Airspeed’s Editorials – The Last Airbender, Why I enjoy it!


Airspeed Prime here once again with an Editorial. The last two seemed to get some nice reactions so I may make them more regular than I originally planned, depends on if I will have a good stream of topics to write about.

With that in mind, I will get straight into the topic.

The Last Airbender, Why I enjoy it!


Given what I am talking about I feel the need to clarify before I begin, I would usually not bother to make it clear how I feel before I get into the post, but with The Last Airbender I feel it is a must. Overall I think The Last Airbender is an Ok movie, I do not think it is great nor do I think it is terrible, the main thing is that whenever I watch it, I enjoy it. For me whenever I enjoy something I can never say that I hated it. So when I say I enjoy the movie it is not that I absolutely love it, it is mainly there to say that I do not hate this movie as many do.

So with that out of the way let me explain what this post is about. My aim is to really analyse this movie and explain why I enjoyed it, which I think should be interesting as I know I am in a huge minority. The main reason I have chosen this topic is because I feel that it is near impossible to actually have a discussion about this movie that does not just descend into a battle to show who hates it more. I actually find that the few times I have had a reasoned discussion about this movie that they have been some of the most interesting back and forths I have ever had. The main example I will give is the episode of The Avatar Online Podcast where we discussed the movie, it is one of my favourite podcasts we have done because we managed to have a really interesting and reasoned discussion when on the outset it looked like it would just be endless arguments.

That podcast featured myself, Callum, Kelly and Rich. I knew going in the roles we would all play in the discussion, I would be the most positive, Callum was neutral in that he neither loved it or hated it and Kelly and Rich both heavily disliked the movie. So what I said in the planning of the episode was for everyone to have 2 lists of points: Positives and Negatives. Meaning that those who hated the movie would have to eventually bring up some moments they liked and I, who would usually focus on the positives, would have to mention my negatives. It worked better than I had imagined, in that I found that I disagreed with many of the positives that Kelly and Rich had and they liked some of the things I did not like. None of this would have happened had I not tasked everyone with being more open when it came to compiling discussion topics.

Yes, I know I have still yet to get to starting the actual topic, but these paragraphs above are there for a reason. Regardless of how good The Last Airbender is, it is an interesting movie to talk about when you get past the crazy amount of hate. So while I have many negatives about the movie myself, the movie has a lot of concepts I like, and it is these concepts that this post will focus on. For those of you who hate the movie you may actually find some of my negatives, which I will also talk about here, interesting.

So let me now introduce why I will mainly be talking about concepts. I think one thing that is often forgotten about the movie is that it is not, and was never meant to be a carbon copy of the show. It is in fact a different continuity, more specifically a new take on the same basic story of ATLA. So while many hate the movie for these exact reasons, anything different than the show is instantly a negative, I enjoy the movie because of these differences. Yes, there are some baffling changes, but this movie does throw a focus on some nice concepts that even the show did not really cover. It is for this reason that I find this movie interesting and thus enjoyable, I would have hated this movie if it had attempted to copy the show in every single way, at that point why bother making a movie, just watch the show again.

Now, at last, the first topic. Waterbending. I think in a few ways the movie explored the philosophy behind waterbending better than the show. Of course no one really struggled with waterbending in the show, but in the end it was the one element we did not really get explored in depth in terms of the ideas behind it. We got push and pull and an episode 1 mention that it was made more powerful by emotions, but the movie in many ways is based around the philosophy behind it and just as important, how it links into Aang dealing with the loss of his people. In the show this ended up being resolved in The Guru when Aang dealt with how he felt about the loss of his people. While in the movie Aang really struggles with his emotions, how he feels about his people which is responsible for his struggle to fully connect with waterbending. He is not letting his emotions flow, he is not letting himself feel the loss, you know there are powerful emotions being held back as shown when he attempts to strike back in a sparring match and nearly waterbends all of the water in the city. So when he is told that the key to ending the siege is to show the power of water, he knows what needs to be done and in an, in my opinion, epic moment he lets his emotions flow, enters the Avatar state and fully connects with the ideals behind waterbending. I feel this is something that could have been explored in the show in this way, this is a concept that the movie created, but has all of its basis in stuff set up in the show, just executed in a unique way. I was fascinated throughout the movie by Aang dealing with his emotions and how it affected his waterbending training.

