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Opinionated Guide to The Last Airbender
Korval

[table of contents]
The Siege of the North
Oh wow. That line was awful. That line was so bad, you should go kill yourself.
Todd in the Shadows, The Last Airbender Review

We begin the final stretch with Katara and Aang practicing some moves. Naturally, no water is being bent, because you can't practice waterbending while actually bending water. And suddenly, the falling snow turns black. Ah, the Harbinger of Impending Fire Nation Attack. Wouldn't it have been great if they set up what this meant before now? Like maybe back when Zuko showed up at the Southern Water Tribe, like in the show?

Oh and we finally get a name for Princess-What's-Her-Name: Yue. How did we get through an entire character establishment scene without mentioning her name? And how did M. Night get that name right? I was expecting that he would somehow come up with Uwe.

Anyway, the black snow is apparently smoke from the steam engines of the Fire Nation fleet, even though we don't see any on the horizon. We get a shot of Zuko getting into a small boat, with Iroh nearby. He tells Zuko to remember that his chi can warm him. Um, what? What is "chi" and when did that become a part of the movie's mythos? We're about 65 minutes through the movie, over 2/3rds of the running time, and now you're introducing this?

Meh, this looks like a good place to die

Zuko rows out on his boat. He looks around for a bit, then jumps into the frigid, arctic waters. His body was found three days later. I already did that bit. You mean they did this in the show? Yep; it's here because this is how Zuko got into the city. Only here, it makes less sense, because at least in the show, he was following some animals underwater. Here, he just looks around and randomly decides that life isn't worth living.

Anyway, we see Zuko completely unfazed by sub-zero waters. He swims up to a thin patch of ice. How he knew it would be there is not explained. After a bit of trying to punch through, we see him put his fingertips on the ice. Suddenly, they start glowing red, the water starts boiling, and he melts his way through.

Bullshit! This film has just spent the last 65 minutes telling us that firebenders cannot create fire. Now, after one minute of Iroh telling Zuko that he can use his "chi" to heat things up, we're supposed to buy that he can melt his way through ice, not to mention stave off hypothermia from full immersion in sub-zero water?

This is absolutely pathetic. M. Night decided to change the nature of firebending for no adequately justified reason. But since he has to follow the show exactly (but not the characterization, oh no. Just the plot, and he even fails with that), he has to conjure up some justification for Zuko to be able to do this. Thus, we have that bit of "plot spackle," where Iroh talks about warming things with his chi. Of course, the fact that Zuko can do this should mean that he can throw fire too, but nope; we can't have that, now can we.

Cut to Katara and Yue, being visited by Sokka. Wait; isn't he the Princess's sworn protector who should never leave her side or something? So where was he before now? Sokka says that Aang needs to talk to them. Why does he say this? Aang is standing right there. In the same shot as when Sokka walked in, not six feet from Katara. In fact, how the hell does Sokka know Aang needs to talk to her?

Aang says that he needs to talk to the dragon spirit, to ask for help in defeating the Fire Nation. The Princess suggests that they go to a very sacred place, which the city was apparently built around. As they head out, we see Zuko watching them.

You know, we've seen Zuko off and on over the past 40 minutes. Do you know what we haven't seen Zuko doing? Hunting the Avatar! You could get away with something like that in Terminator 2, where a good 30-45 minute stretch of the film doesn't involve the primary antagonist. But that's because the film spent the first 30-45 minutes establishing that the T-1000 was an engine of destruction, an implacable menace that they could barely escape from, let alone have a chance to actually kill.

Aang practically tap-danced on Zuko's face before he got away. Since then, we've heard a lot about Zuko chasing them, but his hounding footsteps haven't exactly been deafening. So this scene where Zuko watches them doesn't really come across as gravely threatening. While Zuko's threat level was not exactly high in the series, at least he showed up a lot in season 1. He may have been frequently inept at fighting, but at least he was there.

They head to a cave at the back of the city, where there is a tree. They even put that bit in where Momo tried to catch one of the fish. That was money well spent. Aang then says, "To get your airbending tattoos, you have to meditate for long periods of time, without loosing focus. Some of the great monks can meditate for four days."

OK, that is some of the most stilted and pointless dialog you're ever going to see. But credit has to be given to Noah Ringer for absolutely murdering these lines. This is Tommy Wiseau-level acting here. It utterly kills all sense of verisimilitude and suspension of disbelief. When he sits down to meditate after saying this, you see only an actor in a goofy costume and some silly designs spray-painted on his forehead. Nothing more.

