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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

trailer break: ‘The Last Airbender’

Take a break from work: watch a trailer…


I cannot tell you how excited I am to see this latest installment in the Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings with the Golden Compass: Prince of Persia and the Sands of Time film series. And the decision to release the movie in 3D is totally a wonderful surprise: no one else is taking such cinematic chances these days.

These are the makings, surely, of a classic for the ages. A century from now, movie lovers will still be talking about this film. There can be no doubt.

The Last Airbender opens in the U.S. and Canada on July 2, and in the U.K. on August 13.



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movie buzz | trailers
  • Andrew

    Someone hasn’t watched the cartoon and is depriving her geeky self of a pretty great experience.

  • JT

    The cartoon is indeed pretty quality, MaryAnn. You might want to check it out.

  • Dymphna

    Ditto on the quality of the source material, which is more in the anime/martial arts tradition than the swords and sorcerers LOTR/Harry Potter vein.

    That being said, I fear that this film will indeed Harry Potterize the quality source material. Much as I enjoy Harry Potter type stuff, let Avatar (the original name of the series before Cameron’s little film) be Avatar.

  • It is a legit question if you’ve seen the original cartoon series. You have to buy into its premise – kung fu battle stances tied into psychokinetic bending of the primary four elements – but past that you’ll find a deeply rich high-fantasy world that at its best surpasses Harry Potter.

    My biggest concern with the film is that it seems to compress most of Season One – about 20 episodes – into a 2 hour movie, and could be more of a rehash than a possible ‘lost episode’ that fills a storyline gap.

  • @dymphna, “let Avatar be Avatar?” Do you mean let Aang be Roku? Or Kyoshi?

    …okay, bad in-joke…

  • Accounting Ninja

    Yes, the series is great! I’ve only just become a recent fan and I really like it.

    But, geez, this trailer sounds like SERIOUS BUSINESS. One of the great things about the series is the humor and deep character moments/relationships. I guess it’s too much to hope for that these subtle qualities don’t get drowned out my super cool actiony action!

    Avatar takes everything awesome about anime and leaves behind all the crappy cliches found in anime. It’s a treat.

  • kathleen

    I was pleasantly surprised by the cartoon and actually enjoyed watching it. I have been a little concerned about this movie . I don’t want to be let down on something that really has potential / I am hoping for the best.

    Considering the abilities of the characters I think 3D is a fair choice and could add to it but I hope they don’t go over the top with it.

  • amanohyo

    ACTION SCENE FLASHBACK

    “Find the chosen one of whom the Prophecies fortold!”

    “We can’t find him.”

    YEARS LATER

    “You are the chosen one.”

    “No , I’m not!

    MINOR SKIRMISH

    Just kidding… I guess I actually am.
    Stay away, band of lovable misfits, I work alone.”
    Just kidding, come with me.”

    MINOR SKIRMISH
    TRAINING MONTAGE

    “Maybe I’m not the chosen one?”

    “Believe in yourself. You are the chosen one.”

    “Oh no, the boss bad guy is going to win!”

    “Just kidding, we won!
    The self-fulfilling Prophecies were true!
    I love you chosen one!”

    The End

    Knowing nothing about the show, my opinion of this movie will be strongly influenced by how far the plot is willing to stray from this dusty formula.

  • JoshDM

    I’ve been watching the DVDs.

    They’re all available Netflix instant. Halfway through Season 2.

    The mere fact that I’ve stuck with it should be telling you already to WATCH THIS DAMN CARTOON.

    It is so good. It’s like the snarky writers from Buffy/Firefly/Veronica Mars all got together and wrote a cartoon.

    Any sentence that falls out of Sokka’s mouth is comedy gold.

    One of my favorite episodes is Tales of Ba Sing Se; if only for Iko’s Story.

  • JoshDM

    And yes, I don’t know how the heck they are going to compress Season One into a 2 hour movie, let alone Seasons Two and Three into other movies.

    Certainly there are the occasional throw-away “lesson” episodes (like the awesome detective episode where Aang is put on trial for something a past life may have done), but they are awesome in themselves (said episode had Sokka delivering the best line ever when he gets a missing item back).

    I wonder if they will just ignore anything having to do with the earth bender city that is NOT Ba Sing Se, and remove the Jet subplots.

  • JoshDM

    Also, I have realized my dogs are Momo the lemur and Aapa the flying bison.

    You really really really need to go watch the cartoon, MAJ. I mean this.

    Of course, now that I’ve watched the trailer, I can see the whitewashing complaints. And I hear the poor line deliveries.

  • MaryAnn

    You really really really need to go watch the cartoon, MAJ. I mean this.

    No, I really don’t, actually. I have next to no interest in anime.

    Are all you fans of the source material suggesting that this movie looks like it will be very faithful to it?

  • JoshDM

    No, I really don’t, actually. I have next to no interest in anime.

