The Last Airbender (2010) (part 9 of 10)

And then it’s over to Zhao and Eeroh as they enter the city, and one of Zhao’s men hands him the scroll we’ve heard so much about. And would you believe that Zhao feels the need to again explain that it shows the moon spirits’ location? Our heroes spot Zhao, and Ong sends the others after him, while he stays behind to fight. Meanwhile, Zuko frees himself from the ice with more rule-breaking stationary firebending.

Zhao arrives at the spring. And yes, those two glowing koi are the moon and ocean spirits. Who’d have thought, huh? Zhao says, “They are called many names: yin and yang, push and pull.” But nothing about Tui and La, their actual names from the show? Why do I bother anymore?

Zhao captures the moon spirit in a bag, and wonders why they would make themselves so vulnerable. Eeroh says it’s to teach humility to mankind. And how’s that been working out for them lately? Eeroh tries to persuade Zhao to let the fish go. Uh, you’ve been following him and listening to him this whole time. What did you think he was going to do?

Soak-a, Katara, and Yue arrive, just as Zhao says they can’t worry about “children’s superstitions”. Okay, and what part of killing the moon do you think fits that description? Zhao finally stabs the fish, and both Yue and Ong collapse as the moonlight turns red.

Caption contributed by Ryan

Sailor’s delight, I guess.

There’s a really confusing camera move where we zoom into Eeroh’s eye, then right back out again. Um, artsy?

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Ryan Lohner

Ryan lives in Sparta, New Jersey, a quaint little burg without much for kids to do except go to the movies. Thus began a lifelong love affair, as even back then he grew to love examining why a film worked, or didn't. He is a member of the Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society, and currently studying for a Master's Degree in Library and Information Science. His hobbies include running, piano, and annoying people with that damn lowercase forum user name.

Multi-Part Article: The Last Airbender (2010)

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  • Aa

    Nice.

  • Irate fan

    Absolutly spot on! I couldn’t agree more with this glorious review of the absolutly worst rendition of an amazing TV show ever. I can only hope that someone comes in and forgets that this movie ever happened and rewrites this into the great movie it should be. Hmm dare I say that Mike DeMartino and Bryan Konietzko could have and should have done it? There is so much potential to make this a great movie that it is pathetic that M Night screwed it up. My 9 year old daughter could have written this movie better then he did.

  • Amy

    This is an excellent take down of what made this movie so frustrating. I saw it in the theater with a friend who had never seen the show; she left utterly confused and I left utterly frustrated that such great potential had been so horribly mangled.

    One small mote of disagreement though:

    “In spite of the idiocy of this whole scene, it’s actually well-directed. The entire battle is done in a single take, with the camera swooping around the area, making sure we see everything important to the ebb and flow of the fight. It shows that Shyamalan really does understand the physical moviemaking process…”

    I watched another criticism of TLA that says the exact opposite about this scene, that it’s actually very poorly directed and shows complete lack of comprehension of how to properly do an action scene. Their reasoning was that such a panning shot shows all the extras milling in the background, obviously unsure what to do, which breaks up the suspension of disbelief the audience needs to immerse into the scene. THey also had some other good points that I’m forgetting off the top of my head.

    I don’t think Shyamalan is good with action at all. I loved, I mean LOVED Unbreakable, but the best scenes were the introspective, posed shots and the ones that built tension and suspense leading up to the final reveal, while the action parts were actually the worst scenes. (Though they were still ten times better than these, wtf MNS?)

    Loved this review! Thanks!

    • Sam R

      Ah, you saw the JesuOtaku, Y Ruler of Time, Todd in the Shadows, Rollo T review, didn’t you?

  • Elvisreptilicus

    Never thought I’d see a screencap of a studio logo let alone have a caption that’s original

  • Blurayisrubbish

    The last ASSBENDER is a huge fucking fart of turd!

  • Brotherofbond

    ” I hope the show has gained new fans because of this movie”
    They have. I’m a fan of the series only because many (including you) have said that the series was better than the movie.

  • DrWheelz

    I just finished watching the show for the first time (not something that I probably would have done were it not for your recaps, so a big thank you for getting me interested). All I could think of while watching the film was that it was probably inspired by the face-palmingly awful Ember Island Players production. Heck, they might have actually improved it. “Ah-vatar state, yuhp-yuhp!”

  • I watched this when I was about three quarters of the way through the first Book. While this did mean that, to some extent, I didn’t fully appreciate the stupidity of the last act, it still had me facepalming come Yue’s last words.
    Finished Book 2 yesterday, looking forward to watching Book 3 and Avatar: the Legend of Korra (I refuse to call it by its official name).

  • Barbara

    I know internet diagnosis is unverifiable, but I’m wondering if M Night, priding himself on his creativity, wasn’t jealous of his daughter’s admiration of Katara, a character created by someone who wasn’t her daddy? We know from Lady in the Water that he uses his films to settle personal scores. So, perhaps unconsciously, he wanted to take down Avatar and particularly take down Katara, to show his daughter that they weren’t that wonderful after all. Consciously, of course, he’d want to make a popular and successful film, but maybe he was working against himself and against the show at the same time.