The movie ceases to be a movie at this point.

Anyway, as Noah starts looking at the water, we see two fish with glowing backs. Then the Princess decides to leave... for some reason. Oh, it's a contrivance so that we can get Katara alone with Noah, since Sokka went with her. Katara starts talking to Noah's back, saying how she always knew he was real and would return. Why doesn't Noah tell Katara to shut up, since he's trying to meditate? Because that would be too much like the show. You know, entertaining.

No, this dialog is here so that- a Zuko appears! ... WTF was that? Oh, it was a running gag from the review of the show. Because Zuko would often appear as if from nowhere- Look, I'm doing the narrating, OK? Anyway, Zuko says that he believed Noah would return too. That is perhaps the worst, most clunky way to try to incorporate the show's theme that the Avatar brings hope to his enemies and allies alike that the movie could possibly do.

OK, now Zuko has a torch with him. What does he need that for; his "chi" can warm him, right? Anyway, he's got his fire. Katara turns and recognizes him as the one who took Noah from them way, way back at the beginning of the film. Zuko uses his torch to set fire to some nearby grass, and the two square off.

By all rights, Zuko should just be able to run up on her and melee her into unconsciousness. We had a whole scene dedicated to showing his melee prowess. And Katara has, up until now, been shown to be utterly useless in a fight. No wait, she's been shown to be a danger to her allies. Is there really any reason for her to even be a threat in this fight? At least in the show, they gave us scenes where they built up Katara as suddenly being awesome. Sure, it was sudden and contradictory to her previously-established inability to learn quickly, but it was something.

Rather than meleeing her, Zuko just hurls a fireball at her, which she blocks with waterbending. Zuko tries again, which she blocks again. Zuko asks who she is, and she says, "My name is Katara, and I'm the only waterbender left in the Southern Water Tribe."

I'm absolutely certain that those lines were intended to be spoken in an awesome fashion. Just look at the words outside of the movie: that's clearly meant to be a badass boast of some kind. And one could imagine them spoken in a way that does them justice. One could also imagine them being said as punctuation after an intense fight scene, after Katara had righteously smacked Zuko's shit down.

But this film was acted and directed by idiots. Nicola Peltz has not even the slightest clue how to deliver that line. She looks and speaks very uncertainly, when she needs to be assertive and confident, coming into her full growth as a badass. And the film itself betrays the line. What should have been the exclamation mark for a moment of kickassery is instead used as the followup to her simply blocking a fireball, just as she did to the one before.

Anyway, Zuko gives her a sidelong glance, then does a bit of a dance. Katara stands there and watches, rather than doing something useful. He pulls half of the fire up and throws it in an arc, which she starts to block. While she's turned to the side, he throws the rest directly at her. She blocks the first attack, but not the second.

Well... On the one hand, one of our heroes got punked out in a few seconds to something obvious. On the other hand, she's been shown to be negatively effective this whole film, so really that's par for the course. And on the gripping hand, while this was a boring fight scene (the equivalent of a Hadoken battle in Street Fighter), I have to admit that it is a communicative fight scene. The reason why the victor won and the loser lost is very clear. Zuko outsmarted her. It tells a story.

Just not a good story; it was minimally functional. That's how low the bar has been set for this film.

Oh my God, M. Night is a Zutaran! Abandon your posts! FLEE, FLEE FOR YOUR LIVES!

We leave after seeing Katara getting beaten down to watch random cuts of people in the city running around to places of no consequence. Then we go back to Katara and Zuko; editing at its finest, folks. For some reason, Zuko feels the need to explain his reasons for doing this to Katara's unconscious form.

Cut to Water Tribe soldiers on the battlements of the wall. The unnamed old guy shows up, looks around... then begins howling. Um... WTF?

Cut to Iroh on Aasif's ship. Iroh exposites that waterbenders draw strength from the moon, so they get stronger at night. Way to bring this up now; you couldn't have slipped in something from Katara about this earlier, like when Aang and she were waterbending at night? No, they could not. Because the show didn't bother to bring this one up until this episode either. And they had 8+ hours to drop it in somewhere. Also, are the filmmakers aware that the moon is sometimes visible in the daytime too? Probably not, since neither were the writers of the show. And I still can't believe I forgot to bring that up in my review.