I know a big criticism of Aang in the movie is that he is too serious and to some extent I agree, but people only say that because the show established that. In my opinion, it makes sense that Aang in this whole movie is not that cheery like he is in the show. This Aang as explained above is more affected by the loss of his people and the movie ends with him letting his emotions flow, which I think would lead to him being more like the show Aang if they did a second movie. That would be good development.

A similar concept is that Aang only fully takes on the role of the Avatar at the very end of this movie. While Aang in the show accepts it much earlier. It is a difference I like, because I loved the idea of him not accepting the people bowing to him as the Avatar and then at the end accepting it. More than that, he is still unsure, he knows he has to be the Avatar, but knows it will not be a difficult journey. Again each concept works because of the way each continuity portrays their Aang, movie Aang is more serious and struggles more to accept the role while show Aang being more upbeat has that extra confidence to take on the role earlier. In short I really like movie Aang because he is so different, I feel like show Aang would not work that well in the movie.

There are 2 concepts I enjoyed, now for something I disliked. Sokka in this movie. Quite simply, he is given no screentime and thus has no time to actually become a character. Again I would have no problem if they had explored Sokka as more of a serious warrior, but they didn’t explore anything about him. I think his relationship with Yue is actually done reasonably well given the silly low amount of time they are given to interact. It is one minor positive in an otherwise negative character.

As for my second dislike, Why on earth did they decided to replace Avatar Roku with an unnamed Spirit Dragon. I can sort of see a concept they were going for, but because the dragon was never named Roku or Fang it just felt so unnecessary. All of the Dragon’s advice would have had so much more impact had they come from a character we knew was the previous Avatar, I would have understood why a past Avatar could give the current Avatar so much advice, but a random dragon he happens to meet in the spirit world, Why should I care about this spirit?

Now on to another concept I liked. Movie Firebending. Yes, one of the most controversial things about the movie, the idea that firebenders require a source of fire to bend and only certain firebenders can create their own fire. I like it because of how nicely linked into another concept I like it is, that being that the movie makes such an effort to make it clear that the fire nation are so powerful and are winning the war mainly because of their technology and machines. Basically their technology makes up for the limitations of their bending, they carry sources of fire around in machines and their first attack is usually to launch fire sources into cities they are attacking. The show implies this, but never really states that technology alone is responsible for them winning. Air techology plays a big role in the end of the show, but before 117 it is never made clear that technology is the fire nation’s biggest strength. I love the way these two concepts combine to make the fire nation super interesting in the movie and again different to the show.

Add to this that instead of exploring lighting redirection, they seem to have replaced it with the power of firebenders creating their own fire. This is the way they show Iroh is crazy powerful and more than likely had the movies continued it would have been the ability that Iroh thought Zuko and that Ozai doesn’t have. It is a nice way of making certain firebenders unique without lightning or redirection. Β Not to mention the idea that the comet grants all firebenders that power in this continuity, that is huge given the concepts outlined in the paragraph above, it makes the race to beat the comet so much more powerful.

In my opinion the worst part of the movie is the script, I think MNS does a reasonable job at directing the movie, but the fact that it is him doing the script is what brings this movie down. For me I see MNS in the same way I see Michael Bay, both can shoot scenes fairly well, but they really struggle with directing actors with dialogue. The one thing I will say about the script is that I think given the insane task of getting Book 1’s story across in just 90 minutes that he just about succeeded in getting the main arcs of Book 1 across. Book 1 also has a format that does not lend itself at all to a movie adaptation since there are so many new places and the general story is “Get to the NWT fast”. It is the execution of the script where the movie falls down a lot. Quite simply the movie is way too short, characters like Sokka are give little to no screentime to actually develop and the movie is so fast paced because it has to cover about 440 minutes of show story in about 90. Meaning there is not that much time to take a break and give the characters a chance to talk and develop.

One criticism of the movie I cannot agree with in full is that the actors are universally bad. Obviously there is controversy over the casting, which I will not discuss here. I too was a bit shocked when I saw the cast, but I then game who was cast a chance. Dev Patel as Zuko for me was the stand-out actor in the movie, he is by far the most accurate to the show and you can tell he knew the character. Sure he had some bad lines, but I would not blame that on the actor, that is the script bringing the actors down. A scene unique to the movie is when he asks a little boy to tell him what he knows about Zuko, he is undercover and trying to show his uncle why he needs to regain his honour, I think it is really effective and explains why he is so eager to redeem himself, so the people no longer only know him as “The Banished Prince”.

