Monday Movie: The Last Airbender by @lexx2099

Unlike most fanboys, I wasn't salivating at the thought of a live action take on Avatar: The Last Airbender; not because I'm not into cartoons, obviously, but because I once worked for Virgin TV, where I was forced to quality check the entire thing at triple speed in one sitting. So heading back into a – by all reports – vastly-inferior version of the weird flying bison world wasn't really firing me up to start with.

That said, I did develop a weird affinity for the whole thing as it burned itself into my retinas, so I was willing to give it a decent chance, but given that Roger Ebert of all people took time out from spouting overlong, boring quotations on Twitter just to call M Night Shyamalan an idiot over this, the signs didn't look great. Hit the jump to find out if the rant was justified:
Personal reservations aside, everything sounded like it was in place for M Night to put out a complex, fun and fulfilling fantasy that would slot in nicely alongside Harry Potter as ideal family fodder. The original cartoon is overlong, but still rammed to the gills with plot and sub plot, environmental and 'hey -be excellent to each other' messages, and even came with some neat visual gimmicks that should have looked ultra-awesome on film.

And they kinda do. So what's missing?

Well, plot for starters.

The filmmakers could be forgiven for things getting a bit woolly as they try to jam weeks of complex storylines into a sub-three-hour movie, but it seems like they just jettisoned most of the story points entirely and glued together some random action sequences with some shoddy CGI glue.

Just to get you up to speed incidentally, Airbender takes place in a super spiritual world (as in Buddhists n' stuff, not Ghostbusters) where each of four cultures have a few element-wielding champions, hurling air/water/fire/earth at each other. The Avatar of the title is the one guy who can use all four to reunite the world and bring balance.

It's not as though the film is unfaithful to its source either, there are lots of neat nods to fans of the cartoon, with several exacting makeovers of key scenes, all the characters are present and correct (some noteworthy racial modification aside) and even giant, six-legged buffalo Appa gets in on the act. The big problem here is that Shyamalan has somehow managed to take two-dimensional characters and settings and make them less fully formed.

Everyone here is the same shouting, clowning, slightly-offensive/annoying cutout, plonked from one scene to the next without any definable sense of journey – the entire point of the original series. There's also plenty of terrible dialogue and some frankly piss-poor cinematography, making this a lumpen, confusing mess most of the time.

Of course, that wouldn't matter if you actually gave a rat's ass for any of the people on screen, but they're just completely bland to the point that it's impossible to care.

There's also a cardinal sin that occurs many times during the proceedings.

Remember that Ralph Bakshi cartoon version of LOTR? Where they ran out of money half way through and reduced the entirety of 'Return of the King' to a 30 second voiceover(I hope for your sake you don't)?

The same thing occurs again and again here. The entire premise of Avatar was the character building, the emotional and physical travels the characters made, something which gave the series a sense of granduer, something which added awe whenever they entered a new city or met new people. Here we're palmed off with captions saying ”three months later, and the gang have crossed the giant mountain of peril...” and thrown into another badly choreographed fight scene ( another huge let-down, given the exciting and original action that also characterised the source).

We don't know how they got there, who they're facing, or why they're fighting them. So we don't care.

This isn't some Transformers-style reimagining. This is a direct-from-source remake. Why, if you had an excellent, well-rounded, interesting, fun, action packed, exciting moving story board to copy from, would you take the time to remove every last thing that made it fun in the first place?

A real waste that shouldn't stop you from buying your kids the box set of the original.

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