Aasif decides to let Iroh know that he knows where the Ocean and Moon Spirits are. Iroh says that meeting a spirit would be an honor, and Aasif wants to give him that honor. Granted, Iroh should be able to figure out the plan by now, since Aasif choose to use this as the answer to Iroh's point about the waterbenders gaining strength from the moon. But apparently he's an idiot in this movie.

God knows everyone else certainly is, so Iroh's got company.

We cut to one of the Fire Nation ships, which releases some kind of lizard creature that can apparently scale vertical ice cliffs. Whatever, we've got a big fluffy monster that can fly for some reason too. We then get shots of Fire Nation soldiers using man-sized drills to tunnel under the ice and penetrate the city. Sure why not. Oh and why didn't Zuko use one of these? Would that have made too much sense?

Yes, the man-sized drill that tunnels through feet of ice is what makes sense of the alternatives in this film. We're in the mouth of madness, people.

Also, remember that scene where the unnamed old guy said that they should put out the fires when the Fire Nation attacks? Yeah, that didn't seem to happen, as the place is quite well lit despite being dusk. There are several lanterns scattered about. Naturally, since the Fire Nation practices chivalry, none of the firebenders use them; they only use the naked flames they happened to bring along with them.

Cut to Sokka and Princess Yue finding Katara unconscious. She wakes up and says that Zuko captured Aang. From there, we cut to Zuko finding a place to wait. He sits Aang down and exposites that they'll slip out once the fight has begun in earnest. Because... the script says so.

Cut to Aang in blur-world. He goes to see the dragon and asks it how to beat the Fire Nation. The dragon approaches him menacingly, and Noah once again clearly has no idea what the CG is supposed to look like. The dragon says that Aang isn't dealing with the loss of his people and the fact that it was partially his fault. That he's not grieving and has to let all of that go.

Translation: the reason Aang's having trouble with waterbending is because waterbending requires experiencing emotions and Aang doesn't want to do that right now. That's... not terrible. I want to see where they go with this.

Then the dragon says that the Avatar is not meant to hurt people. So... someone who is a master of four martial arts forms is "not meant to hurt others?" What the hell is this crap? Why learn all of those bending forms if not to hurt people? And what about all that hurting others Aang did before now? Like when he liberated the prison? Or rescued all of those villagers?

Oh God, I think I threw up in my mouth a little. It's like M. Night saw the ending of the series and decided to rewrite it so that the ending made sense. But rather than changing the ending, he just changed the rest of the series to match it. I bet his version of Kyoshi, who "liked games," just told Chin that he was a bad guy and sent him to his room to think about what he'd done. And somehow that made him not a bad person anymore.

The dragon flies off, telling him to "show them the power of water." OK, whatever.

Aang starts waking up. Zuko's voice speaks a name. A name that strikes terror and dread into the hearts of heroes and demands respect from all that hear it. Merely uttering her name probably caused the spirit dragon to flee in terror. Zuko is talking about his sister, who his father loves. I have no idea why. Because he did it in the show. It existed to set up the blatant sequel bait later. But again: movies aren't TV shows. You don't have time to screw around with this kind of stuff.

Aang runs off using airbending acrobatics. Zuko follows, firebending at him ineffectually. Since that was starting to get entertaining, we cut to random shots of Fire Nation soldiers burning a hole in the ice wall, thus allowing more soldiers into the city. We get some shots of the unnamed old guy smacking a couple of soldiers around with water tentacles, but there doesn't seem to be any tactical purpose to this. He should be at the breech doing that stuff, not back in some random spot fighting the few that manage to make it to him.

There is never any sense of tactics or strategy in this battle. Stuff just happens, and then more stuff happens. You see people being awesome at each other, but there is no perspective on why the fight is taking place there or what that fight means for the larger battle for the city.

Cut to Aasif's ship, where Iroh suggests pulling back until daybreak. Then Aasif informs Iroh that they're going to kill the Moon Spirit.

What's up, Doc?

Cut back to Zuko and Aang. It is at this point where we get some seriously Loony-Toons shit happening here. It is absolutely absurd, even in the context of this film. Aang actually stands behind Zuko, moving around him when Zuko looks for him. I just... why? Why would you write this into the script? Why would you direct this on set? Could nobody there see how awful this looked?

