Last night was the movie premiere of The Last Airbender in Rockwell Powerplant mall Cinema 6, and I like to thank UIP Philippines for inviting me to their event. The movie is based on Nickelodeon's animated tv series AVATAR: The Last Airbender, a story of a boy who can control and manipulate all 4 elements (fire, earth, water and air) and discovered that he is lost in time after being trapped in an ice cap and being revive by his new friends, his return surprises him to battle the Fire nation who wants to rule all elemental nations. The movie will be released on July 21, 2010 in all Philippine cinemas.
I remember that the animated series is such a hit here in the Philippines and all my friends, especially comic creators are raving about the series and exchanging DVD's infront of me,I don't have the time that year to watch DVD at home and I'm kinda lazy to watch a long tv series, but it excites them in every story line and I envy them to see they enjoy the series. I caught the AVATAR tv series in ABC 5, and it was only a short run for me and didn't got the chance to follow other episodes, I'm impressed on how they deliver a good story line and a good animation style.
In this live action movie - The Last Airbender, I'm going to review it and post some non-spoiling content about the movie, don't worry, It will be just my comments and review. So if you are ready, then read more below!(more below)
About the director
The movie is directed by M.Night Shyamalan, he also wrote and produced the film. The success of the animated tv series got the attention of movie producers to make it as a live action movie, and I know fans got excited to see it and the movie was the buzz of the day after airing in the interwebs after the release of it's teaser trailer. We waited for long month before it shows in theaters and now that the movie is out in some country, positive and negative reviews are popping out and the negative reviews are first being discussed by movie fans and not about the movie, Many movie fans hated M.Night and while others say he is brilliant, you should be aware of his other films if you want to know his style, but for me the movie changes M.Night and it doesn't carry his style, it is the Last Airbender and not a M.Night movie.
The Last Airbender movie is a kid friendly movie, I know kids will love it, especially if they are a big fan of the tv series. I think the movie is made just for the fans and also a way of driving new fans to the tv series. I think one of the new fans will be me, because I'm not familiar with the story line and after watching the movie, I'm thinking of grabbing a DVD of the tv series and watch it at home. I saw the 3D version of the movie in Rockwell Powerplant mall, and they have a different 3D glasses that has sensors infront of it, although it is a little bit heavy and very uncomfortable in wearing it, but the effects of the 3D is clear and can match an IMAX-ish effects.
Kids will enjoy the 3D-ness, but it is also okay to watch it in a regular screen. There are no gory deaths, blood, or decapitating scenes in the movie, that's why I call it a kid friendly movie. Dialogues are fine, and I think the script is entirely made for kids to understand on the story, and because it is a Nickelodeon produced movie, you must first understand that the movie execution is likely the same as in a Walt Disney movie, expect moral story, expect a light action sequences, and cheesy lines or dialogues (which I know everyone complained after the movie). But we can't blame M.Night in writing it, the Nickelodeon team might be behind it after it.
This is just a chapter one of the movie, If I mentioned a chapter one, it means that there is chapter two and three of the movie.
There are a lot characters in the movie, you should start memorizing their names and I'm glad they are easy to remember, but as you watch it you can pin point on where to concentrate to know their roles, the movie phases is okay to introduce some characters, although some scenes are very fast and I noticed that some scenes that shows some landscape for a minute have a long screen time and dialogues of the characters can be heard in the background, that's the problem I faced because I can't even tracked who the character is talking in that scene. As a said earlier, the movie is kid friendly, there are cheesy lines and movements of some characters, I don't even know if they will start to dance or sing, but its funny to see them do funny hand gestures and movements during their dialogues, maybe they try to copy or imitate the real animated character, but for a movie hard core fan, that action is very distracting. The narration of the story by the character is okay, but I start to complain on some dialogues of some characters, I feel like I'm reading M.Night's script during the movie and just wonder around to focus on the character and just put a post it in my forehead that has a label "okay, we must understand that this is a movie for kids".
for the characters of the Last Airbender, here are some of my comments
Aang (Noah Ringer) - cute kid to play as the bad ass Avatar in the movie, I like how he do those stunts and do some tai chi moves whenever he will attack using the power of air. I didn't see him smile that much because he is a troubled kid here who wants to find answers to their problems. His character changes in many ways,especially in the start and you can see how powerful he is in this film, but in the later part, you will discover something about his power. There are some funny scenes that he is involved and you will see that his spirit as a child will block you off and think that he is not that powerful or a savior in the film. Noah Ringer played a great acting and stunts, I loved that Shaolin moves and facial expressions, but more on a serious mode. Action scenes and fight choreography lacks a little, but with his age, he can be the next young Jet Li.