    That’s the thing. IT’S NOT ANIME.

    It’s animation yes, but it’s not some show from overseas with dubbed voices.

    The show was 100% produced for Nickelodeon U.S. It’s just drawn (for whatever reason) to look like it’s from overseas. There are no dubbed lines, it’s all in english, etc. etc. etc.

    I’d be totally with you if this was One Piece or Naruto, and I can’t watch that stuff half the time, but this is so unbelievably different that I can’t even say it enough.

  • JoshDM

    If you sit through the first 3 episodes of Airbender through Netflix online (about 60 minutes worth) and you hate it, I won’t hold you to the Kentucky Fried Movie thing or mention it ever again.

    Yes, I’m going there.

  • JoshDM

    Let me just relate my experience with discovering the show.

    I was watching the trailer for the movie a while back and thought, “So they’re taking an anime show and turning it into a movie; yawn, whatever.”

    I have a kid. We put Nickelodeon on at times (Phineas and Ferb and Chowder are some of the most watchable shows ever), and I get into bed and flip on the tube.

    And they’re doing an Airbender marathon. I’m about to turn it, but there’s this old man and he’s walking through the city and about to be mugged. But the mugger has his stance wrong, and he calms the mugger down and they have some tea and I’m thinking, “Man, I usually can’t watch anime, but the dubbing on this is really excellent. It’s like they timed it well or reworked it,” and I just kept watching. And we follow the somewhat happy old man walking through the city and helping out some kids and singing a happy song about soldier boys going off to war to cheer up a brat, then eventually he gets to the top of a hill and sets up some incense and unfurls this scroll. There’s a picture of a young man on it, and he sings the same song from earlier about about a soldier boy who never made it back, and he’s crying and it’s his son and I’m crying and holy shit.

    I flip the DVR to record all episodes. Of course, I have no idea what order I’m watching them in.

    I jump online and ask some friends who DO watch anime about Avatar. And they explain, it’s US. It’s not anime. It was a 3 season series that won a Primetime Emmy and a Peabody award.

    Cue jaw hitting desk that I’ve never seen it or dismissed it in the past.

    Started watching from the beginning; this has become my nightly ritual for the last 2 weeks, usurping Super Mario Galaxy 2 with the Netflix Wii Disc.

    I don’t push this show lightly.

  • JoshDM

    Are all you fans of the source material suggesting that this movie looks like it will be very faithful to it?

    As stated, I’ve seen Season One and half of Two and some episodes of Three.

    From what they’ve shown in the trailer, all the shots are from Season One episodes. The point of Season One was to establish that Aang (the bald kid) is the last Airbender, and he’s been displaced 100 years into his own future. He only has less than a year to master bending control over the 4 elements (he only knows Air; he has to learn Water, Earth and Fire) before the Fire Nation becomes too powerful and genocides the world.

    The trailer shows the following important plot points:
    * Aang found in the Water Nation South Pole
    * the battle of the Water Nation North Pole
    * the disgrace of Fire Nation prince Zuko
    * Aang learning his goal; to stop the Fire Nation before the coming comet.

    There are a lot of fluff episodes in Season One that could get removed completely (Imprisoned, The Great Divide, The Fortune Teller, Bato of the Water Tribe).

    There are some players from Season One (Jet and his Freedom Fighters, June the Bounty Hunter, The Pirates and the Waterbending Scroll) who don’t necessarily need to appear to advance the story.

    And there are some players (King Bumi and the City of Omashu, The Blue Spirit vigilante) that should appear, but probably won’t.

  • bronxbee

    alls i know is, i’m tired of seeing little boys saving the world, universe, whatever…

  • art

    To those who doubt the show. . .

    Yes it’s formulaic in its premise. The boy is, in essence, “the chosen one” who has to save the world HOWEVER the brilliance of the show was in its execution.

    The writing, plot and character development were excellent.

    As unlikely as it sounds the show was a surprisingly deep character driven animated drama (with some humor for good measure). Somehow the shows creators and writers managed to pull off a show that engaged both the kids and their parents. How do you think M. Night got into the franchise? He’s an adult who watched with his kids and fell in love with the show and asked Paramount for permission to turn it into a movie (yes, that’s really what happened).

    If you are ignoring this show because you “aren’t into anime” or “you’re tired of little boys saving the world” then you are, quite frankly, depriving yourself of a well done, quality series for no other reason than you can’t get past your prejudice of the format in which the story is presented (animation or premise). Based on someone who loved the series, dismissing it for that reason alone comes off to me as just being immature.

  • Chuck

    For all the people that suggest that MaryAnn should watch more anime (or in this case weabu animation) you should just stop while you are ahead. It’s quite obvious from her other reviews that you are not going to get the kind of reaction you are hoping from out of her if she were to do so. Anime is just too far outside her “strike zone” (as the Japanese metaphor goes) and she will hate it for exactly the same reasons you love it.

