Part One: The Boy in the Iceberg
The Last Airbender has managed to touch the hearts of fans and non-fans of the original series all over the world. "Touch", of course, meaning to "fill with confusion, dread, and indignant rage due to the sheer mediocrity". As a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, I will attempt to keep this accessible to non-fans as well as refrain from talking about the controversial casting choices. (You can go to Racebending.com to learn more on that front.)
No, this liveblog will be devoted solely to the all-around wooden acting, mindlessly repetitive dialogue, bleak scenery, and lack of character development. Hell, from what I've heard of the numerous negative reviews there are barely characters to develop.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with the credit sequence.
Water missiles sorta kinda
heading towards the screen, swooping down to the lower right-hand corner then flash-freezing and exploding with tinkly breaking-glass sounds. Camera pans out to reveal the Paramount logo. Then Nickelodeon logo, BUT ON FIRE!!! ...Kinda sorta, like a short-wicked candle in a drafty room.
OH WAIT IT JUST GOT FROZEN BY ONE OF THE ICE MISSILES.
Because, um, it's still burning?
Fast forward through the rest of the sequence.
OH BOY CHINESE CHARACTERS ON A RED BACKGROUND WITH SILHOUETTES! IF I WERE WATCHING THIS IN 3D I WOULD EXPECT SOMETHING AWESOME TO HAPPEN RIGHT ABOUT NOW!
...Okay. So maybe the dude who kicked a rock into the camera was having an off-day. Poor guy, everyone else cheated and used sheets. Maybe
if the director blocked the action so that the rock-dude was standing off to one side of the shot, so that the arc of their projectiles would be clearly shown, this would have worked. Otherwise it looks like a cheap attempt to pander to the 3D crowd.
Not to mention we have no idea what to call these people who can do stuff with water, earth, fire, and air. Magic kung fu artists?
Now, on to the opening monologue. In the series, this started off with a description of the four elements and the one Avatar to bend them all. Unfortunately that entire sequence was silent so we have no idea what is up with that. I SURE WISH THERE WAS A SHORTER TERM FOR THESE MYSTICAL WUSHU PRACTITIONERS. Gee, maybe that giant wall of text will tell us what to—wait, who was the composer for this music again? John Williams! Ohhhhh, so they're Jedi! Okay then.
So, one more problem. I know that not all children are smart enough to read big words like "harmony" and having someone read aloud to them helps, but if you decided that then why would you put an opening crawl in there to begin with? Why not just have the monologue play over the scenes of these benders and save some valuable screentime?
OH BOY AN ESTABLISHING SHOT OF GLACIERS. ACTION COMMENCES!
A glob of water slowly rises, slopping about 75% of its contents back into the sea like a punctured jelly. Without, y'know, shrinking to accommodate that or
turning hollow like an emptying plastic jug. It inches over to this chick in a parka, who is obviously the person controlling the water sphere as her hands are gesturing circles at maybe a centimeter an hour. Then she drops it and a mighty splash sounds below the bottom edge of the screen, where OMG JACKSPER RATHCULLEN stands up looking... mildly irked.
His threatening lunge at Chick in Parka is hampered by his own cumbersome outfit, and she gets in about twenty-eight "I'M SORRY"s before saying "It worked better that time!" At least, I think that's what she said. Then she says something else incomprehensible and asks, "Isn't that strange?" Jaspson Cubone then chides her: "Don't do that stuff around me anymore, I always get wet", despite... uh. Not looking wet at all.
We have absolutely no idea what the relationship is between these two until the voiceover starts up again over shots of Chick in Parka and her brother walking over the ice. One would have been all right, but they couldn't have fit in one measly "sis" after Jackson Cullen's admonishment, or "name of whoever Jasper Rathbone is playing" instead of one of the rapid-fire apologies? Barely five minutes in and most of it has been wasted with the voiceover telling us what should have been shown in the first thirty seconds. I feel myself growing old already.
Monologue. Traveling. Parka Chick says "My brother" about six times. WE GET IT. HE'S YOUR BROTHER AND HOTH IS AN INHOSPITABLE COCOON OF ICE. NOW TELL US HIS FUCKING NAME.
Something about a tiger seal. More wandering. Viewers are asking themselves why this dude has brought his little sister hunting if she is 1) a pain in his pasty white neck and 2) about as coordinated as a concussed monkey, considering her clumsy splashing of him before. We are also wondering why they are bothering to haul it on foot instead of riding a tauntaun. Oh wait, food is scarce so they probably ate the tauntauns already. Poor things.
Parka Chick is standing on something that's glowing. Her brother states that there is something under there, at which the viewers decide "Fuck it we'll just call him Captain Obvious". The young captain takes out curved bone-ish thing and starts chipping at the WAIT WHAT WHY ARE YOU CHIPPING THIN ICE THIS CAN ONLY END BADLY
Sure enough the cracks start to spread, and they jog briskly away. Well, they're hungry and wearing thick winter clothing, so let's give them the benefit of the doubt eh? Then a big ice sphere containing a glowing figure rises from the ice and we cut to the siblings, terrified and out of breath, saying "no matter how many times we've annoyed each other over the years, YOU'RE MY FAMILY AND I LOVE YOU"—
...*squints at screen* Is that Captain Rathcullen's idea of a worried but protective older brother's expression? Oh well, he's telling Parka Chick not to go near the globe of ice so he must
be cautious. I guess they're the aloof and unflappable sort. OH FINALLY A NAME. Too bad, I was getting used to calling Katara Parka Chick.