Prince Zuko (Dave Patel) - the last movie we saw Dave Patel is in Slumdog Millionaire movie, but here in the film he displays another character that can reveal the entire story of the movie. The weird part of the movie is that it focuses only to him and the Avatar,this will be 1st point of the whole series and movie to show their upcoming roles to each other. Prince Zuko is some sort of a villain here, but I really like to see how he will battle Avatar in some scenes. But for me, the movie focuses to Prince Zuko and his story.
Katara (Nicola Peltz) - she's a member and also the remaining waterbender of the Southern Water Tribe, you can see her power and role in the 1st scene and fans of the series can pin point her character from the original series. Katara is the main narrator here, her voice and acting roles projects like a walking story book, I think she has more lines here than the other actors. Her hand gestures is funny in some of her dialogues, but if you are kid, you will just ignore and not notice it, She tells what to do and what will happen next. Her voice is mild and calm and perfect for narration and story telling. She do those tai chi moves also.
Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) - oldest brother of Katara, he joined the adventure with Katara and also one of the trusted allies of Avatar. Sokka's character is just a main stay for the movie, problem is that he has lots of dialogues and less action sequences. I just leave my comment here, because Sokka just lacked a lot of character build up.
Iroh (Shaun Toub) - I like his character here, and I think his character is important in the major storyline and not sure if he lives or dies in the original tv series. He is the balance of good and evil and just there to be he guide and uncle to Prince zuko. Actor Shaun Toub did well to play as Iroh, and he resembles like the animated version.
Admiral Zhao (Aasif Mandvi) - main bad guy in the movie, with a few scenes in the 1st part of the film, but more roles are being revealed in the later part of it. He is the Fire nation's commander and he leads the army and fleet and the one responsible for any attack, he reports to the Fire Lord Ozai and he is very loyal to their leader.
Princess Yue (Seychelle Gabriel) - character and princes of the Northern Water Tribe, I got a funny comment on her costume design and wig, I just can't help to say that .. hmm why is it that they have a cosplayer in this film haha. Okay, she is cute in her character and the way she acts, smiles, and talk shows the princess power. Her part in the story is very important, and keep on focus about her origin.
Fire Lord Ozai - the leader of the Fire Nation and the main bad guy of the whole series and this movie. He showed up in few scenes just to show the origin of Prince Zuko and about the Fire Nation. Don't focus on him, because his major roles might be revealed in the next chapter of the film.
I just want to close my eyes or shut my mouth up if you are going to ask my review of this film, but after watching it me and some movie fans and critics talked outside the theater and agrees that the movie has a very weak in the script and dialogues. I just figured out why other movie reviewers online got disappointed in the film, it is just how the story phases so fast, some of the actors projection of the character is bad. The story is like a waving thread and it vibrates and can't find it's original form, for me I got my forehead crumbles and start to understand more of the film and story and the phase of its scenes is very disturbing. It's like opening the book to another page and skip some pages after it. I just keep on thinking that this is a movie for kids, and as I explained earlier, the movie is mild, calm, and have a less action sequences. I began to move myself out of the movie state and want to watch the original animated series. After leaving the cinema, a camera and a guy holding a mic interviewed me and asking what can I say about the movie, my answer is -"the movie is nice, and kids will love it, if you want to be a fan of AVATAR, then you can start here in the live action movie".
I didn't say or should mention that the movie is PANGET or what, but if you love the AVATAR series and a fan of it, then you should watch this, and if you want to embrace the AVATAR mania and want to be fan, then start here in the movie to know more about the story and characters. And if you are not a fan and just want to watch lots of action sequences, then watch Jet Li movies at home.
I got invited again to watch a block screening this Saturday, and I don't know if I will watch it again, I will wait for the chapter two and three of The Last Airbender, and I know movies are getting good in sequels. If they are going to change the director and writer of the movie, then they should do it. If not, M.Night should not do these mistakes ever again.
my rate: 3 out of 5 dancing bananas. (thanks to the 3D effects)
photos are c/o UIP Philippines (grabbed it from their Facebook)