  • JoshDM

    @Chuck – Airbender isn’t “anime”/weeabu.

    Thinking Airbender was anime (dubbed Japanese cartoon that’s been Americanized) was the misconception I had, which is why I completely dismissed it whenever I heard people hyping it.

    Wikipedia (urgh) explains it best: The show is often mistaken for anime because of the style.

    You don’t get Naruto or Pokemon or these other garbage (or even good-ish) things from overseas winning prestigious awards. Airbender won several awards because it is exactly NOT these things.

  • Accounting Ninja

    yay Avatar love! Preach it, JoshDM!

    bronxbee, I totally hear you about the little boys saving the world, I’m tired of it too. But Aang is outmatched by Katara (his “love interest”, but she is older and very competent) and Toph (a blind girl Earthbender and probably the most powerful character in the series) for quite a bit of the series. His “Chosen One” powers have high costs and he is not ridiculously superpowered. Not to mention, though Aang is very kindhearted and likes helping people, he is not the Big Damn Heroes type. He’d rather not be the avatar (BUT, he doesn’t AANGST about it ha!)

    Dare I say, Aang can be pretty “feminine”. He’s quiet, gentle, loving, moved to tears easily, not prone to macho displays. They even lampooned this in-series during the episode “Ember Island Players” when a troupe of actors performed the adventures of Aang and his friends. He was cast as a (very girly) woman! But, they also didn’t present this as “how-horrible-he’s-cast-as-woman-ew!” Aang was unhappy because it was wrong, not to mention all the other things the troupe got wrong.

    In fact, it has some of the best female characters I’ve ever seen in a cartoon. They are plentiful, non-fanservice-y, and brilliant. Even the series villian, Azula, is wonderfully cruel and her gender doesn’t factor into anything. It’s always nice to see a REAL female villain that doesn’t depend on her “sexiness” (or her ugliness either)!

    @amanohyo: I LOLed. :) But, Avatar isn’t quite like that. It avoids the anime cliches. Aang doesn’t WANT to be avatar, but he accepts it pretty soon. No angst, no boring, predictable training montages. No selfish spurning of friends before he realizes he can’t do it alone and yay for the Power of Love and shit.

    He and his “love interest” fall in love slowly over the course of the series, and it’s free from all the belligerent denial and games of anime. They pretty much know it early on, and show that they care for each other. She becomes his waterbending teacher, but there’s no stupid machismo on Aang’s (or any boy’s) part; it’s presented as totally natural. There’s a bit of the uncertainty that comes with teenagers, but it’s all very refreshingly done, open and honest.

    And Sokka is fucking hilarious.

    If I were a little girl, I think I would love this series even more. God where was TV like this when I was young????

  • MaryAnn

    If you are ignoring this show because you “aren’t into anime” or “you’re tired of little boys saving the world” then you are, quite frankly, depriving yourself of a well done, quality series for no other reason than you can’t get past your prejudice of the format in which the story is presented (animation or premise). Based on someone who loved the series, dismissing it for that reason alone comes off to me as just being immature.

    Yup, that’s it: I’m sitting around with absolutely nothing to occupy my time, but I’m steadfastly refusing to watch this show because I’m prejudiced against cartoons. I’d rather just sit and stare into thin air.

    That’s it exactly.

    *sigh*

    Maybe I would like the show. Maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I’ll get a chance to watch some of it before the movie opens. Maybe I won’t. As I’ve said many times before, though, for all the crap that is on TV, there’s still too much good stuff for me to ever have the time to watch, even if I did nothing else but watching television.

    alls i know is, i’m tired of seeing little boys saving the world, universe, whatever…

    Well, who else is gonna do it?

  • Accounting Ninja

    Accounting Ninja’s anime hate-fest a la amanohyo!

    Guy with spiky hair(GWSH): Look at me, I’m just a normal nigh school student.
    Girl childhood friend(GCF): Don’t think for a second that I love you.
    GWSH: Don’t worry, I am emotionally stunted and care little for these things, yet this will not affect your feelings for me.
    GCF: BAKA! (punches him into air)

    Mysterious mentor (MM): You have incredible latent power. I shall train you and then you will face a succession of enemies who, conveniently, appear in order of strength from least to most.
    GWSH: This ancient weapon or technique took you YEARS to master but look at me! Look at me, I’m an instant expert and may have absorbed your power, too!
    MM: (stunned look) aaah! Surely you are the chosen one!
    GWSH: (stunned look) ooooaaah!!!

    Diverse group of friends who aid the hero, but will never surpass him (DGOF): We are your team! Yay friendship! Yay togetherness!
    GWSH: No! For i am the chosen one and you all are in danger! Go away!
    DGOF: we will not, for only through us do you have the strength to be chosen one!
    GWSH: I realize now that I was wrong to reject you all! Without you, I wouldn’t have a fan club, despite being a prickly loner with emotional problems.