Nicola Peltz as Katara I think does a solid job, she is not quite given the same focus as Katara gets in the show, but when she has a moment I think she captured Katara well.

I simply cannot comment much on Jackson Rathbone’s performance as he was given nothing to work with, he is just there. I see so little character with this Sokka and it is not his fault so I don’t know if he is good or bad.

Noah Ringer did a great job in his first big acting role, he had to put in a big physical performance in the action scenes and really surprised me with his portrayal of an emotional movie Aang. Again not helped at all by some of the lines he was given “Some monks can meditate for x days” being a huge offender.

Shaun Toub worked quite well as Iroh, he was not quite the Iroh I expected in terms of appearance, but he did well in terms of the character. He had some nice humour and emotional moments with Dev.

Aasif Mandvi I enjoy simply because movie Zhao is so completely different that show Zhao, the performance is so over the top that it is hilariously good. I love his intro “Ohh the banished prince, lets offer them tea” with his eyes wide open and smiling.

Cliff Curtis as Ozai, I have a big issue with mainly because he is not imposing or scary at all. This is the big villain of the whole series and he is just this well spoken lord in this movie who is a bit cruel. I don’t have too much of an issue with the performance, but I just don’t get what the idea of movie Ozai was. Why did they feature him so much and not stick closer to the show and have him be a mystery up until the end.

I think I will leave it there, I could probably go on for ages about this bring up more positives and negatives, but I think on the whole you can see the way I think about this movie. While I don’t think it is great as a movie, it has a lot of great ideas that made it different, and I can appreciate it for taking a risk and making TLA different to ATLA and not just a carbon copy. For a more analytical view on this let me use critic ratings as an example, on Rotten Tomatoes TLA has just 6%, this I would not agree with at all. That is an insanely low score, If I was to score it out of 100 I would give it somewhere between 45 and 55 out of 100 and that is me being very harsh.

I now await the baffled responses to the shocking revelation that I actually enjoyed the movie!

Please post below if you have a topic you think would make for a good editorial.

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Comments - 20 Posts

  1. vman95 Said: Comment by vman95 on August 1, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I still haven’t seen the whole movie. I stopped watching like 5 minutes in because I could not stand how they pronounced the names.


    εŒ—ζ–Ήζ‹“θŠ™ Reply:

    You’re not losing much in my opinion anyway, so…


  2. εŒ—ζ–Ήζ‹“θŠ™ Said: Comment by εŒ—ζ–Ήζ‹“θŠ™ on August 1, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Even though I was the one who suggested this editorial, I still think you opened up a giant can of worms πŸ˜›

    As I told you on the previous editorial, even though we’re on the same page most of the time, I’m gonna have to skip on this one.

    You said that the movie was never meant to be a carbon copy of the show – well, yeah, if it’s going to be the same thing, we might as well just watch the original. But, if it’s going to be THAT much different, just don’t bother adpating and just do an original picture.
    Namely, I think that it should have emulated the original characters a lot more.

    To me, Aang needs to be the goofy kid he was on A:TLA. If he’s doesn’t have the same character, he’s not the same character. Katara and Sokka seemed good to me, although, as you said, with the shorter running time, there’s also less chances to develop the characters. Zuko was okay, too, I guess, though I think Iroh also needed to be goofier, he only kept his wise side from the show.

    With Zhao I don’t even bother, the difference between movie Zhao and TV Zhao is even bigger than the one between movie Aang and TV Aang. I really liked his character in the show and unfortunately I think Aasif Mandvi just killed it (which is a shame, given how much I enjoy his work in The Daily Show). Regarding the Fire Lord, totally agree with you, they should have portrayed him much more closely to the show, where we were fed a mystery about just who that man really was, which consequently incresed our interest in him. In the movie, they just showed him from the very beginning and he wasn’t even half as evil as TV Ozai.

    Regarding the visual aspect of the characters, I think it’s mostly fine for Aang, Sokka and Katara (though I still don’t understand the reason behind Aang’s overly complex tattoos). Zuko, on the other hand, doesn’t really resemble Book One Zuko, he really should have shaved most of his hair, it’s not exactly revolutionary to see an actor shave his head in a motion picture. I agree with you that Iroh is too different, his hair should be shorter and grayer and he himself should be shorter and rounder. Zhao and Ozai should also resemble their animated counterparts more (I just realized that apparently only Fire Nation characters differ significantly from the show o.O).

