Tag Archives: avatar: the last airbender

Reasons Why “The Last Airbender” Movie Sucked

*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.

In the “audience is stupid” category:

-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!

“He’s bending fire from nothing!” Cower in fright, even though this is totally normal in the show! The reduction on bending powers in the movie was shameful.

In the “just terrible” category:

Sokka: Is he breathing?
*Katara nods*
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.

picture of sokka and yue kissing

Vague and meaningless statements about beliefs are so romantic!

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.

Misc. complaints:
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.

Movie-Katara ka-tackles a Fire Nation soldier.

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.


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“Legend of Korra” epsiodes 1-6

The first six episodes of Legend of Korra (LoK), the highly anticipated sequel series to Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA), have now aired, so we are exactly halfway through the promised 12 episodes for season one.  (New episodes every Saturday morning, 11/10 central on Nickelodeon).  I’m definitely loving it so far.  Since the Avatar is 16 this time instead of 12, there are less of the silly childish elements that ATLA was peppered with.  (For example, there are animal characters, but they don’t feature as heavily as Momo and Appa did.)  The maturity level also reflects what series co-creator Bryan Konietzko was quoted as saying in a Wall Street Journal article in May, “I’d say the show is more sophisticated than the original series but it has the same balance of tones we’ve always liked with humor, action, drama, scary stuff and romance.”

The bending world has certainly changed in the 70 years since we last saw it imagined on screen, but it’s just as enthralling, exciting, and fun as all the promotional information made it sound.

Earth (Avatar Korra), Fire (Avatar Roku), Air (Avatar Aang), Water (Avatar Korra)

One of the things we see within the first moments of episode 1, “Welcome to Republic City,” is that the esteemed White Lotus society is still intact, (and “master” Katara is now member).  They seem to be tasked with authenticating claim of new Avatar.  In ATLA, I think Aang’s fellow air-bending monks recognized him as the new Avatar without the opinion of an objective party like the Order of the White Lotus.  But, maybe that’s one of the things that changed while Aang was frozen in ice and there was no Avatar for 100 years.

An aged Master Katara, still wearing hair loopies and her inherited necklace

One of the moments that I loved the best in episode 1 was when master air-bender Tenzin’s eldest daughter asked Katara a question that ATLA fans have been dying to know: what ever happened to Ursa, Zuko’s mom?  For years Zuko thought she was dead, but in the final episode he learned she was exiled, and might still be alive.  We didn’t get to hear Katara’s answer, since she was only able to respond to her granddaughter with “Well, Jinora, it’s an incredible tale–” before being interrupted by Jinora’s younger sister, Ikki.  It felt like a wink to the fans of the original series, and I hope it’s an indicator that we might still get to hear the story in an upcoming episode, but I won’t hold my breath.  In the same article mentioned above, co-creater Michael DiMartino teased, “That question will be answered in some way, but not necessarily in the show. That’s all I’ll say.”

Ikki interrupts, to the disappointment of Jinora as well as ATLA fans everywhere.

Of course, there is no shortage of references to the original show that will delight fans like myself without being confusing to newcomers.  Chief Lin Bei Fong, (Toph’s daughter), is a hard-ass police woman with a squadron of metal-benders under her command.  (Toph, season 2 addition to the gAang in ATLA, invented the higher-intensity form of earth-bending known as metal-bending).  We don’t really know much about Toph’s daughter yet, except that she definitely inherited her mother’s brusqueness, and I’m wondering if we are ever going to learn the story behind the parallel scars on her right cheek.  We did learn in this latest episode (“And The Winner Is…”) that she and Tenzin were once an item, and we also saw Chief Bei Fong and Korra start to work together in episode 6, despite getting off on the wrong foot in episode 1.

Chief Bei-Fong and a very teenaged Avatar face-off in “Welcome to Republic City”.

My favorite new LoK twist on the old bending world we know and love from ATLA is the introduction of pro-bending.  It makes sense that such an impressive physical activity would become a sport, and it is a great way to include awesome action sequences without having to put the characters in mortal danger or perpetually on the run from bad guys.  Now that I think about it, bending was a sport in ATLA, because Toph was the earth-bending championship.  But the pro-bending in LoK incorporates three elements–Water, Fire, and Earth.  (There are only a handful of air-benders in the world right now; Tenzin, his children, and Avatar Korra, who hasn’t really mastered the element yet.)  Pro-bending was the biggest surprise to me when I watched the first epsidoes, because in the trailer they only showed the bending arena from a distance, and I thought it was some sort of table.  The color split down the middle did make me think it might be for some sort of match, but I was thinking more like the Fire Nation’s Agni Kai.  So when I realized what it had actually meant, I just couldn’t help but marvel at what a great idea that was, to put a new yet natural twist on the bending world.