    GCF: This is filler about our relationship!
    GWSH: I think you’ll find that I’m still the same jerk I’ve always been. You are in the way of my Destiny!
    GCF: I make you see we are meant to be! However, since this is only filler our relationship remains ambiguously unfulfilled!
    GWSH: I’m going to go spend weeks with my male trainer and male DGOF. Wait for me.
    GCF: I have no other purpose!

    Big Bad Enemy (BBE): You and I are exactly alike! Using specious logic, I wil make you doubt all you are!
    GWSH: aaaooahh! You’re poorly worded arguments shake my entire worldview! Perhaps we are just the same, even though you have murdered countless innocents and I can’t even swat a mosquito!
    DGOF: Don’t give up!
    GWSH: Okay! (uses big ass sword to kill BBE)

    GWSH: Oh, shit! The manga this was based off of hasn’t reached this part yet. Let’s just peter out without resolving any of the big questions we’ve so tantalizingly presented mid-series.
    DGOF: okay!
    GCF: BAKA! (punches GWSH and blushes)

    THE END

  • I (heart) Bronxbee’s desire to not see yet another movie about a boy saving the world, which, regardless of what the source material cartoon indicates (and I have heard from several trusted sources that it’s very equality-driven), is exactly what this movie is going to be about. Boom! Splode!! FIRE!!! Between that and the well-documented white-washing, I’m afraid I’m going to have to give this a miss.

    I’m somewhat interested in the original, but I’ve also got a lot of books to read, dog walks to go on, dinner to prepare, etc. It’s not especially high on my list of priorities either.

  • Knightgee

    Yeah, the whitewashing of the movie turned me off to it. Not interested in supporting that.

    But yes, anyone who refuses to watch the series because they think it’s anime (while failing to recognize that anime itself is a highly diverse category full of quality stories no different than any other genre of television) is depriving themselves of a very rich experience, as a lot of time and energy went into this show not only in terms of story and characters, but of world-building as well, as the show rather explicitly focuses on paying respect to a huge range of Eastern philosophy, myth, folklore and culture, as well as politics and history. To be honest, it’s pretty nice to get a show aimed explicitly at American audiences that centers non-white characters as the protagonists in an explicitly non-western world and has a clear reverence for something other than the typical medieval, Tolkien-obsessed, Western-centric swords and sorcery lovefest that is most of American fantasy now. If you’re at all looking to diversify your sci-fi/fantasy viewings beyond the usual focuses, I’d recommend the show.

  • JoshDM

    What’s great about Airbender is that it is nothing like what Accounting Ninja posted at all.

    Granted, I do not think the movie can capture just how awesome the cartoon is; part of its charm are the nuanced side-episodes that add to the overall mythos and when you add to that the screentime, this will end up as a lesser adaptation, like Watchmen or (FORBID!) LXG.

    LXG should never have been advertised as an adaptation of a comic because it did no such thing.

  • I’m trying to locate clips of the show for MaryAnn to view but they’re all AMVs (clips mixed with songs). Maybe we should just recommend episodes if they’re downloadable from netflix…

    I suggest these eps:
    Season One:
    “Warriors of Kyoshi” – introduces Suki and the concept of Avatar past lives.
    “Waterbending Scroll” – Pirates!!! Plus first glimpse of Zutara ‘shipping…
    “Bato of the Water Tribe” – Jun the Bounty Hunter appears
    “Waterbending Master” – awesome water duel

    Season Two:
    “Return to Omashu” – introduces Azula’s accomplices Mai and Ty Lee
    “Blind Bandit” – Toph rocks!
    “Zuko Alone” – interesting character development for Zuko
    “Tales of Ba Sing Se” – short story episodes of the major characters
    “Crossroads of Destiny” – season two finale and major cliffhanger

    Season Three:
    “The Headband” – school episode
    “Sokka’s Master” – Hey it’s That Guy Robert Patrick as the sword master!
    “The Beach” – beach episode
    “Day of Black Sun Parts 1 and 2” – midseason two-parter epic battle
    “Ember Island Players” – in-show mockery of Team Avatar’s wacky hijinks
    “Sozin’s Comet” – four-part movie-long conclusion

  • JoshDM

    @Paul – I know what you mean about the videos; I already checked YouTube earlier – I wanted to find some of the more humorous sarcastic clips and…

    … which is the one where Toph and Aang are training and Sokka gets himself trapped? This show is like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    Not wanting to watch Airbender because you don’t like anime is like not wanting to watch Firefly because you don’t like Syfy Channel Exclusive Movies.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Knightgee, I do still like some anime, but let’s just say I am VERY picky now. It has to be really good, and defy some of the usual conventions. (I can even like a relatively cliche one, like Fullmetal Alchemist; I enjoyed that but it’s not my favorite or anything.) I used to be SUPER into anime in my early 20s but I got burned with a lot of disappointment. So now I do the love/hate thing, and like to rag on the worst of it. ;)

    Can I say something else awesome about Airbender? Gran-gran, Katara and Sokka’s 80 year old grandmother, falls in love and gets married in series! Yay for recognizing sexual/romantic yearnings of older women (and not portraying them as a disgusting joke)!