    Regarding waterbending – well, you are correct that the spiritual concept behind waterbending was not as touched upon as the other bending arts, namely on the book that focused on it the most – but it was touched upon, not only on book one, but also on #209 Bitter Work, so I don’t think it was a fault that needed addressing in the movie – not to mention that I didn’t like the way it was done. Also, since we’re on the subject of waterbending, I really disliked the final scene where Aang enters the Avatar state and waterbends a giant tsunami… only to do nothing with it. What did he intend to do, scare the Fire Nation soldiers to death?

    One aspect I entirely agree with you on is the Dragon: if we had a perfectly good previous Avatar that was even refered to by name in the movie, why do we have a spirit dragon who we care nothing about instead of an actual person?

    You mentioned firebending. Regarding not only firebending, but all bending in general, to me, it was the most poorly adapted thing from the show in the entire movie. In the show, the bender’s physical movements and the bending actions that they caused were so intertwined and so masterfully done that it made bending seem like it could actually exist. But in TLA… well, apparently, you need like at least 12 different – and random – forms just to earthbend small stones (I still want to forget that scene as it sullies the image of bending I got from the show). The movie just didn’t try at all to make the movements and the actions coincide – it looked like they just picked whichever stance was more at hand.
    The idea to make firebending closer to the other three bending arts was not exactly bad… it was just that it needed to very well done, since the show really gives you an idea of internal energy and ferocity through firebending moves. But again, nothing, just random moves.

    Regarding the script and the acting… whoo, where do I begin. Let’s just say that, to me, the movie transformed all the characters that I loved so much into hollow dialogue-spewing machines with no character behind their lines (And the lines… don’t even get me started).

    Some people complain about the movie’s white-washing. It didn’t bother me particularly, but I wouldn’t mind seeing an all asian-cast, and I can clearly see why some people really want one. But again, it didn’t really bother me.

    Since you like people with negative opinions to say something they liked and vice-versa… well, it IS Avatar, so there’s always something good about the movie.
    It’s always nice to see some of your favorite characters and one of your favorite worlds in live-action – a nice little “What if”.
    The movie also spawned the video games, which are thankfully much closer to the show than the movie itself – which is an even better thing considering there was no VG adaptation of Book One.
    And the soundtrack was pretty good πŸ™‚

    I think that’s about it. Regarding a topic for the next editorial… unless you want to talk about the video games or Welcome to Republic City (also the game), sorry, all out of ideas πŸ˜›

    Sorry about the temporary “betrayal”, I’ll probably be back on your side by the next editorial πŸ˜‰


    Meelo Reply:

    I agree. I tried so hard to like this film!!! BUT IT JUST COULDNT HAPPEN!


    Airspeed Prime Reply:

    I would argue that Aang and to a lesser extent Iroh and the more goofy sides of their personalities would not have worked that well in a live action setting. For example I simply cannot imagine the “will you go penguin sledding with me” or “in my sleeve the whole time” scenes in live action done well, regardless of the actor. So them making Aang have a more serious arc while showing that he was more upbeat in the flashbacks worked for me, as did the decision to play down Iroh’s humour. Here it is more subtle and less right at you like many of the tea jokes, that works for the animation well, but in live action I think it would be the wrong tone.
    With regards to the final scene, the movie does also play on the concept that the Avatar should not take lives, which would be great set up for a third movie had they got there. So he gives the fire nation the decision, continue and see what I will do or leave and be spared. It was arguably the most powerful bending attack any of the fire nation had ever seen too. So the scene did what it needed to do in terms of the battle and also Aang’s development.


    εŒ—ζ–Ήζ‹“θŠ™ Reply:

    Maybe not to the same extent or in the same way, but I still think some goofiness would work very well, even in a live action movie. Without it, both characters are reduced to half of what they were – though I do agree that the movie is more serious in tone, and that is why I admit that having as much goofiness as the show might not have worked so well, but implementing it a bit would have given the movie and these characters a lot more colour.
    Regarding the tsunami, I still think Aang should have done something with it, like destroying nearby icebergs, crippling the Fire Nation ships or at least pushing the Fire Nation soldiers several kilometers back, not just doing the tidal wave “just for show”. Some more action would have fit the ending nicely while still serving as a warning for the Fire Nation that did not kill anyone in the process.


  3. Meelo Said: Comment by Meelo on August 1, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    I agree, you do have some valid points. But it was like he went out intending to annoy every Avatar fan there was. Pointless name changing… irritatingly slow dialogue and way too much all crammed into one film. Part 1 and part 2 was needed but what I am most upset about is the fact that he has ruined the chances of another film being released anytime soon.