The biggest mysteries in the new series so far is, who is Amon, masked leader of the anti-bending Equalist movement?  Does he really have the power to take away bending, and if so, is his ability the same as Avatar Aang’s was?  I don’t know who Amon is, but I do have a theory about who is financially supporting him.

Amon, (image from avatarspirit.net)

We were told by show creators Mike and Bryan, long ago during promotion for Korra before it aired, that the cabbage merchant’s legacy would be “present in some form”.  I initially suspected the poor guy, who was always getting his stuff knocked over by the rambunctious benders in ATLA, might be behind the anti-bending movement in Republic City when it was first announced as part of the show’s synopsis.  Then, in the latest episode, (“And The Winner Is…”), we’re given a clue that my theory may be right.  While Korra and her fellow Fire Ferrets are practicing for their upcoming pro-bending match, the radio in the background squaks, “You’re listening to the music hour, brought to you by Cabbage Corp., Republic City’s trusted name in technology for over fifty years.”   (Watch the clip with the radio blurb I’m talking about here).  That seems to be a pretty obvious clue, to me.  Especially considering that Amon and his Equalists used a taser-like technology to overpower the benders at the pro-bending final match.  My guess is the cabbage merchant started investing in the development of technology that would give non-benders the same advantages as their bending peers, or else take away benders power so that everyone is “equal” and nobody gets their cabbage cart repeatedly overturned by reckless benders, which is pretty much the party line the Equalists have been spouting so far.  I wonder if we will see my theory confirmed, or if this little radio mention is an Easter egg for the fans and the extent of including the cabbage merchant’s “legacy.”

As far as predicting what else we might see in the remaining six episodes, we haven’t really seen much of Korra working on her air-bending, (which is what she is supposed to be doing in Republic City), so maybe she will need to bust out some air-bending at a later, climactic moment.  We haven’t really seen much of Korra developing the spiritual side of bending, either.  In the first episode, “Welcome to Republic City,” one of the White Lotus members overseeing the young avatar’s training admonishes, “Ever since you were a little girl you excelled at the physical side of bending but complete ignored the spiritual side. The Avatar must master both.”  Korra replies, “I haven’t ignored it, it just doesn’t come as easy to me,” but we really haven’t seen her make an effort in the direction at all, apart from participating in meditation sessions with Tenzin and his children.  (And by participate, I mean that she seems to be the only one who can’t sit still.)  She has been seeing what appear to be quick flashes of visions, that I think are memories from Aang, but I’m sure they will be explained later too.  I don’t think we’ve seen the end of romantic interactions between Mako and Korra, even though Mako is currently dating Asami.

We haven’t yet seen many references to Zuko aside from Jinora’s question about his mom and the fact that he and Aang founded Republic City together, which we were told in voice-over during the extended opening sequence of “Welcome to Republic City.”  I’m hoping we hear more about Zuko, and I would also love to learn whatever became of Sokka and Suki.  I had a soft spot for their bravery as non-bending warriors who were always going up against powerful bending enemies like Azula without flinching.

There are some really great fansites out there that were developed for ATLA and are now quickly incorporating LoK resources as well.  The two that I like best are avatarspirit.net and dongbufeng.net; they both have hundreds of screenshots for each episode, and dongbufeng.net has full transcripts for each episode while avatarspirit.net hosts forums where both bending series are actively discussed, dissected, memed, and adored.  There is also an official LoK tumblr page that releases promotional clips for upcoming episodes, and I think there is an official Facebook page, too.


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Avatar: Legend of Korra Opening!

Thanks to Hypable, I just saw the opening sequence for Avatar: Legend of Korra!  It seems to have been leaked, so who knows how long it will be up, but omg, it looks good and I can’t wait to watch this miniseries sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender whenever they decide to air it.  (Last time I checked there was no set start date April 14 has been announced as the air date for episode one!).

Here’s a transcription of the voice-over, which is being narrated by Tenzin, who is Aang and Katara’s airbender son and who is going to have to teach the new Avatar Korra airbending. (I’m referring to stuff we learned from this year’s Comic-Con).

Earth.  Fire.  Air.  Water.  When I was a boy, my father, Avatar Aang, told me the story of how he and his friends heroically ended the 100-year war.  Avatar Aang and Firelord Zuko transformed the Fire Nation Colonies into the United Republic of Nations, a society where benders and non-benders from all over the world could live and thrive together in peace and harmony.  They named the capital of this great land Republic City.  Avatar Aang accomplished many remarkable things in his life, but sadly, his time in this world came to an end, and like the cycle of the seasons, the cycle of the Avatar began anew.

So who are the benders in this intro?  Are they all Avatars? The earthbender is dressed as a Kiyoshi warrior, so it’s possible she’s Avatar Kiyoshi herself.  The Firebender looks like Avatar Roku, although the quality of this video is not great and I can’t be sure whether his topknot is adorned with the Fire Nation jewelry that Sozin gave him.  The airbender could be Aang, and obviously the waterbender is Korra.  (**update** I now have screenshots from the proper, non-leaked opening sequence).

