May 11, 2011
The Last Airbender (2010) (part 4 of 10)
Elsewhere, Zuko is spotted by the Fire Nation’s General Zhao (Aasif Mandvi, from The Daily Show, definitely the weirdest casting choice in this whole thing), who decides to invite Zuko over for lunch. This quickly degenerates into Zhao mocking Zuko more and more openly, in a transparent attempt to get the beginning of his backstory into the movie. And all it cost the film was any sort of sensible characterization for Zhao.
In the show, Zhao is just as big of a jackass, but there’s more to the character than that. He’s a skilled firebender, and his hatred of Zuko comes from their rivalry in trying to capture the Avatar. But this scene shows us pretty much all Zhao will be in the movie: an insanely petty man who likes kicking Zuko while he’s down for no reason at all, and never shows any kind of military skill to back it up.
Eventually, Zhao’s speech degenerates into him saying he’s allowing Zuko to wear a Fire Nation uniform “like a child wearing a costume.” You know, I just came off recapping a movie that didn’t know when to stop letting us know who the bad guys were, and I am in no mood for more of the same.
Zuko marches out, and we cut to him briefly glancing at a picture of himself with his family, not that the newbies have any reason to know that’s who they are.
Suddenly, four guys just appear around him, and a fight breaks out. It’s really hard to tell what’s happening in this scene: Is this combat training, or are Zhao’s men genuinely attacking him? Its placement directly after that last scene suggests the latter, but we also see Eeroh watching the fight, seemingly without a care in the world. Context, please?