  • harvey

    Why is it sexist to have a girl apologise to her brother? That don’t make any sense. Let me guess, your idea of women role models are the characters from Joss Whedon shows right?

    • harvey

      And I don’t see how James Cameron is to blame for the mispronunciation, I don’t think he owns the word. He’s only responsible for the retitle.

      Also, the names of the characters can also be blamed on the actors themselves. Some of them complained about the names.

      • Elein

        WTH! Are u the director? Why are you defending this piece of crap?

    • Guest

      Its sexist because in the show she giggled and they forgot about it, in the movie she seemed generally afraid of and subservient to her older brother.
      It wouldn´t mean much if it wasn´t for the rest of the movie. In the show she´s a strong independent well developed female character, one of the most gifted and talented waterbenders we meet and the glue that holds the group together.
      In the movie she´s a girl who can waterbend a little and cry’s a lot.

      The worst sexism, the worst racism, isn´t the blatant, bold, statements made by biggits, but the subtleties that find their way into media and real life that people begin to view as not just normal but correct.

    • Another Guest

      Uh… what’s wrong with Joss Whedon’s characters as women role models? Is there gonna be a rumble now? I think I hear the Browncoats forming ranks…

  • TheGoddamnRobin

    I am so glad that there are no real plans to make a second one. Just think how M Night Shyamalen could have ruined Mai,Ty Lee,Suki,Long Feng, Azula and Toph. He almost managed to derail Azula when she hasn’t done anything yet, just think how badly she would be screwed up if she was the main villain.

  • Storyteller

    So thankful that this movie was made.  Without this movie I wouldn’t have two of my favorite things to watch:  The complete original series of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and my Rifftrax of The Last Airbender.  

    Knew nothing about any of this until I saw the trailer for this movie, looked like a great concept, learned there was an original series and then watched that.  The move sucked, but the Rifftrax made the painful movie experience worth every penny.  

  • Soli

    I can give a slight pass to the tattoo’s complexity, since a solid blue chunk on the kid’s shaved head might look a bit goofy.

    And thank you for pointing out the sexism of turning a strong, capable heroine into a sniveling little girl. They even make her less intelligent, since in the cartoon Katara worked out who Aang was by herself, which was her motivation for rushing off to rescue him — here, she needs an infodump, and she wants to save him because she apparently became besties with him in the last half hour. Shyamalan also sucked all of Sokka’s defining characteristics out of “Soak-a” — no funny snark, no clever plans and tactics.

    Zuko’s scar was ridiculous. He looked like he had a mild case of eczema.

    Iroh was off 500%. The real Iroh wouldn’t have told his nephew just to quit searching for the Avatar and settle down somewhere, and he wouldn’t have just sat there sipping tea while Zuko beat up his ship’s crew. And of course, we get mentions of Hama but not the WHITE LOTUS.

    Another thing about the bending that is done horribly is that the elements don’t even act according to the benders’ movements. It’s more like they do a dance, and then the stuff moves without even mimicking their movements.

    Shyamalan’s weird refusal to include an East Asian in ANY real role is truly bizarre, especially since Chinese and Japanese cultures were the shaping influences on how things looked and sometimes behaved. The racism here is doubly baffling because the director himself is NOT WHITE. I guess he hates East Asians, and wants to insert ANYONE ELSE in the role, even to making an Iranian the full-blooded brother of an Indian.

    WHY did Shyamalan have to come up with a weird fake explanation for why Aang…. sorry, “Ong” ran away? In the story, it made perfect sense: he was being taken away from his father figure and forced to leave his childhood behind at the age of 10-ish. It’s doubly stupid because not only does Aang later go on to have a family with Katara, but we find out that his predecessor Avatar Roku ALSO had a wife and at least one child, leading to a surprise revelation about one of his descendants.

    Yeah, I noticed the part where Curtis stares directly into the camera too. I wonder if he realized just how bad this movie was, and was trying to send a telepathic message to the hapless audience.

    I guess they never mention the “breath of fire” in this movie, huh? Which was the only way Zuko didn’t die after leaping into icy water? Ugh.

    Another random crap on the show’s mythology: Ong declaring that the monks got their airbending tattoos after meditating for a long time. Uh, no. They got their tattoos either after they have completed their training, or after they have created a new technique. WHY CHANGE THAT?

    The stabbing-the-fish thing seemed moronic to me. It made more sense when Zhao blasted the bag with fire, which presumably flash-fried the fish. But stabbing at a bag of water… is less effective and less dramatic.

    What does that “believe in our beliefs” thing even mean? The Fire Nation and Water Tribe have effectively the same belief systems! They may approach them differently, but they are the same. And it’s not about making a point about your religion, you idiot. It’s about SAVING YOUR PEOPLE. It feels like Shyamalan was trying to make some kind of point, but nobody knows what it is.

    It probably is for the best that Toph will never be in a Shyamalan movie. Imagine what he’d do with a female character who is not only East Asian, but prickly, snarky and very, very capable.

  • Anastasia

    Cool review!