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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Last Airbender review

I got to go to a screening of the Last Airbender tonight (Thanks Ty!). As I was walking to the theater I started to go through the checklist of things I was going to pay attention to so I could rip them apart later: The casting in Aang. The canned dialog. Vaguely Asian setting and architecture. I sat down and after about a 15 minute martial arts demonstration by ATA Martial Arts, the same school Noah Ringer (Aang) studies under, the lights went down.

Here's a point by point breakdown:

1. This movie sucks big time.

2. Holy crap! Is that...Aasif Mandvi from the Daily Show?

3. Noah Ringer does his best to get through this movie and he deserves a lot of credit. As much controversy as there is about the casting of this movie I think it would be unfair for this kid to feel any hate for it. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

4. This movie really, really sucks.

5. It's amazing how Asian a movie can become when you surround the mostly white lead cast with actual Asian supporting actors. Give them slight accent and gold.

6. That IS Aasif Mandvi! For the rest of the movie I just kept expecting him to turn it back over to Jon Stewart.

7. I think if I knew more about the original series there would be more to criticize but in the end I came away disappointed by yet another whitewashed Hollywood film, happy that I didn't pay to see it, a slight headache from the HORRIBLE 3D and relieved that the movie was so bad that it took away any threat of doing real damage. I'm keeping my eyes on this Leonardo DiCaprio Akira movie. Now that's gonna piss me off.


  1. Leonardo DiCaprio Akira?! Say it ain't so!

  2. That's the word. But I do keep hearing that the people behind the push for the live action Akira keep changing so maybe DiCaprio is out. Producer Andrew Lazar (Johnah Hex) said they just brought on new writers for it and it's planned as a 2 part movie based on the book series.

  3. Great points, though this was all to be expected. Would you mind taking the time to write something a little more neutral and informative? I'd love to be able to reference a review from the perspective of someone against this travesty, but any bias would be ripped to shreds.

    Also, I really hope that DiCaprio does not play Akira. From all indications, he's only producing, and I believe he stated himself he won't be playing the character. We'll see.

  4. Well, it is written & directed by M. Night Shyamalan whose movies have gone from great with the Sixth Sense to good with Unbreakable to bad with Signs & then further on down getting worse & worse as he goes.

    P.S.- I love the Secret Asian Man book & I'm happy that the Comicazi Book Club will be reading it in August.

  5. My thoughts:

    "Well, the whitewashing irks me, but the idea of wuxia mixed with big-budget special effects intrigues me… that might be enough to get me past the director I hate, the bad acting I know will happen, and the blatant lack of plain common sense in the casting."

    "Oh, the fight choreography sucks."

    "Annnnnnnnd… the special effects suck, too."

    "Bored now."

  6. "Oh, the fight choreography sucks."
    "Annnnnnnnd… the special effects suck, too."

    That would kill whatever interest the non-fan or casual viewer might have had in the movie.

  7. so which is better. avatar the "asian" movie, or avatar the mcdonald's commercial?

  8. And as silly as it sounds, every time I started to process cultural references and started to analyze why Shyamalan might have made the decisions he made I got COMPLETELY distracted by Aasif Mandvi. He speaks just like he does on the Daily Show. He made it hard for me to get back into the movie!

  9. I'm pretty much ignoring any review from critics like the above who have jumped on the "the cast of the Airbender movie should have been made up of Asian actors" bandwagon. That stance is CRAP. I'm a fan of the cartoon, and there were no clearly Asian characters in it PERIOD. It was a goddamn fantasy world, for christ's sake. There were European, Japanese, Chinese and Tibetan influences, but none dominated and weren't meant to represent a multi-national caricature of "can't we all get along". I'm seeing this movie anyway. When a critic says something is bad, check it out first. I learned that lesson with the excellent movie "Astro Boy".

  10. @Rhiana, well, the McDonald's commercial has a more cohesive narrative. And better acting. So there's that.

  11. @BuckPrivate, at the risk of jumping in to a flame war, the original series was steeped in Asian culture. The creators of the show have specifically stated in countless interviews that they did extensive research into Asian cultures to get it right. The martial arts in the show are based in tradition Asian arts. Sure, it is a fantasy world. But a fantasy world that was heavily influenced by Asian culture. There's even Chinese scroll script in the intro of the show.

    I agree that you should judge a movie for yourself. But the argument against the casting of this film is not as simple as a political correct bandwagon.

  12. I really don't want to see Leonardo saying "TETSUOOOOOOOOOOOO!". Hell, they might as well have a white dude playing Bruce Lee in a Bruce Lee biopic...

  13. Its like if they had an asian-american male actor playing the role of William Wallace in Braveheart. Total miscast.

  14. "They can take our lives but they can't take ... OUR FLEEDOOOOM!"

  15. Though, if I hadn't already seen Aasif Mandvi as a comedian, he wasn't that bad of a villain. He's got a pretty good evil glare.

  16. Dear SAM,

    I recently saw this movie out of sheer curiosity and because my mom was paying for it. (I did buy refreshments so we're even!)

    You know how in your high school's English class you try to get out of reading the novel by going to the CliffNotes version...this movie was basically the CliffNotes of Avatar: The Last Airbender on Nickelodeon.

    The storyline was horrible! It felt like the director was trying to cram 2 seasons of cartoon shows into 2 hours of movie time; that was never going to work! The movie felt chopped up and with the way the storyline goes, a lot of the complexity and growth that the characters are to experience by the end of the series won't make sense.

    I'm a realistic person; I know that there won't be time for all the details to be shown on the silver screen. But the story still needs to be good enough so a true fan will barely notice any changes in it. There were major facets of the movie that were completely ignored in this movie and I'm afraid that the lack of them will poorly affect any future sequels.

    The only parts of the story that I appreciated were Aang's flashbacks into his life with the Air Nomads in the Western (?) Air Temple. The lighting and silent acting in those scenes lent themselves to a special warmth and feeling of family that Aang was afraid he'd lose as the Avatar.

    In spite of the lack of Asians within the main cast, they all did a great job acting. They embodied the trueness of their characters. I especially liked the intensity of Zuko (IDK who that dude is but by golly, he's great!). He knew who Zuko really was and acted accordingly.

    The young man who played Aang also did a great job. I felt that his martial arts skills were put to good use and he seemed to embody the wide-eyed innocence that the cartoon character had at the beginning of his journey.

    The movie extras also seemed to be more interracial. I guess this was an attempt to side-step the white-washing that so many had a problem with while this film was in production.

    All and all, I was disappointed with the way this movie was run. Maybe if I saw the 3D version, I'd feel a little more thrilled about it. As for my mom, she loved it all, probably because she didn't know too much about the story to begin with.

  17. that I looked up who Aasif Mandvi was (I don't really care for John Stewart) I'm really upset. The character that he played, Commander Zhao, was a ruthless, ambitious man who embodied what the average person in the Fire Nation was supposed to be. His character depiction barely scraped the surface of who he was supposed to be. They weakened him and made him more human. They did an injustice to him.