  • Accounting Ninja

    JoshDM: the one that always gets me is the conversation between Sokka and Zuko on their way to the Boiling Rock:

    Sokka: You know, a friend of mine designed these war balloons.
    Zuko: No kidding.
    Sokka: Yep. A balloon….but for war.

    And then towards the end of the conversation:

    Zuko: Well, I did have a girlfriend. Mai.
    Sokka: That gloomy girl who sighs a lot?
    Zuko: Yeah. Everyone in the Fire Nation thinks I’m a traitor. I couldn’t drag her into it.
    (awkward pause)Sokka: My first girlfriend turned into the moon.
    (another awkward pause)Zuko: That’s rough, buddy.

    80% of it is the WAY Sokka says stuff. That’s kid’s funny!

  • JoshDM

    Dude! I am just starting Season 3 tonight; spoilers! :/

  • art

    “Yup, that’s it: I’m sitting around with absolutely nothing to occupy my time, but I’m steadfastly refusing to watch this show because I’m prejudiced against cartoons. I’d rather just sit and stare into thin air.

    That’s it exactly.”

    You were the one who said you are not into anime which is why you stated you didn’t have to check out the show. “No, I really don’t, actually. I have next to no interest in anime.” You don’t like the format so you aren’t watching the show. Was I supposed to come up with a different conclusion based on what you wrote? Maybe next time I’ll use a different word other than “prejudice”.

    Since I don’t know much about this site (stumbling here while looking for airbender news) what was I supposed to think?

    All I’m saying is if the only reason you don’t check out the show is because you think it’s nothing more than a stereotypical “boy saves the world anime” then you and everyone else who keeps posting along the lines of that stereotype are missing out.

  • MaryAnn

    Since I don’t know much about this site (stumbling here while looking for airbender news) what was I supposed to think?

    Fair enough. Here’s the deal: I run the whole shebang here by myself. It’s beyond a full-time job. I have to prioritize what I watch. And whether *Airbender* is anime or not, I’m not a huge fan of that kind of animation. And when you tell me that this is “drama,” it really turns me off, because I want to see actors’ human faces in my drama, not drawings.

    And I don’t have to check out the TV show because the movie will either work on its own, or it won’t.

  • JoshDM

    Hold back a bit.

    We’ve already expressed that her initial assumption that Airbender is classified as anime (or even is anime) is incorrect.

    She’s expressed that her viewing schedule is full.

    At least we’ve got out that it is a viable possibility she might watch it in the future (and we do know she has a Netflix subscription, which means online (or on-Wii) viewing, and that Airbender seasons are all available).

    The thing is, and this is what’s interesting to me :

    Take all the posters in this comment thread, some of whom are longtime F.F. readers. Anyone saying anything positive about the show is someone who has seen it. Anyone saying anything remotely negative has not mentioned they have seen the show.

    A few weeks ago, had I not just accidentally seen the episode that I did and been drawn in, I would probably have been in the semi-negative camp. Then-again, I might be inspired to check out an episode on Netflix. That’s about as far as this can go at this point.

    Now it is time for those who have seen the show and have negative things to say about it to speak up.

  • JoshDM

    May the record show my response was being typed before MAJ posted.

  • art

    “Fair enough. Here’s the deal: I run the whole shebang here by myself. It’s beyond a full-time job. I have to prioritize what I watch. And whether *Airbender* is anime or not, I’m not a huge fan of that kind of animation. And when you tell me that this is “drama,” it really turns me off, because I want to see actors’ human faces in my drama, not drawings.

    And I don’t have to check out the TV show because the movie will either work on its own, or it won’t.”

    Granted and fair enough. I do indeed think the movie will stand on it’s own and I’m giving Night the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his interpretation. Enough of the plot and spoilers have been leaked along with pics etc. for the fans to get a general feel for the movie vs the show’s first season (which is what the movie is based on).

    Obviously some things had to change for the adaptation (characters had to be cut, some back stories had to be changed etc.) but Night hit all the major points. The first trailer alone was enough to convince me personally that he hit all the BIG points from the first season (yes for the fan you really could tell all of that from a 2 minute trailer). He grounded it a bit (the show did get a little slapsticky at times) and made it a tad darker than the cartoon but I still think it’ll work.