The writing is backwards in these screenshots. I know because I, um, might have painted the symbols from ATLA’s opening on a banner that I have hanging in my kitchen…

At first I thought it sounded like Zuko had pretty much taken over the world with the blessings of Avatar Aang, (I LOVE that they pronounce Aang the way we all love and remember it, and not the odious ‘Ong’ from the live-action disaster of a film, by the way), but after closer inspection it sounds like it’s just the colonies that were united into a new republic, and the pre-existing nations still exist.  Is that accurate?  It still kind of sounds like Zuko taking over the world, though, because all the colonies were outside of Fire Nation territory, i.e. taking over someone else’s territory.  Hmm.

I’m amused by this depiction of Katara from an image of the gAang shown while Tenzin remembers his father telling stories about their exploits:

Is this not a way more sexualized Katara than was ever seen in the original series?  I mean, I guess she practiced in her underthings sometimes.  But here she’s showing a midriff and a thigh-high slit in her dress, which doesn’t resemble any outfits I remember seeing her in.  Everybody else looks just like they did in the original show.  Am I misremembering her?  I suppose it’s possible she’s wearing tights, and now that I am really analyzing this picture it does look like she has long sleeves as well, and now I’m remember she did show some midriff in her Fire Nation disguise for half of season 3.  Well, whatever then, but my initial reaction was to laugh because I thought maybe this sexier Katara version was how Aang described her when he told all these stories about their history.  You know, embellishment.

Also, because I’m a devoted Zutara shipper, I love the placement of the characters in this shot, like Katara is closer to Zuko than Aang.  *sigh* If only.

I am assuming this will not be the exact intro for each episode of Korra, just as the intro for Book One: Chapter 1 of The Last Airbender was different from all the other episodes, but I’m sure the part with the benders will be the same, and I guess Tenzin will probably narrate the other version too.  Maybe it will say something about Avatar Aang being his father, and “now I must teach airbending to the new Avatar” or something? 

Oh, and it looks like the first episode will be titled “Welcome to Republic City,” and this season is being called “Book One: Air”, which will make it a nice companion to Books 1, 2, and 3 from ATLA which were titled Water, Earth, and Fire, but what will Korra’s Book Two be titled, if it gets one?

Anyway, who else is excited for this?!  I know I’m not the only one!


Filed under music, nerd, television

Avatar: Legend of Korra Comic Con Info

So at comic con this week, they released the first trailer for Avatar:Legend of Korra, the follow-up to Avatar:The Last Airbender (which is an amazing show that you should totally go watch if you haven’t seen it yet!)  I watched the trailer a few times, excitedly, (from my computer at home because I didn’t got to San Diego).  Today I found out some more of the info that was discussed during the Avatar panel.  You can read it for yourself here.

My thoughts:

  • Zuko and Aang founded a city together?  Awesome!  A detail totally ripe for fanfiction.  Not that I’m a huge fan of fan fiction in general.  But I’m glad Zuko and Aang had a productive friendship.  I love Zuko!
  • A polar bear dog animal guide?!  Neat!
  • Anti-benders: we had heard them, this is kind of what I expected it to be.
  • Toph’s legacy–interesting.  Appropriate, I think.  Feels like a natural development.
  • WHAT?!  Aang and Katara only had three kids?!  And only ONE of them is an Airbender?!  Um…I thought it was established cannon that all Airbender chlidren of at least one Airbender parent were also Airbenders.  I will have to look for that source…but I am very confident that is what was previously stated.  So, are they now going to change it and say that is only when both parents are Airbenders, or did Katara have an affair (with ZUKO?! Haha, in my dreams).  Also…if you are the last Airbender, isn’t it your responsibility to repopulate that section of the bending universe as much as you can?  You should probably have more than just the three kids!
  • I had another thought regarding the repopulation of the Airbenders, after the season three finale: if Aang can take someone’s bending away, shouldn’t he be able to give someone bending, too?  he could choose worthy candidates that exemplified the Airbender core values and bequeath it to them on the spot.  That would be a great way to quickly boost the number of Airbenders.  It doesn’t appear they’ve thought of or agree with my awesome idea…
  • “new species” of flying lemurs and bison…this is dumb.  They just want to cling to the familiar imagery of Appa and Momo.  this is a mistake.  it’s forced and illogical.  let them die out, and make us grow attached to new animal characters.  I promise the bending itself is iconic enough.

I’m still left with questions, of course.  Will we see Ursa’s storyline explained?  Will we see more Zuko or a Zuko descendant, pretty please?  Emphasis on the pretty.  Will we see descendants of Sokka and Suki?  I loved them!

I don’t know if this has an airdate yet, so it may be awhile before all is revealed.  Should be worth the wait.  The description of the music alone makes me excited: half traditional, half “What if in the 1920’s, the Chinese invented Jazz?”


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