Eventually, we end this stupidity and Zuko and Aang melee at each other for a bit. And this fight scene is actually pretty decent. Granted, it's too late for the audience to give a damn, but if the choreography, cinematography, and editing of all of the fights had been like this one, those wouldn't have been nearly as bad. We cut away as Zuko tries to firebend something while Aang tries to stop him with airbending.

Cut to Katara, Sokka, and Yue. Katara happens to see the light from Zuko's firebending. Cut to the room, where again, we see some competent action bits. Zuko is hurling balls of fire and Aang is blocking them with airbending. Jars of water start jiggling around, then the water leaps out and engulfs Zuko from head to toe in the fakest ice you can imagine. Hey look, it's Katara, about to burst into tears.

Naturally, Zuko just uses that technique he used to melt the ice earlier and... oh, no he doesn't, because that was just a quickly forgotten contrivance to needlessly make the movie more like the show. Katara asks if the dragon spirit talked to him, and he says that he knows what he has to do. OK, so that should be the plot for the rest of the film: Aang dealing with his emotional baggage. This should be interesting.

As Aang goes to leave, he looks at Zuko's ice sculpture. He then waterbends the head so Zuko can breathe, and then he suggests that he remain hidden until the fight is over. As he leaves, he says, "we can be friends, you know." Where in the hell is that line coming from? I can buy that he wouldn't let Zuko suffocate to death. But this dialog seems rather out of place; why does he suddenly think they can be friends?

Because it's a line transplanted to a place that doesn't really make sense for it. Aang originally said that after Zuko rescued him from the Fire Nation prison. You know, that scene where Zuko was on the ground waking up after Aang saved him? There was supposed to be dialog there from Aang, talking about how they might have been friends. There, it could have worked. Here? It's just out of place and random.

So, like the rest of the film then.

Cut to Aasif and Iroh walking into the city. Aasif tells us that the waterbenders are getting stronger. Because we can't be shown something like that. No, I'd hate to see what super-powered waterbenders could do. I mean, that might require having to spend money on special effects or something.

Aasif pulls out a scroll and starts to exposite what it is. Note that this is the fourth scene establishing these Goddamned scrolls. Is that really necessary? We get it; he has knowledge of the Ocean and Moon Spirits. Hell, what's the point of having the scrolls at all? Why not just have it be that they have known of the spirits' whereabouts, but couldn't attack until now? Because that wouldn't be how it was done in the show.

We get a shot of some random Fire Nation soldiers approaching some scared Water Tribespeople. Then we hear a growl and cut to Aang's large hairy steed. And... that's the last we'll see of him this film. Well, that was CG money well spent.

Cut to our heroes. Aang spots Aasif's group going somewhere. Naturally, nobody else has seen them or tried to stop them, even with super-powered waterbenders running around. Aang tells the others to find out where they are going. But not to stop them of course; just to follow them. Also, note that none of Aasif's group is bringing fire with them. Even though they're all likely firebenders.

Because that makes sense.

Cut to Zuko, who has somehow bent some nearby fire to melt his clearly plastic icy shell.

Cut back to Aasif and Iroh. Apparently, the glowing fish in that pool are the Ocean and Moon Spirits. Aasif pulls down his hood and uses it as a bag to catch one of them. Some kind of sound emerges from the walls, but that's never followed up on. Aasif starts waxing philosophically, asking why the spirits take on benign, vulnerable forms in the real world. Iroh says that it is to teach people humility. I don't really see how that works, but fine, whatever.

Iroh says that people shouldn't mess with the spirits and the spirit world. He doesn't say why, of course, because that might actually be interesting and accomplish something. Katara and her people show up, and she asks why he's there. Um, Katara, it's a bunch of Fire Nation troops during a time of war; it doesn't really matter why they are there. Do something!

But no, they don't. Iroh tells Aasif not to harm the spirit, because the "world will go out of balance."WHAT BALANCE?! What does that mean?! Goddammit, if you're going to have the tension of a scene turn on something, explain it! Aasif considers this superstition, which the Fire Nation is much too powerful to be bothered by. Aasif then kills the spirit.

Hey Iroh, if him killing the spirit is so bad, why don't you, I don't know, DO SOMETHING! You are two feet from the guy. Just wreck his shit and put the spirit back in the water. What is the point of trying to convince him when you could just stop him? Because then it wouldn't follow the show. There, Iroh was like 20 feet away, so it made sense that he had to rely on convincing (and threats, mind you) instead of just attacking.