    Who knows, maybe you’ll watch the movie and decide to check out the cartoon series and fall in love with them both so there is still hope for you yet :)

  • If nothing else, it certainly looks gorgeous.

  • Nate

    And whether *Airbender* is anime or not, I’m not a huge fan of that kind of animation. And when you tell me that this is “drama,” it really turns me off, because I want to see actors’ human faces in my drama, not drawings.

    I haven’t watched the series, but this quote bothers me. This is exactly the kind of mindset that is keeping animation limited to children’s media in the US.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Ah! Sorry for the spoilers, JoshDM! Usually I tag them but I guess I got excited. :/
    If it’s any consolation, he was talking about the past, before-series time, not an in-series development.

    Nate, that bothers me too. Animation is such a diverse medium, capable of so much! I love animation, and I’m surprised, MAJ. Did you not love Spirited Away, just like I did? And countless other animated movies?

    I respect your decision not to see Avatar, of course. I know you’re very busy and you already have too many things on your plate. But if you ever do catch it, by accident, all we’re saying is give it a chance and don’t write it off simply because it’s animated or “anime-esque”.

    And, I second the notion that the movie should stand on its own. Already it’s lost points with me for the whitewashing. The trailer itself has also lost points with me. @art, yes, they did seem to hit the plot points, but why is Aang so morose? Where’s the humor and comraderie between the kids? It already feels like the movie might be sacrificing the heart of the story for more action, action, action!

  • JoshDM

    OK. Let’s talk something else here.

    IMDB doesn’t tell me how long this movie is going to be, and I haven’t read any spoilers, so I am posing this.

    Let’s estimate it is a 2 hour movie; 120 minutes. Take 15 of those minutes for title and credits, leaving us with 105 minutes of plot.

    The movie is supposed to comprise all of Season One, and possibly part of the first episode of Season Two (I so want to see this:

    Paku: Katara, I want you to have this. This amulet contains water from a spirit oasis. The water has unique properties. Don’t lose it.
    Katara: Thank you Master Paku.
    Paku: Aang, these scrolls will help you master Waterbending. But remember, they are no substitute for a real master.
    (Aang looks back at Katara)
    Paku: Sokka…
    (Sokka looks on expectantly)
    Paku: Take care, son.
    (Paku pats Sokka on the shoulder)

    So if it takes up Season One, and we have 105 minutes, and (from Netflix) every episode of Season One is approximately 18 minutes (ignoring title and credits sequence and any flashbacks / reflecting to prior episodes for the sake of the audience), that gives us a little less than 6 episodes.

    Of the 20 episodes of Season One, what six episodes do you think were used to make the bulk of the movie?

  • art

    The movie will be between 90 and 100 minutes long.

    As far as the 6 that I think are the most important (2 parters are counted as one):

    1. The Boy in the Iceberg/The Avatar returns.
    2. The Southern Air Temple.
    3. Imprisoned.
    4. The Spirit World pts 1 & 2.
    5. The Waterbending Scroll.
    6. The Siege of the North pts 1 & 2.

  • JoshDM

    I agree with Boy in the Iceberg, Southern Air Temple, Spirit World, and Siege of the North as the six choices – I wasn’t combining 2-part episodes because almost the complete time for each (let’s say 30 minutes instead of 36 (18 x 2)) was necessary to tell their stories.

    The Waterbending Scroll (Aang & Co. vs. Pirates!) and Imprisoned (Katara and the Earthbenders) are good episodes, but are also fairly self-contained and not necessary for telling the story of Season One.

    In fact, the only important part of The Spirit World 2-parter was Aang’s out of body trip and experience; the rest of it could be cast aside.

    With 100 minutes, that’s actually 85 if there is an uninformative title sequence and standard black credits, which gives us, at most, 5 episodes.

  • art

    Since this thread is turning into a bunch of information that fans know but non fans don’t know I figured I’d post a write-up of the franchise’s back-story. It’s spoiler-free and provides a primer for both the movie and the series.

    I actually did try to be as “brief” as possible with it. . . .
    ———————

    The world is divided into 4 nations, each based on an element consisting of the Air Nomads, the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation. Within each nation there are a select group of men and women with the ability to manipulate their native element thru a combination of the martial arts and their chi known as “benders”.

    In each lifetime however, there exists one special bender who can manipulate all 4 elements and this person is known as The Avatar and it is the Avatar’s duty to maintain balance and peace between the 4 nations. When the current Avatar dies the next Avatar is born shortly after in a different nation and the cycle continues. It has been this way for thousands of years and The Avatar has existed since before recorded time began.

    About 100 years before the movie is set the current Avatar at that time (a native Firebender) dies and the Fire Nation which had been prepping for war takes advantage of the short window of time between Avatar’s and launches a global war on the other nations. They waited until the current Avatar died simply because while he was alive he was powerful enough to stop them and would have for the sake of balance and peace. There are other events which gives them the ability to start the war but for the sake of spoilers they will not be mentioned here.

