The Last Airbender
"'The Last Airbender' is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented."— Roger Ebert
The Last Airbender is a 2010 American action-adventure fantasy film based on the first season of the Nickelodeon animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender. The film premiered in New York City on June 30, 2010, and was released the following day in the United States on July 1, 2010.
The four nations of Air, Water, Earth and Fire lived together in harmony until the Fire Nation declared war on the other three. A century later, there is still no end in sight to the destruction. However, an Airbender named Aang discovers that he is the Avatar, a person with the ability to control all four elements. He joins forces with Katara, a Waterbender, and her non-bending brother Sokka to restore balance and harmony to their world.
Why It Sucks
- Incredibly poor acting from the cast, ranging from being utterly emotionless (e.g. Noah Ringer and Nicola Peltz) to obnoxiously hammy (e.g. Aasif Mandvi). Nate Ploof from "Stupid Beagle Reviews" stated in his review that he had seen middle school plays that had better acting than the film.
- It heavily relies on exposition without any emotion, with Doug Walker, the Nostalgia Critic describing the movie as "All explanation, and no humanity".
- Terrible editing with no flow from scene to scene.
- Unintentionally racist casting choices, some of which was caused by nepotism (Nicola Peltz was cast as Katara as a favor to her billionaire father, Nelson Peltz) and name recognition (Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame was cast as Prince Zuko, who is supposed to be from a culture resembling that of Imperial Japan).
- The entirety of the first season, consisting of twenty episodes that last twenty-three minutes, a total of seven hours and forty minutes, has been compressed into ninety-six minutes worth of film (not counting the credits), forcing a huge number of plot elements to be either heavily truncated or outright removed.
- Not helping is that forty minutes worth of footage was removed from the film at the last minute to facilitate a terrible 3D conversion thanks to Paramount rushing the movie out for its release on July 2, 2010, and it was probably not worth it, as it made the movie much worse with many of the aforementioned and described below major problems. Not helping is that the film's novelization has over twenty differences (some of which are major) that got axed as a result.
- Several of the characters' names are mispronounced: for example, Aang is mispronounced as "Ong", Sokka is mispronounced as "Soaka" and Iroh is mispronounced as "Eeroh".
- Some say that the incorrect pronunciation was done to give the characters more Asian-sounding names, even though none of the characters in the film have accents.
- It also somewhat explains the title not having the Avatar title because of an unrelated movie directed by James Cameron being released before this film did, and this will also affect most later Avatar universe installments going forward, as even the "Avatar" title in the movie was mispronounced as "Ahvatar".
- Horrid portrayals of the main characters from the original series:
- Rather than being a humorous person who has self-esteem issues that he hides behind a "tough guy" persona, Sokka now has the personality of a twig and is shown to be a serious soldier who has a bloodlust.
- Aang, who has always been portrayed as a playful and kind kid who struggles with the responsibility of being the Avatar, is portrayed here as a whiny, angsty brat who almost never cracks a smile and is nothing more than a whiny manchild who will never grow up.
- Katara, instead of being a self-dependent, mature person who is also one of the best Waterbenders in the series, is a completely flat character who is an absolute joke of a Waterbender, her exposition is just abysmal and emotionless.
- Zuko is portrayed as a generic "edgy" teenager rather than an impatient and emotionally-conflicted person struggling between his free will and his father's demands.
- Fire Lord Ozai is shown in full from the very beginning, whereas the series kept his appearance a mystery until the third and final season.
- Poor grasp of the lore from the series, with bending seeming to be generally much, much weaker:
- Firebenders are shown to be required to actually use a source of fire, which is a rather baffling change, given that Firebenders produce fire from chi, their own internal energy, in the series.
- Waterbenders take forever to start moving a small puddle.
- In the infamous "pebble dance" sequence, it infamously takes a team of seven Earthbenders to throw one little rock. A single Earthbender in the series could lift a giant boulder with one hand, while four Earthbenders were capable of taking down an entire group of Fire Nation tanks.
- Immense disregard for real-world physics, particularly in one scene where the Fire Nation invades the Northern Water Tribe with "drill helmets" that tear through thick ice in mere seconds... even though they would actually take almost four months to drill through the ice. In the series, it took the Fire Nation a few days of constant raiding before they were able to break through the city walls.
- The Earthbender prison camp is in the middle of a quarry, rather than on a metal ship like in the television series, which creates a massive plothole, as they could escape very easily, yet they don't do so for some reason. In the series, no Earthbending was possible on the metal ship, so it made sense for them to be roused and empowered by Katara to not lose hope and fight back because there was a big risk and they had something to lose... but in the movie, they're surrounded by Earth!
- Poor choreography in the fight sequences.
- Its 3D conversion was terrible, resulting in it winning an unique one-off Razzie Award for "Worst Eye-Gouging Mis-Use of 3D".