    Sad times really. As most film critics know, he is slowly but surely going down in film history as a pretty diabolical director. His first brilliant film; The Sixth Sense. Then after this succsess he just kept getting worse and worse untill we got to this film… he is so bad know he was even left out of the movie postors for his newest film, of which I hear has terrible reviews, After Earth. He was completely missed out of marketing and rightly so.

    BUT enough of me venting about M Night Shyamalan. The film was a good try, but there were so many irritating differences and bad filming that just let it DOOOOWN.


    εŒ—ζ–Ήζ‹“θŠ™ Reply:

    “(…) but what I am most upset about is the fact that he has ruined the chances of another film being released anytime soon.”

    Quite frankly, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Judging from this movie, he would have most likely just ruined book two as well. Might as well save Nickelodeon the time, money and effort (not to mention the fans’ collective patience). If they wanted to make a remake of TLA, kick M. Night out, and bring someone who actually understands Avatar, fine by me, bring me Book One V2 and THEN we can talk about Book Two. Otherwise, just don’t bother.

    And honestly, I don’t even think Avatar even needed a movie. We already have a TV series to tell the story. I could understand if it was a book (or even a comic book) – a movie lets you experience the very same story in a more visual way, with acted dialogue and music. But with a TV series, you already have all of that – the only differences are that the movie is live action and the total runtime is shorter.

    Sure, I don’t think it’s necessary, but I do think that it would have been pretty cool to see a big screen adaptation of Avatar – if it emulated something more than the outer shell of the show. If the only thing we can get is this half-baked, stripped down version, I say just don’t bother, I’ll do fine with just the show.


    Meelo Reply:

    No I meant as in another film WITHOUT M Night… God know I’m glad it was (hopefully) bad enough that he won’t do another!!

    What I will say about him though is the sets and costumes were very good and thought about. Shame acting, screenplay and dialogue didn’t match it.


    εŒ—ζ–Ήζ‹“θŠ™ Reply:

    Actually, even the sets I didn’t like.

    Oh, as I said, I wouldn’t mind if they did another movie, provided it was a remake of the original (for everyone to get a clean slate) and wasn’t directed by M. Night. But yeah, after this, probably no movie any time soon. But as I also said, it doesn’t really matter to me, I don’t really believe an animated series desperately needs a big screen adaptation. But yeah, if someone believes they can do justice to Avatar, go for it, tough we probably won’t see anything for at least five, ten years.

  4. YangChen Said: Comment by YangChen on August 1, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I thought the movie was okay. I had way too high expectations when I saw it, so i was pretty dissapointed. The worst parts to me were aang’s name’s proununciation, and the script was reeeaaalllyyy bad…. but I thought it was better than most of the fans say it is.


  5. blindbandit Said: Comment by blindbandit on August 1, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    As someone who was first introduced to the Avatar World because of this movie, it had to be interesting enough to bring me into the fandom. I will never claim that it is great, but I will always respect it for the reason I stated before. It is harder for me to watch due to the pronunciations of some of the characters names (will never be convinced that it was needed). I do understand a lot of peoples problem with it and won’t disagree with them, I am glad it came out so I can be here posting and talking about Avatar!


    Airspeed Prime Reply:

    Many people talk about how the movie nearly ruined the show and fandom, but from my perspective the movie had very little impact on the show or the fandom outside of bringing in a whole new crowd of Avatar fans who are still here to this day. I think that is a positive that should not be forgotten that even though it is not the best introduction to the fandom, the movie did give the fandom some life back before Korra was announced.


  6. Adnan7631 Said: Comment by Adnan7631 on August 2, 2013 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    This was really interesting and actually a very well balanced view of the movie. When you mentioned making a list of both positives and negatives, I made a mental note to do the same. Before reading on, I decided that I absolutely despised the movie with dozens of reasons why, and that the only think that was reasonably good was the acting of Dev Patel. Your post brought up a lot of interesting things that I would not have considered. I would actually agree that bringing Aang’s distress about losing his loved ones to the heart of the story was a good choice. However, I disagree on the waterbending thing, which I will explain in my dislikes. I also liked the IDEA of requiring fire to firebend, however, once again, I dislike how it ended up working out.