    They start the war with an initial genocidal first strike against the Air Nomads and from there go on to wage war with the Earth Kingdom and the Water Tribes. However once the war starts, the next Avatar never appears to stop the Fire Nation and the Fire Nation goes on to wage global warfare for the next century.

    After 100 years the status of the Avatar is unknown. Some believe he’s been in hiding for over a century, some believe he’s a myth or simply a legend and some believe that with the destruction of the Air Nomads (which is where the next Avatar would have appeared since the previous Avatar was a Fire bender) that the Avatar cycle is broken and the Avatar simply no longer exists.

    However, since the movie is called “The Last Airbender” though it’s safe to assume that there is at least one Airbender left.

  • MaryAnn

    Since this thread is turning into a bunch of information that fans know but non fans don’t know I figured I’d post a write-up of the franchise’s back-story. It’s spoiler-free and provides a primer for both the movie and the series.

    Yeah, but if this info is required for enjoying the film, then the film will have failed (except as fan service).

  • JoshDM

    HAHAHAHAAHAHAHA.

    Yeah, but if this info is required for enjoying the film, then the film will have failed (except as fan service).

    You know how every A-Team episode starts with “An elite unit blah blah blah”?

    Every single Avatar episode starts with the following words narrated by one of the main characters (and really that’s ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW for any episode)


    “Water, Earth, Fire, Air.

    My grandmother used to tell me stories about the old days, a time of peace, when the Avatar kept balance between the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation and the Air Nomads, but that all changed when the Fire Nation attacked.

    Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop the ruthless firebenders, but when the world needed him most, he vanished.

    A hundred years have passed and the Fire Nation is nearing victory in the war. Two years ago, my father and the men of my tribe journeyed to the Earth Kingdom to help fight against the Fire Nation, leaving me and my brother to look after our tribe.

    Some people believe that the Avatar was never reborn into the Air Nomads, and that the cycle was broken. But I haven’t lost hope; I still believe that the Avatar will return to save the world.”

    So if M.Night starts his film in a similar fashion, or even relates the above text, the audience will be in the exact same camp as anyone who watched ANY single episode of Avatar.

    I mean, shit – a scrolling wall of text is how fucking STAR WARS began. At least Airbender was narrated with a descriptive animated backdrop.

  • JoshDM

    The text I posted is from the first few episodes; episodes after that adjust the last sentence to state that they found a young boy in the ice named Aang and he is the Avatar and that she has hope for the future now, blah blah.

  • art

    Yeah, but if this info is required for enjoying the film, then the film will have failed (except as fan service).

    It’s not necessary. It’s just “fun” to know since everything I describe takes place 100 years before the movie is set.

    All you need to know is that the world is in the middle of a war which has lasted 100 years and that information is readily available via trailers and websites. The back-story I posted tells how the war started which isn’t necessary to enjoy the movie.

    You’d be able to enjoy the movie just the same if you went in after reading the back-story or if you were to go in “blind”.

    The main reason I posted it is a few “Avatards” are beginning to hijack your thread and I thought a little backstory would help those who are reading but have no clue what we are talking about since we already know the entire series by heart.

    The only thing I believe you could know that could help you is the knowledge that Aang is merely the latest Avatar in a line of Avatar’s that stretches back before recorded time. The only reason I’ll mention that is Paramount seems to be really hyping the whole “chosen one” thing (maybe to boost interest or something). Instead of stating that Aang is simply the latest Avatar they keep playing the “he’s the chosen one foretold by legend and prophecy” angle. Aang is the latest Avatar, there was one before him and when he dies there will be another after him. That’s it. This series was his story.

    I believe that the movie will start like each episode of the show. Katara will do a voice over explaining the state of the world and the hope for The Avatar then the movie will begin. Just like the show.

  • Knightgee

    And I don’t have to check out the TV show because the movie will either work on its own, or it won’t.

    I don’t think people are giving you this info to redeem the movie because they think it needs this bolstering, but to let you know that the series itself is quite good and knowing you enjoy sci-fi/fantasy, something you might like, regardless of how the movie turns out. I also think they’re getting a bit overzealous about it.

  • Laurel

    And I don’t have to check out the TV show because the movie will either work on its own, or it won’t.

    Yet, how many movies have failed to do justice to the source material? I’m not one for animation either, but a friend of mine BEGGED me to Avatar so I could go see the movie with her. I just finished the first season and was BLOWN AWAY with the witty, intelligent scripts, three-dimensional characters, and plots that don’t talk down to the audience.

    Imagine if the Doctor Who television movie was released in theaters, you were trying to get someone to watch Doctor Who the show, and the above quote was what they said?