Katara promptly shows her relief at escaping death not by hugging her brother and doing what he says so they can go home unscathed for today, but by grabbing his odd sort of boomerang-shaped thing and chipping away at the globe of ice. Yes. Barely thirty seconds after her brother chips the ice and causes a massive cave-in, SHE DOES THE SAME THING TO A GLOBE WITH A STRANGE GLOWING FIGURE IN IT. How did these two survive without parents?
As Katara strikes the final blow gusts of wind burst out of the globe and knock her backwards while a ray of light shines up into the sky. Cut to half a face from behind saying, "Uncle, look!" SEE? WAS ESTABLISHING CHARACTER RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH DIALOGUE THAT
Anyway once the wind and ice settles down they cautiously approach the broken globe, which reveals the biggest tauntaun EVER, along with some kid who is presumably the source of the glowing. Katara blows off Captain Jacksper's question of "is he breathing" in favor of pelting the barely conscious kid with a barrage of exposition laden questions which I'm sure he won't be able to answer. She waits three seconds before deciding that yes, he is exhausted, and tells
HER STILL UNNAMED BROTHER to get him back to the village. The good captain prods at the mutant tauntaun with a pointy stick and it whaps him with his tail. Ha ha, I guess.
It's been twenty minutes, right? *checks time* FUCK IT. NOT EVEN AT THE TEN MINUTE MARK AARRRRRRGH.
"It's trying to eat me!" Katara's brother says. Dude, you know how to tell the eating end from the pooping end—oh wait, mutant. EN-VEE-EM gaiz.
Cut to the village, full of... um, Inuits who look nothing like the two previously established characters. Then instead of something stupid like having Katara and her brother carry Iceberg Boy into the village so the other townspeople can react with varying degrees of concern and caution, we cut to a shot of Iceberg Boy's back covered in a highly ornate cross tattoo. That is obviously a commonplace sight, as Katara looks at it for a good five seconds before repeating her question from before. "I ran away from home!" he says. "We got into a storm and got forced under the water of the ocean."
Compared to Katara's indifferent "Oh, I see", this kid is a beacon of optimism and cheer. Even more so when he politely thanks Katara and nearly
warrants a couple of exclamation marks. (Note: I heard that for his audition tape Noah Ringer shaved his head of his own accord and wore his own costume, which was supposedly much brighter. Great to see they nipped his excess of enthusiasm in the bud!
Katara asks if he is still upset and he says, "Nope, not anymore." D'awwwwww.
Cut to HUGE STEEL BATTLESHIP SMASHING THROUGH THE ICE! OH BOY SOMETHING INTERESTING IS ABOUT TO—oh, now we're back to the village again with Katara's brother leading a group of Inuit children... somewhere. Uh, to the hut where Iceberg Boy and Katara are still talking? To warn them about the Fire Nation approaching—okay, what is with this dude and taking children with him to do things that children shouldn't be doing? ...Oh. He's putting them all in one place so they'll be safe. Okay.
"Something wrong?" Iceberg Boy asks. To which Katara replies no, but he should stay here anyway because, uh, it's just a drill?
A drill involving a bunch of ominous black-cloaked figures swooping through the village. They're moving at a brisk jog, which is probably the best they can muster in such heavy armor. The tension is overthrown by my relief that KATARA HAS FINALLY CALLED HER BROTHER BY NAME AND I CAN STOP MAKING TWILIGHT JOKES. And then I get irked at the lame pun. "Soak-uh." Seriously? Did you name him that so you could make a bunch of jokes about him getting wet all the time?
Yadda yadda... Then a rather handsome young man with a mild skin irritation over his left eye tells them that he is Prince Zuko, son of Fire Lord Ozai, and they should bring him all of their elderly. I assume it is because they have the best treatments for unsightly rashes. Said elderly hobble out, including Katara and Sokka's grandmother who sticks out like a sore thumb due to her not looking at all Inuit like the others, though it makes a little more sense as she is related to Katara and Sokka—ANYWAY. Driven by indignance that Prince Zuko would dare to ask for the secrets of their medicines Katara flexes her hand and a spike of... ice? Water? Whatever, she flexes her hands and a crunch of ice moving at glacier-speed sounds. Sokka tells her to stop it, and she does. Yawn.
A Fire Nation soldier goes into the hut with the children, turns to leave, and then whips off Iceberg Boy's hood, revealing his shaved head and tattoos. Why he brings Iceberg Boy, who doesn't look old enough to shave (yet does so anyway), to Prince Zuko despite the fact that he asked for ELDERLY people is beyond me.
WOOO TEN MINUTE MARK IS PASSED AND I AM THROUGH FOR TODAY. I just can't stomach any more of this monotony. I'll try for twenty minutes next time.
Glad you're judging the film on its own merits. Must have been some of the longest 10 minutes of your life.
Better you than me. We who love and respect the original series salute you.