    I’m going to cut my dislike rant a little short by limiting it to something that I have not seen discussed on here. Namely, the symbolic overtones that were present in the show but were clearly overlooked in the movie.

    On to the characters themselves.
    First, whats up with the racial thing? So, everyone is Asian, besides the white Aang and friends? How does that make any sense whatsoever? And why on earth is the fire nation exclusively brown? Why on earth does the evil people have to literally be Indian? I’m actually rather somewhat offended by that choice. The show never ever ever showed a racial element (besides the generic Asian style). I think this was super important considering that it centers around ethnic warfare and genocide. For me, the show brought up terrible, real world issues, like people thinking they are superior due to technological advances and imposing themselves on others (though they are obviously otherwise lacking). But it spun it away from the White vs. Dark thing that we are so used to. The show does SO well at presenting the fire nation as wholly fueled by evil, but with very complicated citizens forced into doing bad things for really important and understandable reasons. Adding race to it bogs it down, makes it overly complicated, and forces you to pick a side against people you actually see. If you have a history around brown people, or, like me, are brown, you see people that you kind of want to immediately identify with because they look like you and very often hold similar values. And then they are evil. So, you want to like the evil people based on race. The opposite is true, as well. If you have a bad history with Indians, you now won’t see Zuko in a reasonable light, which is absolutely crucial.

    I had a huge problem with how the characters were actually presented. I firmly believe that, in order to make this movie a success, the feel should have been the same while telling a little bit of a different story. Shamalan absolutely got every protagonist wrong. Katara was absolutely bland. In the show, she’s clearly the mother figure. I don’t remember her being much of anything, besides the narrator. In the show, Sokka was constantly used as comic relief, but also as the serious, “get things done” and “I have a plan” guy. The movie tried to do both and totally failed. There was uneven and ill placed comedic elements that totally didn’t fit with the tone. At the same time, Sokka made basically no decisions. Do remember the episode, “Jet”? Sokka basically showed why he was the leader there and why he was the one who made all the decisions. The movie’s Sokka was this boring guy who just was serious and rather lifeless all the time (I guess that’s what you get for casting a vampire). Aang was an awesome character in original because they made him complicated. He was a totally pacifist monk thrown into a huge war. He’s a totally go-with-the-flow guy with some major responsibilities. He’s a total jokester and immature kid with unbelievable amounts of power. Oh, and he needs to get his act together or the world is all screwed. The movie lost that. He was entirely mopey and serious the whole time. Totally two dimensional. That brings me to the third major complaint.

    The whole elements thing was totally mismanaged. The show presented the elements as a hugely sophisticated concept with major ramifications on the characters and setting. One of the reasons why Aang’s a care free guy is because he’s an air bender. Air bending is the element of freedom and Aang personifies it. Zuko is always angry because he personifies fire, always desperate to keep itself alive, always vicious and hot. Katara symbolizes water. She is both fluid and also icy cold at times. Why is she given healing powers? It’s not just because of plot reasons. It’s because that’s kind of the role she takes on in the group. She heals the problems and keeps everyone together. The movie totally messed up the elements at the most basic level. Bending was not only a pathetically long and futile exercise (come on, thirty seconds of feet stomping to move a few pebbles? Really? It would have been faster to just pick them up and throw them.) but it also was totally generic. The Fire benders could have been doing the exact same moves as the water benders and it wouldn’t have made a difference. The show actually had each bending style follow a distinct style of martial arts. Water bending was very different from air bending and fire bending, and it looked totally cohesive. Then there was how each of the bending styles interacted with each other. This is basically tactics. Remember what Boomie told Aang about what he would have to learn from his earth bending master? The concept of neutral jing, waiting and then striking? The show had it all of this figured out and totally well balanced. That’s why the firebending with existing fire didn’t work (along with the spiritual ramifications.) It’s no longer an anger fueled full on assault. Instead, it’s cold and calculated. It’s also severely handicapped (and no longer nearly so capable of such stunning artistic feats as what was portrayed in the Fire nation in the finale). Air is literally everywhere. Earth is almost entirely everywhere (with steel’s increasing influence representing a sort of perversion of the literal earth). Water is not everywhere, but it gets some of the most powerful forms and moves in the world (remember how Katara fought in the episode “The Swamp”? Remember Blood Bending?). Starving benders of water and earth is extremely complicated. But keeping fire away? Cake walk. Fire benders need to be able to produce their own fire. It only looks overpowered because of how it’s fully offensive, with no defensive effort, something Shamalan didn’t get. He also didn’t get that the whole make your own fire thing was totally spiritual and symbolic. Fire not only represents destruction, but also passion. The Fire nation has the most passionate people. They happen to be passionate for the wrong things, yes, but that passion that is inherent to them is what makes them successful. Similarly, Aang’s emotional conflict with his lost people cannot be tied with water for symbolic reasons. Air and water are both free flowing; they do not get blocked easily. Aang not being able to let go is terribly at odds with this free flowing idea (something that could have totally been incorporated into the movie in a very interesting way). To tie that down to waterbending is especially weird because water is the element of healing. Water bending should have helped to relieve his emotional distress, not depend on his spirit reaching calm first.