  • art

    I don’t think people are giving you this info to redeem the movie because they think it needs this bolstering, but to let you know that the series itself is quite good and knowing you enjoy sci-fi/fantasy, something you might like, regardless of how the movie turns out. I also think they’re getting a bit overzealous about it.

    I can probably fall into the “overzealous” camp. In my defense however I’m not trying to force people to like it. I’m actually trying to convince people who would have normally just written this series off because it’s “just another ‘boy saves the world anime'” to reconsider and at least give it a chance.

    I’ll probably stop posting at this point because there’s really nothing more for me to say but I’ll leave you with this.

    M. Night was like many of you when it came to Airbender. He knew his kid watched it and that was it. When his daughter wanted to dress up as one of the characters for Halloween he decided to do the “dad thing” and check it out. He bought the first season and sat down with his family to watch an episode. After that episode ended they watched another episode, then another, then another and so on and so forth.

    He and his family ended up literally spending so many hours watching the first season that day that they forgot to eat. No I’m not making that up. Those are his own words.

    When they finally took a break for a meal he stood by the fridge and said. “you know. . . this would make a great movie”. His family freaked out. His wife who has been largely indifferent to his directing career looked at him and said “You HAVE to make this. This is so you!” The next day he called Paramount (Paramount did not come to him) and said, “You’ve got something special on your hands with this show. Let me make it into a movie”.

    As I’ve said before. It’s a great show :)

    Cheers!

  • Sam

    Ugh. I was so excited to introduce my two little cousins, who are Inuit, to the cartoon – heck, even though it was ten years too late, it still meant a lot to me to see a brown girl in a parka kicking butt and being awesome. Everything about the movie, however, just makes me feel sad and ill.

  • JoshDM

    So I watched the final episodes off Netflix over the weekend. Loved it, except I’m kind of sick of the deux ex usage of The Avatar State, but since they telegraph it throughout the series, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

    I would love to say the best episode for MAJ to see is the one right before the 4-part climactic battle (where they all go off to watch a play about themselves as written by someone who is both anti-“our heroes” and put it together by asking third party observers), EXCEPT that it requires you to have watched all the earlier episodes first. :/

    I’ll tell you one thing: Princess Azula has some serious trust issues (stemming from an obvious loss).

    It is nice they left at least one semi-major question in the air to be wrapped up in the nonexistent 4th season or a future DTV. Some websites have mentioned the producers had issues with Nickelodeon involvement, and that is why there was no fourth season. Can anyone corroborate? Wikipedia also mentions a missing episode; is there a master list?

  • D

    Well, I hope, really hope, that at least in the sequel(if it gets made) they get to cast a chinese girl as Toph. It would be the least they could do…

  • JoshDM

    I’d prefer Toph cast as a seven-foot tall burly man with huge muscles who has to scream a lot to see, like a bat.

  • D

    JoshDm, I think Toph would agree with you :)

  • D

    By the way, JoshDm which episode were you refering that you said it was the first you saw?
    Staying on the topic of the trailer, i think the people in charge of making this kind of “epic” movie trailers are morons. Do they honestly believe that audiences hearing the same words, same voice they hear in every other movie of this kind will make them want to see the film more? Really, how hard is it to find something that sounds fresh to say about an epic fantasy movie?

  • Jurgan

    JoshDM: Brian and Mike said often (including on the commentary for the finale) that they didn’t want there to be a fourth season- they thought the story was done. I disagree with them, in that I think that while the story of Aang vs. the Fire Lord was done, there are plenty more stories that could be told in this world. I could see something like the Star Wars Expanded Universe popping up (though hopefully with more consistent quality). Anyway, it wasn’t Nick sabotaging the show that made it stop, it was the creators being done with it. They said they regretted not wrapping up the story of Zuko’s mother, but they just ran out of time, and that was after extending the finale from three to four parts (you’ll notice the third season has one more episode than the previous ones). On the other hand, they also felt the important thing was that Zuko was now in a position of power over his father, and seeing that, we knew he’d find his mother somehow. And while we’re on the subject: Mark Hamill as a supervillain is always awesome.

  • JoshDM

    @D – Tales of Ba Sing Se, from Season Two.
    Also, I apparently saw part 1 and part 2 of Sozin’s Comet, the big series finale, but had no idea the context of what I was watching, only that it was awesome and made me want to watch the rest of the show in order.

    @Jurgan – I watched on either Netflix via Wii or my DVR (depending on the room), so I didn’t have access to the commentary either way. Thanks for clearing that up – I figure Zuko’s mother is either locked away somewhere or self-exiled. I would think a future DTV movie might reveal where she is and maybe some hidden Airbenders, but in all, I was quite satisfied by how it all wrapped up. Fire Lord serving me tea? Yes, please.

  • tinwatchman

    So this movie – pretty universally, from what I hear — turned out to be terrible. But the source TV series *is* pretty fantastic, for whatever it counts. As is the followup, “Legend of Korra.”

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