- The film takes itself way too seriously, unlike the series, which had both light-hearted and intense moments.
- The trailer showed a scene where Aang is about to fight the Fire Nation all by himself, but the scene never actually appears in the final movie (likely because of the movie being cut short as mentioned above).
- Noah Ringer, who played Aang in this movie, stated he had "no previous acting experience", proving that he was a terrible casting choice.
- Similarly, Nicola Peltz's audition tape was described as "subpar at best".
- Even when the film tries to have emotional moments, all of those scenes just serve to have characters give more exposition rather than talking about or showing how they feel or express what they like or dislike to do.
- Pointless sequel-baiting involving Azula.
- Incredibly crappy dialogue, such as "We were forced under the water of the ocean", as well as "This time, we'll show the Fire Nation that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in theirs".
- The soundtrack, composed by James Newton Howard, is surprisingly amazing.
- It has a good recreation of the intro from the television series, barring the use of a gibberish language in place of authentic Chinese characters.
- Speaking of the Earth villagers, they are actually well-appropriately cast by chinese actors along with the other Water tribe villagers with real Inuit descent.
- Despite her character's race being changed, Seychelle Gabriel's performance as Princess Yue was moderately well-received by fans (barring the "penis hair" meme based on the rather unfortunate appearance she has when seen from behind in one shot), and series creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino would later cast her as Asami Sato in Avatar: The Legend of Korra.
- Similarly, Shaun Toub's performance as Uncle Iroh was also well-received, despite his character's race being changed as well.
- Decent visuals in some scenes with the firebending at least.
The Last Airbender was universally panned by critics, audiences, and fans of the original animated series upon its release, and is widely considered one of the worst films ever made. Many reviewers criticized the screenplay, acting, directing, casting, plot holes, unfaithfulness to source material, visual effects, editing, characters, and 3D conversion. It is commonly described as "a badly-made summary of the first season of the show". Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender tend to be especially harsh towards the movie. Years after its release, word got out that its misdeeds weren't entirely Shyamalan's fault, but that of the film's producers, who didn't even bother to watch the series.
On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 5% rating with a critic consensus that reads, "The Last Airbender squanders its popular source material with incomprehensible plotting, horrible acting, and detached joyless direction." Metacritic gave the film a score of 20/100, landing it in the "generally unfavorable reviews" category. Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film half a star out of four and described the film as "an agonizing experience in every category I can think of". Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times said in his review, "By specifically critical and broadly adult standards, this film is undoubtedly a disappointment, but it is disappointing in a way that its intended audience may not notice."
Jen Yamato of Movies.com awarded the film one and a half star out of five and said, "The good news for those eagerly anticipating this live-action, big budget adaptation is that the 3D isn't horrible. The bad news? Just about everything else is."
The film opened up at #2 on its opening weekend, grossing $17,511,097 domestically. On its closing weekend, it made a total domestic gross of $131,772,187. In overseas territories, the film grossed $187,941,694. Overall, the film made a worldwide gross of $319,713,881 and was considered to be a box office disappointment.
Awards and nominations
The film dominated the 2010 Golden Raspberry Awards, "winning" five Razzies from nine nominations: "Worst Picture", "Worst Director", "Worst Screenplay", "Worst Supporting Actor" (which Jackson Rathbone won for both his role as Sokka in this film and as Jasper Hale in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) and the one-off special "Worst Eye-Gouging Mis-Use of 3D" Razzie.
- This was the second Nickelodeon film to receive negative reviews since Good Burger, but the very first Nickelodeon film to get horribly panned by critics, fans of the original show and casual moviegoers.
- In September 2018, Netflix announced a live-action series based on Avatar: The Last Airbender, with the original creators (Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko) and composer Jeremy Zuckerman returning. Both Michael and Bryan said that they intended to adapt the series "with a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast" and it would be released sometime in 2021. This, in effect, killed any remaining possibility of a sequel to this film.
- Shyamalan has stated that this film was the first film he saw as a genuine failure and still hasn't gotten over how he disappointed fans of the original source material.
- There were plans for two sequels adapting the original series' remaining two seasons. Fortunately, they were canceled following the film's horrific critical bashing and the number of Golden Raspberry Awards it won.
- Noah Ringer, who played Aang in the movie, has not appeared in another film or another project in general after 2011. His second (and last) film appearance was in the 2011 sci-fi/western film Cowboys & Aliens. He was announced in May 2013 to be starring in a film titled The Peppercorn Chronicles, which was set to be loosely based on a 24-minute fantasy short titled Mrs Peppercorn's Magical Reading Room. As of now, there has been no further information regarding the film, and it is presumed that it is either stuck in development hell or has been outright cancelled.
- In an "ask me anything" interview posted on the subreddit /r/IAmA in February 2013, Dante Basco (the voice of Prince Zuko in the original series) revealed that Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko had warned him and his fellow cast members to never watch the film under any circumstances.