Princess Yue falls ill, as does Aang. The moon turns red, and the waterbenders in the fight start losing their powers.

Cut back to Iroh, who looks angry. He then starts to firebend... from nothing. OK, I now give up.

The film had been pretty strict with its rules. But now, Iroh can firebend ex nihilo. Why? How? That's not supposed to be possible by the rules the film itself established. If the idea is that really powerful firebenders can do this, then say so before it becomes important. This whole Goddamn film for the last 80 minutes has been one exposition scene after another, and you couldn't find a way to tell us this sometime before now?

Also, if Iroh could do this, why did he not do this five seconds before? You know, when it would have done some actual good and saved the Moon Spirit, not causing whatever badness is supposed to happen when the world went "out of balance." But no, this comes right the hell out of nowhere and is completely meaningless for anything. The musical score has a fit like this is the most awesome thing in the world, but in reality, it means nothing.

Iroh doesn't even do this to get revenge on Aasif, because he doesn't attack him. He just uses it to scare them off. Well, that was not only damaging to the established rules of the movie, it was also completely pointless.

Well, I could help, but the Avatar isn't supposed to hurt others...

We then see miscellaneous shots of people fighting. It's pretty much impossible to tell who's winning. Did the Fire Nation gain an advantage when the waterbenders lost their powers? I certainly don't see evidence of that, especially since everyone is wearing either black or deep blue, so you can't tell who's who. We then cut to Aang, looking around at the fight with a look of... mild disinterest. Feel free to join the fight anytime, Avatar. We hear the spirit dragon from before telling him to show them the power of water. Kinda hard to do that since the waterbending's still down.

Cut back to Iroh and the others. Iroh says that Yue was "anointed by the Moon Spirit." I'm guessing that he knows that because she has white hair. She tells him how she was given life by the Moon Spirit, so he says that she can give it back. Sokka tells her not to listen to him.

Princess Yue decides to sacrifice herself to restore the Moon Spirit. Sokka tries to talk her out of it, saying the usual dialog like "There must be another way," the kind of stuff you'd expect given the prior 85 minutes of hackwork. But Yue doesn't budge. As she talks about her responsibility as a princess, she then says, "It's time we show the Fire Nation we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in theirs."

Someone was paid to write this line. A human being gave another human being money to put their fingers to a keyboard and produce that sequence of letters and words as a line for actors to read in a film that other human beings were expected to watch for enjoyment. This is a thing that happened.

So after some more allegedly touching dialog, Yue climbs into a pool and dies, the whiteness of her hair transferring itself into the fish. We cut to the moon turning white again, which causes the battle to stop. For some reason. Why would either side decide to stop fighting just for that?

BTW, are we as the audience actually expected to give a damn about the sacrifice of a character that was introduced less than thirty minutes ago? Someone who has had only one scene establishing her character, and has otherwise basically been window dressing? We never got to know Yue, and therefore, we cannot care about her when she dies. It, like pretty much everything else in this film, falls completely flat.

At least in the show, we got some time with Yue. She had multiple scenes, a relatively elaborate backstory establishing her duty to the throne and her people, etc. She was written to die, just like here, but she was also written to be a character the audience could care about dying.

Also, good job establishing the problem with killing the Moon Spirit. You know, the way the show did, when the Ocean Spirit merged with Aang and became a thirty-foot-tall instrument of destruction that took out the entire Fire Nation army? According to the movie, killing the Moon Spirit has absolutely no negative consequences what so ever for the Fire Nation.

Indeed, was there a point to this entire sequence? Aasif kills the spirit, and it is immediately resurrected by the death of a character we barely know or care about. Besides doing what the show did, how does this make sense for this film? It didn't give the Fire Nation any advantage that we can see. It served no purpose to the larger work as a whole. Hell, the title character isn't even involved!

Anyway, cut to Aasif on a bridge. Zuko appears on the other side of that ice bridge, and Aasif assumes a rather silly stance. Aasif says that he killed Zuko; hey, idiot: maybe you shouldn't confirm that sort of thing to the guy you just tried to murder. Zuko gets into a fighting stance.

Then Iroh appears, apparently using magical teleportation powers in addition to his ability to generate fire. He tells Zuko to back off, that there are too many soldiers and he wouldn't be able to escape with the Avatar at this point. And after telling Zuko that Aasif wants to fight him so that he can capture him, Zuko... backs down.

