Lessons From The Last Airbender Movie

Yep, we've already seen The Last Airbender. First show on opening day. My older daughter was so excited for this movie and we took along a friend that was probably almost as excited. And if I'm really honest, I was really looking forward to this movie. I've already mentioned what I really liked about the animated series and I was more than fascinated to see how they would adapt about seven hours of episodes into a one and half hour movie.

Now to the movie. I think it's good. I'm not sure I can say great, but I don't know if that's because I was analyzing it so much or because it is just good. Which is why I want to see it again. Not sure if you have to see it in 3D. It does make the various bending elements look cool, but not sure if it is so different from watching it in 2D.

Spoiler alert!
I have to say, though I'm probably in the minority, that I think M. Night did a pretty good job of condensing 7-8 hours into 1 1/2. The biggest complaint I have heard is where is that character, that character, that character, which I get, we all have our favorite secondary characters, but they all can't make an appearance. The focus of the first movie is on the Water kingdom so M. Night did gloss over a lot of their journey of the Earth kingdom, because, hello, there wouldn't have been any time spent in the Water kingdom if he had included all those characters. I know we all love cabbage guy, but maybe cabbage guy will show up in the second movie when the focus is on the Earth kingdom. So, I was okay with that though he does include a crucial scene in the Earth kingdom so it isn't entirely in the Water kingdom. As to Suki not making an appearance, here is my reading of it and I could be completely wrong, Sokka has two romances in season 1 of the cartoon, if he had two romances in the movie (remember hour and a half) he would have seemed like a womanizer and it would have diminished his grief for Princess Yue and her sacrifice.

My own and only complaint since the bulk of the time was spent in the Water kingdom was that he chose not to show Katara having to earn the right to learn water bending because she's a girl. I think the time showing her and Aang practicing could have covered that and would have added more depth to the story (as in no particular nation is all good or all bad, it had good people and bad people).

Complaints from the kiddos were:

Sokka isn't funny. I will agree that they made him more serious than slapstick. Though I noticed that M. Night did contain one element of each of the running gags throughout season 1. So there is one slapstick moment and one goofy joke, but just one.

Uncle Iroh isn't funny. Again, he was more of the zen master. Which he was in the show, but in the cartoon he'd be zen like and then do something outrageous. The running tea joke was again mentioned once in the movie.

Katara wasn't stubborn. I'll agree here. M. Night seemed to want to focus on Katara's softer side. Most of her scenes had to do with Aang and Katara was often her softest in her scenes with Aang in the cartoon. And yes, M. Night did not have her fighting with her brother all the time (or at all as far as I remember) in the movie like she does in the cartoon.

Probably can't write about this without mentioning casting. And I'm sure I'll get some, you don't know what you're talking about comments, I think the casting was brilliant. Look at it as this huge fantasy world with different races/cultures. That's what M. Night does and I have to say it is one of the most diverse casts I think I have ever seen on screen (I'd love to hear of other movies if you can recommend them).
Aang - if you've seen the cartoon, he's white, I'm sorry, but look at the cartoon, the character is colored white. I think the actor cast actually looks more Asian that the cartoon character.
Katara and Sokka - yep, they be white in this movie, and they sure aren't white in this cartoon. But I don't think they are Asian in the cartoon. I was always under the impression they were supposed to be Inuits or Native Americans.
Zuko - is Indian in the movie, I'm guessing he's Asian in the cartoon. M. Night does discuss part of his casting here.

Based on the first movie it looks like M. Night has divided the nations based on race as:
Water Nation - Caucasian
Air Nomads - many races - I thought this was interesting. There isn't anyone with "black" skin in the cartoon, but M. Night cast an african/american actor as a priest and all of the children were of different races. I liked this choice.
Earth Nation - Asian
Fire Nation - Indian

So, there are some of my thoughts on the new movie. I think a lot of the boycotting is sad since I think they are missing the chance for a truly culturally diverse cast. I've read several articles on the boycott and those that I've read have basically said the entire cast should have been Asian which wouldn't be a racially or culturally diverse cast.


  1. More information on the casting of Airbender for those interested. As well as a description of what Anime is from M. Night.



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