*I recently rediscovered this rant, which was originally posted as a note on my facebook page in July of 2010, before I started this blog. I am re-posting it here with additional photos added.*
This is just my rant against M. Night Shyamalan’s murderous destruction of a story that I loved in his live-action movie version of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (Book 1: Water). The main reason it sucked is apparent from the first of the credits: Written, Directed and Produced by M. Night Shyamalan. I would venture to say few people are actually talented to wear all these hats on a single project, and it’s painfully obvious after about 5 minutes that Shyamalan should never have been in charge of writing the script, or at least should have had someone he had to listen to when they said “this sucks.” The script is terrible! The dialogue is terrible! It would have stood a fighting chance otherwise; mostly great costumes, beautiful backdrops, good CGI, great music. But it doesn’t matter because the storytelling was terrible.
Shyamalan treats the audience alternately like we already know the story and like we’re stupid idiots that need every plot point spelled out through Katara’s weeping narration.
In the “audience already knows” category:
-Aang is named in narration before we see Katara ask “what’s your name?” and see him reply “I’m Aang!” So, we’re just supposed to have known during earlier narration that it was referring to him.
-Momo isn’t named until he’s in the spirit oasis batting at tui and la and Aang says, “Momo! Be nice!” So again, we’re just supposed to have known that somewhere along the way they named the creature that we’ve barely been seeing Momo.
-The Avatar state is NEVER MENTIONED! Even the role and function of the Avatar himself is poorly explained. Gran-gran (excuse me, “Grandma”, who for some reason has a British accent) simply says “With his mastery of the four elements he will begin To change hearts, and it is in the heart that all wars are won.” Um…what? Why don’t you say that he will bring balance, that he is the only one with the power to stop the fire nation from taking over the world. Is this supposed to be clever foreshadowing for the finale? Because it’s not worth it. Understanding the purpose of the Avatar is perhaps the most important part of the story, so this is a huge flaw.
-Sokka says “The Fire Nation’s Plan: supress all other bending.” To be fair he had to say this in response to Aang’s earlier, “The Fire Nation is up to something” captain obvious statement. DUH the Fire Nation is up to something, and it’s called world domination, and I can think of hundreds of more interesting, less insulting ways to convey that FN=bad guys.
-Sokka: we need to go to the Northern Water Tribe, blah blah, “It’s led by a princess because her father died.” What? First of all, not cannon, second of all, what difference does it make that she’s in charge, thirdly, just say it’s led by a princess, you don’t have to explain how monarchies work, or better yet don’t say anything about the freaking princess. When we get there we’ll know.
-Katara: “Aang, the Fire Nation knew the Avatar would be born into the Air Nomads, so they exterminated the Air Nomads.” *sigh* really my problem with this line is the repetitiveness (“Air Nomads, Air Nomads!” doesn’t M. Night know about co-referential pronouns?) Also, Aang is 12; does he even know what “exterminated” means? Do the kids in the audience? Is this an attempt at a lower rating by not saying “killed” or “wiped out,” or is it, (more likely), M. Night making use of the handy right-click synonym function in Microsoft Word? Ooo, exterminate, that’s classy.
-Possibly the most annoying narration was at the North Pole. Katara says, “We presented ourselves before the royal court. The princess and my brother became friends right away. Aang was accepted to learn water bending,” blah blah blah, “The city prepared itself for the battle they knew would come in the ensuing weeks.” (“Ensuing,” again, I’m sure was a synonym word choice.) But none of this was necessary because, as I said, we’re not stupid idiots. If we see people bowing in front of other people who are seated and fancily dressed, we can infer they are the royal court. If we see close-ups of a girl and guy eye-ing each other and smiling, we can infer that they like each other. Because that’s what they do in every other movie. So don’t narrate us to death! Show, don’t tell!
In the “just terrible” category:
Sokka: Is he breathing?
Sokka: Did you see that light shoot into the sky?
YES SOKKA, we all saw it! We even cut away and saw Zuko see it miles away. What a stupid, unnatural thing to say.
FN Soldier: “If you were the Avatar, you’d have to be an airbender. Are you an airbender boy?”
* Aang bends air at him*
FN Soldier: “How is he doing that?!”