    Anyway, that’s a lot of my rant. There were a lot more thinks that I disliked, but I think I highlighted the biggest problems. How do I think the movie should have been laid out? Well, the movie did have all the most important plot elements. Aang had to be found in the iceberg and meet Katara, Sokka, and Zuko. He had to go to the Southern Air Temple. He had to see the war. He had to go to the spirit place to learn about the comet (should have met Roku in the solstice), Zuko had to become the blue spirit, they had to go to the Northern Water Tribe, and the Fire Nation had to attack the North Pole.

    If I were to make the movie, I would follow the same plot until after they left the Southern Air Temple. I would then actually have them meet Jet (so, no Haru, though maybe he could be with Jet’s crew). In the show, Jet was limited to one episode, but it came with huge character development for both Katara and Sokka. I think I would have Jet and his crew join with the Avatar and company. Together, they would steal the waterbending scroll, fight off Zuko, then have Jet basically betray Aang and friends. All this time, Aang will have trouble with his past. I think I would have him try and meet King Boomi at this time to ask for advice. I think Omashu would be captured already, but Aang and Boomi would meet, with the king advising him to try and get in touch with Roku in the Spirit world. Aang, Katara, and Sokka would get separated and Aang would get captured. While captured, Aang would meditate and reach the spirit world where he would attempt to find solace, only to find Roku telling him they could speak during the winter solstice if Aang can reach the north pole in time. Simultaneously, Zuko tells his tale. Cue the Blue Spirit and Aang’s escape. Aang and friends would then finally get to the Northern Water Tribe. Fire Nation would attack. Desperate Aang thinks Roku was warning him about this, while still struggling with his lost family and friends. Out of desperation, he goes into the spirit world again and learns about the comet and the ocean and moon spirit, but also reaches peace on his actions and the loss of his people (maybe he meets Giatso who tells him that the spirit of the air nomads would always live on in Aang, or something like that). Meanwhile, Zuko’s captured Aang and Zhao has gotten into the Sanctuary. Moon and Yuwae thing. Aang goes into the Avatar state, actually beats up the Fire Nation (no stupid lift up a wave and everything’s OK). Movie would conclude just like Book 1 did, with Zuko and Iroh stuck on a raft and Ozai (not pictured, of course) tells Azula to track them down.


    Airspeed Prime Reply:

    “Similarly, Aang’s emotional conflict with his lost people cannot be tied with water for symbolic reasons. Air and water are both free flowing; they do not get blocked easily. Aang not being able to let go is terribly at odds with this free flowing idea (something that could have totally been incorporated into the movie in a very interesting way). To tie that down to waterbending is especially weird because water is the element of healing. Water bending should have helped to relieve his emotional distress, not depend on his spirit reaching calm first.”

    Lets not forget that Waterbending also ties heavily into family and that Aang is a flawed Airbender because he has a big attachment issue. To Gyatso, his people and later on Appa, Katara and so on. So I thought it was clever to tie this flaw into him learning waterbending, the whole reason he is serious in the movie (the flashbacks did show him more upbeat and carefree) is because the loss of his people and him struggling to deal with that due to his issue with attachment not allowing him to make the water flow, hence why the music for him mastering water is called “Flow Like Water” he had to let his emotions flow to allow his waterbending to do the same. This is the concept set up in the show, Katara finds the iceberg because she lets her emotions flow when she gets angry with Sokka.
    I understand why they did not feel the need to do something like this in the show as it makes sense that Aang would not have much trouble with Waterbending, after seeing the movie I do wonder why Aang’s emotions over the loss of his people did not really come into play at all when it came to him learning waterbending. We know he did not fully get over it until The Guru, though he was obviously not being held back by the grief like in the movie. Which is why I like the decision to go for it in the movie, for me it was the best executed thing in the movie, Aang his emotions and waterbending.

