I started watching the original animated series some weeks ago. Not being a fan of anime in general, I was skeptical. All it takes is a few episodes and you're hooked. The show offers lovable characters, an engaging plot and valuable philosophical insights. It's action-packed, humorous and dramatic at all the appropriate times. The voice actors are perfectly cast and bring to life characters you feel like you've known personally for years. I know I'm raving but I haven't gotten involved in a plot that has made me this excited in a long time.
The series won accolades and has a very strong fan-base. This is why I wonder why the powers that be would want to remake it into a live action film. The series ended not too long ago so this isn't a long awaited thing. Who were they trying to reach by remaking the cartoon? Were they trying to expose it to a more "grown up" demographic? If so, they failed. It is not only not an adult movie; it is not a movie for anyone. I would not even insult a kid with that trite dribble.
I'll tell you what they did wrong:
They mispronounced the names of almost all the main characters. I know it doesn't sound like that big of a deal but it gets annoying fast. The original creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender created their own world in which the characters exist. They made up the names and dictate how they are pronounced. It isn't up to interpretation like in real life. The title character is named Aang, like Ang Lee the director, not Ah-ng. The character Sokka's name is pronounced Sock-a not Soo-ka like SoCal.
The acting was bad. The kids kept to one emotion through most of the entire movie and lines were delivered weakly like they weren't sure of themselves. I love Aasif Mandvi but him as a sinister, power hungry admiral? Come on! He is too cuddly to be a bad ass. The casting of Uncle Iroh was just bad. The character was supposed to be fat and jolly and they cast this gaunt, serious man. Dev Patel worked with what he got as Prince Zuko but it is hard to be good in a really, really bad film.
The special effects were weak. The earth bending looked like tossing dirt around. When the earthbenders hurled rocks, it looked like a pebble traveling in slow motion. No need to block it, just step aside– you have time. The airbending looked like a gust of wind, not something that could toss people off of their feet.
They changed the nature of the characters. Aang may be the avatar but he is a goofy kid with a smile constantly on his face. In the movie, he looks confused the entire time with a furrowed brow. They also made Sokka brooding and humorless. What the heck? Sokka is quintessentially funny. Every other thing out of his mouth is some kind of wisecrack. Katara is the show's inspirational character. She keeps Aang and Sokka on their mission with her passion for helping others. This can make her preachy at times and sidetracks them from their mission to help villages in need. In the movie, she barely says anything and it is Aang who is the inspirational one. They also did a weird thing by adding tracking shots of the Fire Lord having conversations with Admiral Zhao. The Fire Lord barely even talks until the last book (a.k.a season) of the story. When he is seen, he is sitting on a throne surrounded by fire in a dark, barren room. By making him walk around chatting with people, it takes away from how imposing he is and makes him seem more like a guy and less like a threat.
There's also a scene where some earthbenders are imprisoned by the fire nation and the prison is in a dirt quarry. Does anyone see why this oversight is completely retarded? They are earthbenders surrounded by dirt on their own turf. They could take the fire guards at any time. In the cartoon, they are deliberately imprisoned on a metal island so that they do not have any weapons to fight their captors.
Shymalan is the director, writer and producer of the movie. What was he thinking, really? The cartoon offers so much to draw from and he chose only the basic things and left the more interesting stuff on the cutting room floor. Instead, he added things that just didn't fit. He has shown talent in the past. What has happened to him? It takes arrogance or slovenliness to put something so shoddy together and release it. At this point, I don't think he will film the other two books of the series. I hope he doesn't and takes the budget for them and donate it to something.
If you've seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, you know what I'm talking about.