The Age – Movie Review

Avatar Bends Gut More Than Air

Shyamalan’s adaption of The Last Airbender painful to watch, an animation fan cringes.

“You have to watch this.” That was what my boyfriend told me one day, excited that a movie has finally been made on Avatar: The Last Airbender. Knowing my love for cartoons and animations, we ended up doing a Airbender anime marathon before catching it on the big screen.

Started off by Nickelodeon as a three-part anime series from 2005 to 2008, it managed to draw 5.6 million viewers in total, which includes those outside of its 6 to 11 age targeted demographics.

Nickelodeon's anime version of Avatar. Photo from Ty's Toy Box

The story is about the last of the Airbenders, a 12-year-old boy named Aang. He is also the Avatar, the one who can bring balance and save the world from destruction, which is currently in raging wars because of the Fire Nation’s attacks. Together with his friends, the story focuses on Book One of the series and how the Avatar has to master all four elements of air, water, earth and fire-bending.

Aang, Katara and Sokka. Photo from coldbee.com

Both of us were excited to see how the movie would fare against its original format. Being a big fan of Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings and being able to see the books come alive on screen; I was intrigued to see cartoon characters come alive in a whole new different way.

Having grown up on a diet of Chinese martial arts on television shows, I expected The Last Airbender to be true to the types of martial arts in the anime. However, I was deeply disappointed. The film opened up with a half-baked display of martial arts that was to set the mood for the rest of the film. Much of the storytelling got lost as scenes jump from one to another too quickly. It was confusing to watch as the film moves from Water Tribe to Earth Kingdom scenes without the audience having sufficient knowledge on the purpose of the journeys.

Noah Ringer, a newcomer to the industry, was hard to watch – his movements at times were awkward and his facial expressions didn’t match his emotions. There were uncountable moments I had to cringe and wish somebody could save him from all that awkwardness. The suave moves that Jet Li could execute perfectly as a martial arts expert would have been befitting of an Avatar but perhaps too much to demand of a kids-targeted film.

Perhaps as redemption for his career, Shyamalan had to edit out a lot of good parts, hence the jumpy storytelling format. The last straw for me was that the entire Fire Nation seems to be made up of an Indian cast whereas the other elemental tribes were more diverse. It just seems a bit too politically incorrect to me.

“I had a lot more fun watching the anime than the movie because the martial arts execution is so much smoother. I’ve seen my grandma do better taichi moves, seriously”, says Wayne Chan, 24, 3D animator.

Having said all that, don’t take my word for it. Check out the trailer and movie and pass your own judgment.

Official Avatar The Last Airbender trailer

a newcomer to the industry, was hard to watch – his movements at times were awkward and his facial expressions didn’t match his emotions. There were uncountable moments I had to cringe and wish somebody could save him from that poor display. The suave moves that Jet Li could execute perfectly as a martial arts expert would have been befitting of an Avatar but perhaps too much to demand of a kids-targeted film.

Perhaps as a redemption for his career, Shyamalan had to edit out a lot of good parts, hence the jumpy storytelling format. The last straw for me was that the entire Fire Nation seems to be made up of an Indian cast whereas the other elemental tribes were more diverse. It just seems a bit too politically incorrect to me.

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