn in through the countless awards the show has earned. While certainly some elements of the series must be altered to fit into a more condensed time, Shyamalan actively makes an effort to estrange fans who will be only the ones shelling out to see this failure.
At least the change from Asian to Anglo main characters could be justified, if the actor is good. But Shyamalan changes the pronunciation of every name. For fans who’ve heard these names before, the sound of them butchered only draws the faithful out of the movie, and serves no purpose other than the director, writer, producer’s ego.
However, by far the worst change is to the end of the film. The climatic awe-inspiring destruction of the Fire Nation Fleet by the cartoon Avatar is replaced by a harmless ocean wave.
Despite the 8 percent approval rating on Rottentomatoes.com and the half a star review by Roger Ebert, I went and saw this movie so you wouldn’t have to. It’s easy to blame Shyamalan, the film industries equivalent of a one-hit wonder, but this movie is bad enough for me to blame everyone ever involved with it and their children.

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