Thanks Iroh. I wouldn't want to see a fight scene between two badass firebenders or anything. That might have been entertaining, and we can't have that in this movie. After all, we might have to have the comedic actor we hired to play the main villain in our action movie have to actually fight or something.

When their back is turned, Aasif draws on some nearby lamps (weren't they supposed to put those out?) and firebends at them, but Iroh blocks it. What, did Aasif really think he could beat a guy who can make fire on his own? Iroh then says that Aasif's greatest mistake is that he stands alone. Then, Iroh and Zuko walk away.

What? Was that supposed to mean something? Was that the fulfillment of a theme or some narrative purpose? Because I don't see it. I mean, I guess you could say that Zuko and Iroh are together, while Aasif is alone. But I'm not really seeing that.

Then four waterbenders show up. Rather than bending a great wall of flame at them the way he did with Iroh, Aasif just throws a small ball of fire. One that misses; they didn't even have to step to the side for him to miss; he fired right between two of them. And then the waterbenders drown him.

Why? What's the point of that? You have the main villain killed by some random guys? Has M. Night even seen an action movie? Because this is not a particularly effective action climax.

Cut to Aang, being badass with waterbending now. Hey wait a minute. We've been painfully establishing that Aang's trouble with waterbending came from emotional issues surrounding his past. But he hasn't dealt with that yet. So why is it that now, he's suddenly a waterbending God, able to cut a swathe through several soldiers?

Anyway, Aang makes his way to the outer wall. He looks out at the ships arrayed against them. Then- OK, I'm taking over now. Um, why? Because I've been waiting for this moment for ninety minutes, and Goddammit, it's time to purge. I don't care, I'm narrati-

ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL

Aang hears the voice of the nameless old guy, talking about how water teaches one to accept pain and such. We then get flashbacks of Aang during his time with the Air Nomads. The music is soft and sedate as we see scene after scene of Aang hanging out with people. All without spoken dialog or anything. He shares a few laughs with his friends.

Then, we get the scene where all of the monks kneel to him, and he's supposed to "bow back." Gyatso looks at him and gives him an encouraging smile, but Aang runs off.

Avatar State, Yip Yip!

Back in the present, Aang starts dancing, while the water starts doing stuff ostensibly in response to it. Aang raises a great wall of water, then his tattoos start glowing as the music swells (shouldn't the glow start first?). We get shots of people looking on in amazement. Aang moves the wall of water towards the Fire Nation fleet, prompting them to fairly flee for their lives. Of course, he does not dump the wave on them, as that would violate that whole "not meant to hurt others" nonsense.

And thus the day is saved.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate M. Night Shamalyan. It is no simple task to find a worse Deus ex Machina than the one used in the show, and yet he has managed to do it. What makes this one so terrible is that the lead-in to it was... shockingly competent.

For the pretty much the entire length of the film, we have been establishing the parts and pieces that lead to this moment. We established that Aang was having trouble with waterbending, but he didn't know why. We had that scene where thinking about his family caused a lot of water to rise up, but Aang stopped himself because it was too painful to think about. We then learn that waterbending is fueled by emotions (this was even hinted at in the very first scene, when Katara said that thinking of her mother helped her bending), and therefore Aang's trouble is that he's not allowing himself to feel. He needs to learn to deal with his feelings in order to master waterbending.

One of my chief complaints with season 1 Aang was that he didn't seem human. That he'd just lost almost everyone he had ever known, yet he was still walking around and joking like it had never happened. No emotional scars, nothing. Season 2 improved the situation subtly by making Aang extremely clingy. But this was not particularly evident in season 1.

What we have in the build up to this moment in the film is a character who has to deal with a very human problem: learning to grieve. Aang in the film has been trying to avoid his feelings, just like the show's version. But here, M. Night decided that there would be consequences for that. By tying waterbending to emotions, it meant that Aang would have to find a way to deal emotionally before being able to fight with waterbending. From a meta standpoint, Aang's character issues would need to be resolved before the plot could be resolved.

The problem with this scene, the thing that makes it so terrible, is that the payoff for this build up is utterly incompetent. We get shots of Aang thinking about his family, and then he's a God-mode waterbender. It was sudden and out of nowhere. Aang is told that he needs to deal with his grief, and then he does so. It's not hard for him at all. There's no struggle. He never really feels the weight of the pain from the moment. Nada. We see flashbacks, and then he's badass.

