The Last Airbender ★★½

I'm not entirely sure what to do with this one. I am a big fan of the TV series, and everyone who had seen the film adaptation of the first season told me that it was just plain terrible.

Well, maybe I went in with lower expectations than most people, because I actually had a good time watching this one.

I'll give you a minute to recover.

Yes, you read that correctly. Despite the fact that the movie is filled with on-the-nose dialogue, lazy voiceover scenes, and completely botches most of the good parts of the original series, it was still a fun ride and an okay movie if you just let it be itself. Come on, people, we go watch Star Wars and think that cheese-fest is okay. Give this poor film a small break.

I say a "small" break because the movie does deserve a lot of criticism. Let's start with the fact that the filmmakers obviously didn't understand the nature of element bending. Although it's all explained in detail in the TV series, somehow all of the bending was reduced to working from existing elements and required way too many martial arts motions to do even something tiny. Especially bad was the fact that the filmmakers ignored the important fact that most firebenders create fire from their own anger. This is important in the later seasons.

And then there's the fact that there is no attempt made at character development. Even though the filmmakers had three seasons of the show to draw on for characterization, they just ignored it all and gave us cardboard cutouts who were lucky if their names were pronounced correctly.

Add to that the complete absence of many characters who are introduced in the first season who then play a large role in the latter two seasons. Where was Suki? King Bumi? Jet? Avatar Roku? Jeong Jeong?

The worst part? Most of this could have been dealt with by making the movie 2 hours long instead of shooting themselves in the foot with a 90-minute movie based on 7.5 hours of TV show. A lot of the series can be condensed, yes, but with an extra half hour to play with before the movie starts getting too long, grab it for something this big!

Anyway, I was annoyed, but I had had my expectations lowered enough before going into The Last Airbender than I actually came out smiling.