As an avid AtLA fan, I just had to go watch the movie today, despite its 6% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. With that said, I wasn't expecting much but thought, granted the trailers looked shaky, it can't really be that bad.
And I was wrong. I honestly can't recall the last time I saw a movie so incoherent.
I wonder if I would've understood anything if I hadn't watched the cartoon first.
I gotta say though, the visual aspect was absolutely amazing. All the settings - air temples, northern water tribe, fire nation palace, etc. - so awesome, like directly out of the cartoon. Beautiful element bending. Oh, and can't forget Appa and Momo. Budget of 150 million + 130 million for publicity.
Which makes me really sad that the storytelling was simply not up to par to complement all that effort in creating the AtLA world. When I saw the credits, first thing I thought was, if I were the director/ screenwriter, I'd wish my name never showed up in the credits.
Obviously, compressing 10 hours into less than 2 hours is difficult, but that just means good decisions have to be made regarding what to include and exclude. Or just make the movie longer... aren't Harry Potter movies all longer than 2 hours? I felt like the whole movie was just a series of events one after another with no connectivity. Everything felt rushed, didn't flow naturally at all. Things didn't build up to a climax, they just happened. I mean Zuko never even caught up with the avatar, ever.
With that given, there was ZERO character development. Forget development, they had no life at all, and there was no interaction between the characters either. Aang, Katara, and Sokka seemed like a group of strangers simply traveling together. The only exception is Zuko and Iroh I think.
Next we come to the dialogue. Absolutely terrible and unnatural. What was that with Sokka keep saying 'we need to help these villages on the way... should we try that?'!? Maybe I watched AtLA too long ago, but I honestly don't remember that. And when Ozai was talking to Azula at the end, what's with the superfluous adjectives? Practically everything they said was so cheesy, emphasizing the poor acting even more.
Overall, everything felt so contrived, for the development of the story, to the dialogue, to the combat action, to all the background people. The fight never looks real. They take so long doing martial arts moves before any bending comes out. (When the Blue Spirit was rescuing Aang, there was like one or two firebenders in the entire mix!) Another thing that bugged me more than it probably should've was how so many soldiers just stood around waiting to get attacked, for example when the Blue Spirit hanged up the two soldiers and the other was checking it out, or when water was coming down on the ships - no panic whatsoever. Oh and the people in the northern water tribe looked like they were on their everyday stroll with firebenders already on the streets.
Last thing, the entire atmosphere was different. I don't know if Shyamalan was trying to appeal to a wider audience, but it was too dark to be catered to kids I think. One of the reasons I was so taken with AtLA was its humor. None of that in the movie. No smiles either. It felt like the apocalypse or something, everyone looked so pained in every screen.
A couple of random things, Aang kept saying he ran away because the avatar can't have a family. Honestly. He's 12!! What does he care about having his own family?? And why don't I remember any of this?? I mean Roku got married just fine.
And in the lack of character interactions, Zuko actually gently positions Katara after their fight at the north pole. What?
I really want to support the fandom, and I feel bad denouncing it, especially after how much money was spent, how cool the rendition of the world of AtLA was, and how it could've been great had only the right attitude been taken and focused more on the story. Since it's been made into a movie already, I want book 2 and 3 to follow, with all the proper changes.
I wonder how many people are watching the movie without previously having watched the show. I hope they don't think of it as an accurate reflection of the show.
On a different note, I went to the movie theatre fully with the intention of watching The Last Airbender in 3D, but the ticketseller made a mistake and gave me Toy Story 3 instead. So I watched it. It's a wonder how Pixar just keeps pumping out such amazing stuff. Now that's how a story should be told, a good mix of character development and story progression. Oh and humor
Then I sneaked into The Last Airbender.