We needed to see Aang break down. We needed to see Aang in aanguish. We needed to see Aang in emotional torment. And only by passing through that, could he then claim waterbending power and resolve the plot. It should have been a trial by emotion for him, one that he would have needed his newfound friends Katara and Sokka to get him through.

In a movie this wretched, I still held out some hope. I still hoped that, somehow, the resolution for this character issue would not be a complete and total cop-out. For a fleeting, brief moment, I believed in your crappy movie, M. Night. And you let me down. And all because of your Goddamn obsession with following every plot point of the show in the most idiotic and nonsensical manor possible.

In the show, after Zhao killed the Moon Spirit, Aang got all glowy and joined with the Ocean Spirit and started rampaging against the Fire Nation fleet. This is the same basic idea: Aang wins by getting glowy. Only here, there is deliberate build up to a vital character scene, but the audience gets shafted in the resolution.

Also, we have seen Aang get glowy once before. That time, he was uncontrollably airbending, not waterbending. Why is it that the glow stuff suddenly mean waterbending? Wouldn't it make sense that his airbender tattoos would glow when he's going into Godmode airbending, not waterbending? In the show, they linked it to bending in general; it's about him being the Avatar, not being an airbender. Indeed, the first time we saw it, it was with waterbending. The next time, airbending. Thus, the audience knew that it was just about the Avatar being a badass bender of some form.

Oh, and you can have the rest of this crap; I've done what I came to do.Oh joy. Katara approaches Aang, and Aang hugs her. Aang was apparently weakened by the act of... um, glowing? So Katara and Sokka help get him down the stairs to the waiting crowd. They all bow before him, even the Fire Nation soldiers. I guess the idea is that this is the fulfillment of that whole "change hearts" theme. Except that we don't know these people and don't know why they changed their hearts. So it comes off as a contrivance.

Katara says that they want Aang to be their Avatar. Then Katara and Sokka go into the crowd (where spots were conveniently saved for them) and kneel. Then, Aang does the most awkward bow in the world. Then we get a long shot of a black screen that makes us desperately hope for the credits.

Nope; we need sequel bait first. Cut to Emperor Caligula and some girl. I guess Fire Nation emperors like them young. Caligula starts summing up the recent happenings, saying that Aasif is dead, Iroh's a traitor, and Zuko's a failure. Then he starts talking about "Sozin's Comet," which will return in three years. He then says that it will give all firebenders the power to create fire with their own chi, just like the "highest firebender." Good thing we established that this was possible before we saw Iroh doing it.

Caligula says that on that day, they will win the war. He charges the girl with the task of stopping the Avatar from mastering earth and fire, to give them the time they need for that day to come. Please, Aang mastered water in what, a few months? Less than that? Learning the other two in 3 years should be trivial. Anyway, Caligula turns to the girl and asks if she accepts the task. She looks up and says, "I do, father." And then she smiles.

OK, what in the hell was that? You introduce some looming threat at the end of the film, just so that you can have a two-part trilogy later? And who's this girl supposed to be, Zuko's sister? The one he mentioned briefly that one time the audience could barely hear due to the digital sound effects and has already forgotten about? Am I supposed to be scared by this slip of a girl?

And the credits roll. We are treated to CG shots of cutouts of our heroes doing bending moves that look a hell of a lot more impressive than anything they do in the film. If the bending worked like that, it might not have sucked so much.

29th Sep '11 11:14:30 PM flag for mods
comments
Stay tuned for the conclusion and closing thoughts.
Korval 29th Sep 11
Season 2 improved the situation subtly by making Aang extremely clingy. But this was not particularly evident in season 1.

There's an entire episode dedicated to this. It's called Bato of the Water Tribe. Ya know, the one where Aang lies coz he didn't want to risk Katara and Sokka leaving? Okay, it wasn't great, but "not particularly" doesn't really cover when they had a whole episode dedicated to it.
Ghilz 29th Sep 11
Korval: "Someone was paid to write this line. A human being gave another human being money to put their fingers to a keyboard and produce that sequence of letters and words as a line for actors to read in a film that other human beings were expected to watch for enjoyment."

M. Night Shyamalan was writer, director and executive producer. He paid himself to write that slop. So, basically, he was accountable to no one.
205.204.248.70 11th Oct 11
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