    For me as I explained in the post I cannot criticise the characters too much mainly because of Paramount’s decision on the length of the movie, I seriously doubt it was MNS who decided that this movie was to be just over 90 minutes long. There is simply no time for this movie to really stop anywhere and let the characters develop outside of the NWT at the end, I like your idea about using Jet, but at the same time in a movie with the basic plot of Book 1 water I am just constantly saying “too much time not heading for the NWT”. As far as I know this is the reason the Kyoshi Warriors were cut from the movie, as it ended up being a pretty random distraction in an otherwise very fast paced movie, not to mention it would have Suki and Yue way to close together. It is a flaw of the movie that the characters outside of Aang and Zuko get little to no character development, but the reason for that means I cannot rant about it too much, if there is no time for them due to studio decisions on length what can they do.


    Adnan7631 Reply:

    There’s a problem with saying that Aang cannot waterbend because of how attached he was to his old family. That is because Aang made a new family

    “We are your family now”
    – Katara, “The Southern Air Temple”
    If Aang’s incapable of bending water because of family issues, then he cannot be a family with Sokka and Katara.


    Airspeed Prime Reply:

    Just because he has a new family now does not mean he is not affected by the loss of his people. I am not saying it is due to family issues, but the loss of the rest of his people.

    εŒ—ζ–Ήζ‹“θŠ™ Reply:

    “Come on, thirty seconds of feet stomping to move a few pebbles? Really? It would have been faster to just pick them up and throw them.”

    Wouldn’t have said it better πŸ™‚

    Nice review there, we pretty much agree on everything regarding the movie. I especially liked your take on bending and its spiritual ramifications, very well thought-out, made me realize some things about the show I hadn’t even noticed yet.

    Oh, and “no stupid lift up a wave and everything’s OK” was also priceless πŸ˜›


  7. Hyriu 85 Said: Comment by Hyriu 85 on August 2, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I am glad you choose this topic as I also suggested it. One thing I will mention first is you talked about the podcast were you disscussed the movie. That is the very first podcast I listened to and it got me hooked on listening to them. When I saw you had done a podcast on the movie I wanted to see if anyone on there had my same views (did not hate the movie either but thought it was ok) and you did and enjoyed the great conversation you all had.

    For the most part I agree with you @airspeed on most topics. Though one thing I heard was that it is Paramount’s fault of why the movie is less than great. I heard (I don’t know if it is true or not) but I heard that MNS wrote a script for TLA that would be around 2 1/2 hours long. Mike and Brian saw that script and liked it a lot. In that script there is more character development, Katara’s neckalice and Kyoshi Warriors. Then Paramount said the movie had to be around 90 minutes. So MNS had to rewrite the script from just about page one.

    One thing I did not like either was Sokka’s lack of development.
    Though in some trailers and TV spots we see a move excited and some what crazy Sokka that was cut from the movie.

    The script was also not great. There was awkward diolage and unnessecary speaking parts. While I know most of the actors in this movie are great perhaps these rolls just weren’t for them and the poor script did not help. Noah Ringer was better than I would have thought since he had no or little acting experience before the movie.

    Well that is all I can think of right now my mind is all over the place.

    Though there are 3 things no one can really argue with. 1 the music was fantastic, you can not say it was a poor soundtrack. 2. The credits were very neat and enjoyable. 3. the DVD menu is great.

    I know points 2 and 3 do not matter to most people but the music is a big part of the movie. I though Howard did a great job with it and I have even downloaded some of the songs πŸ™‚


    Hyriu 85 Reply:

    Oh I forgot to mention my thoughts one Aang’s giant wave. I thought it was great. The dragon spirit told Aang to show the fire nation the power of water. The fire nation think fire is the strongest element so Aang has to show them they are wrong. that is exactly what he does. He lifted up that wave to show the fleet that if he needed to he could wipe them out and but he doesn’t he gives them a chance to give up on the attack and leave while they still can. If he wiped them all out then he would scare the world into check which is not what the Avatar is supposed to do. It is a much better way to show is very powerful and if needed he can do what needs to be done. If the fleet did not flee and kept up with the attack then I think we would have to use the wave, but then he wouldn’t scare the world into check. Everyone would know he gave them a chance to run but since they didn’t they got what they diserved. I also like how even the captured fire nation soldiers bowed to Aang at the end.



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