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I Finally Watched The Last Airbender, and It Wasn’t Worth It

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Variations will be difficult, significantly when the supply materials is animated. As a rule, they’re reviled upon reveal, as a result of they usually really feel like they’re going by means of the motions or twisting the unique factor into one thing it’s not. It may be a dismal prospect to see one thing you grew up with lose its id, and issues get even worse when you possibly can’t actually let it go.

Final weekend, I watched The Final Airbender, M. Evening Shyamalan’s 2010 adaptation of Nickelodeon’s Avatar collection. I’d made an lively option to keep away from the film again then, largely as a result of the forged was whitewashed as hell. And past catching the final quarter-hour on TV ceaselessly in the past, I hadn’t ever seen the total factor. Now that I’ve finished so, after years of listening to it described because the worst factor ever… it’s only a mediocre adaptation. There’s nothing exceptional about it being dangerous, apart from the way it sucking was definitive for a complete era of children. To be sincere, I used to be slightly disillusioned it wasn’t actively worse, however then I began to consider why the film and its badness caught round in audiences’ minds for therefore lengthy.

Within the mid and late-2000s, studios had been attempting to something that would presumably strike with the identical impression as Harry Potter motion pictures. On the time, movies primarily based on youngsters books like Eragon and The Spiderwick Chronicles did okay or fizzled out, and whereas Dragonball Evolution harm anime’s Hollywood aspirations for a decade, the medium wasn’t fairly a juggernaut but. The unique Avatar present arrived on the proper time in 2005: it seemed sufficient like anime to face out, however got here with out having any of the detrimental baggage connected to anime again then. And what made it really feel much more particular again then was the way it was actively getting older up with its viewers, one thing cartoons weren’t actually doing on the time.

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Avatar was a present for 11-year-olds, and it was formative in the best way good reveals usually are once they hit you on the proper second. The Final Airbender film was very clearly geared toward followers of the present, which had wrapped in 2008. Two years was simply lengthy sufficient for some wistfulness for the unique present to kick in… which made it all of the extra heartbreaking that the film simply blows. No matter small brilliant spots it has, like Dev Patel and Aasif Mandvi being the one ones attempting to provide performances as Zuko and Zhao, are rapidly overwhelmed by a movie that makes it clear from the bounce it’s going to be a stinker.

Condensing a 20-episode collection into a movie was by no means going to be straightforward, and it’d be silly to suppose the film was going to get as a lot in as doable. But it surely’s nonetheless fairly startling to see this film adapt a handful episodes and depart it at that—one thing made worse by how half-hearted the trouble feels. The “greatest” of the bunch is actually solely the assault on the Northern Water Tribe towards the very finish, and that’s actually solely as a result of the film does a good job at giving Aang’s waterbending large tidal wave a way of scale. (However even that doesn’t hit the identical because the giant water kaiju within the finale of the present.)

In that sense, I can get why collection creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino would align with Netflix to take one other live-action stab at their very own work. (After a cut up from Netflix on account of “artistic variations,” they headed to Nickelodeon to go up Avatar Studios, the place they’re growing an Avatar animated movie, amongst different initiatives.) As for most of the people, it feels bizarre to nonetheless give the 2010 movie oxygen; at its greatest, Netflix’s upcoming live-action tackle the fabric—an eight-episode collection made with out Konietzko and DiMartino, and arriving on the streamer February 22—can actually solely make us go “properly, it’s higher than the final one.” However the bigger Avatar collection just about recovered from it across the third season of Legend of Korra, and it’s not like that is ever going to get a reexamination just like the Star Wars prequels or a number of pre-MCU Marvel motion pictures from Fox.

The Final Airbender’s greatest fault was how a lot it didn’t actually do proper by the supply materials and even have its personal novel spin on issues to distract from what it lacked. As an adaptation, it commits the cardinal sin of current for its personal sake and never being additive in any possible way. General, it’s simply uninteresting and annoying—however not sufficient to carry a 14-year grudge.


Need extra io9 information? Take a look at when to anticipate the newest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s subsequent for the DC Universe on movie and TV, and every part that you must learn about the way forward for Physician Who.

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