He’s BENDING AIR you idiot, you JUST SAID it!
Paku: “Hooooooooooooooooooooooo!” *camera pans down line of Water Tribe soldiers*
This was just…stupid. It wasn’t even a war-cry hoooo, it was more like a musical note. Was he trying to do a wolf howl? Fail.
(Roku’s?) Dragon’s great advice:
“You must let this [grief] go. As the Avatar you are not meant to hurt people. Use the ocean. Show them the power of water.”
Did I say great advice? I meant non-sequitor, nonsensical advice.
Katara: “Did the spirits tell you anything?”
Aang: “Yes. I know what I have to do.”
Katara: “We have to go.”
How do YOU know, Katara? What if the spirits told Aang to stay right there? Why are you asking and then telling him what to do?
Yue: blah blah I’m saying exactly what will happen next because the audience might not get it otherwise, they’re stupid you know, blah blah meanwhile i’m about to rub Sokka’s cheek off, blah blah:
“It’s time we showed the Fire Nation that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in their beliefs.”
Well, way to take an articulate stand for something vague.
Aang: “Some of the monks can meditate for four days.” *sits down to meditate*
Um, that’s very interesting Aang. Thanks for telling us just now. So, are you saying your plan is to meditate for several days while everyone in the Northern Water Kingdom dies in the battle that is going on right now?
Zhao mentions his “secret underground library” four separate times, “scrolls from the secret library” four times, and “decipher the scrolls from the secret library” twice. Because we might have forgotten, in the minutes between those lines, where he got those scrolls. Which is a minor subplot anyway. Mention it once, and thereafter just say “the scrolls”. Come on.
Katara should have had hair loopies. Real ones. If I can figure out how to do it to wear to the movie premiere, why can’t a massively-budgeted Hollywood movie?
The Fire Nation bow should have been preserved. The one from the original show, I mean, with one hand in a closed fist and the other a flat sideways palm on top like a flame. Instead, we see Zhao clap his fist to his heart like some fascist when he’s presented before Ozai. This really ticked me off because it’s such a small thing, so why, WHY change it? Stripping yet more of the richness and originality away from the story.
I hated the Blue Spirit’s wig.
Apparently all you need to incapacitate a troop of FN soldiers is a dust cloud. They can’t walk through it.
Apparently, if you’re doing a scene with Ozai your location title can be as broad as “Fire Nation,” but if you’re doing Zuko it has to be as stupidly specific as “Fire Nation Colony 15”. WTF?! Fifteen?!
I hated the version of Katara Shyamalan presented. In the show, she is compassionate, stubborn, hot-tempered, loyal, bossy, strong, courageous and an excellent fighter. In the movie she is a weeping, emotional, weak mess. Nearly every line is delivered on the verge of crying. Even in her self-declaration, which for some reason happens almost at the end during her fight with Zuko:
Zuko: “Who are you?”
Katara: “My name is Katara, and I’m the only water bender left in the Southern Water Tribe.”
It sounds like she’s about to burst into tears. And why would she bother saying all that at this point anyway? It’s just so…out of place. Show-Katara would say something like, “I’m Katara, I’m with the Avatar and you’re not going to touch him! *water whip*” Movie-Katara uses only defensive bending, and except for her two second spar with Zuko and when she randomly ka-tackles a Fire Nation soldier in the Earth prison, she literally stands by and watches while other people fight. Show-Katara would have been all over the place kicking ass. Show-Katara wouldn’t be hyperventilating and saying “Calm down, we’ll find him!” to herself. It’s disgraceful the way Shyamalan has ruined her character.
Oh yeah, and the bending was not nearly as impressive as it is in the cartoon. It seems in movie-Avatar universe, you have to do an awful lot of waving your arms around before anything happens. Either that or it has to happen in slow motion. And it takes six syncronized-stepping Earthbenders to make a tiny pebble dangle in front of the camera.
p.s. If you were a fan of the original show and need a place to vent and/or read other fans’ criticisms of the movie adaptation, I highly recommend this forum thread from AvatarSpirit.net dedicated to the “unintentional hilarity” in the live-action disaster. It’s very therapeutic.