Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Over Thanksgiving week, I watched the movie Avatar: The Last Airbender with my cousins.
Caleb and Jacob are big fans of the anime/cartoon series by the same name and, though they are both under 10 years old, had plenty of comments on how the movie was different.
Their commentary and evident interest sparked my curiosity.
Last week, once we were back from our Thanksgiving adventures, I sat down and watched the 
Avatar: The Last Airbender anime series via NetFlix (hooray NetFlix!).
As with any series-to-movie adaptation, there were similarities and differences, events left out and rearranged.
I found that, while I enjoyed the movie, the series was much more entertaining and enjoyable.

To preface the rest of this review, the movie only covers events up to the end of Book 1 of the series.
So, that's all I'm comparing :-D.

I am glad that I saw the movie before I saw the series--it let me enjoy the movie for what it was, instead of constantly comparing it to what it "should" have been.

The main difference I observed was that the series had more whimsy in it, and more humor.
Also, he characters are better developed in the series as multidimensional individuals.
For example, in the series Aang had a lot of baggage to deal with, but he was still happy-go-lucky and always looking for fun.
In the movie, there are only glimpses of that side of his character.
That said, the actors in the movie made the most of what they had to work with.
In particular, I would say that the actor portraying Zuko did a good job of overcoming a lack of character development.

Also, the movie changed the nature of Kitara, Sokka, and Aang's journey to the Northern Water Tribe.
Yes, in both they were traveling to find a Waterbender to teach Kitara and Aang, but in the movie the journey turned into starting a rebellion along the way.
I really enjoyed the series of adventures and friendships that were shown in the series, and looking back on the movie, I wish that they had shown some of that.
Case in point, Kitara stealing the water scroll from the pirates (series) versus being given it by a liberated Earth village (movie).
The pirate arc was just a lot funnier and more fun as well.

Overall, the movie was a lot darker and more serious than the series--typical of M. Night Shyamalan--and Aang was much more of a tortured character than he was depicted in the movie.
That said, I loved the visual effects in the movie. 
I thought they did a good job portraying the spirit world--although they replaced the last Avatar with his dragon familiar--and I loved the visuals of the bending and Aang in his Avatar state.
Also, the movie followed the main plot line fairly well, minus changes like the one mentioned above.

So, if you want to fully enjoy the original intent of this series--a quest filled with serious issues AND fun times--stick with the series.
If you're not too bothered by a darker interpretation and less detailed character development, the movie is worth seeing for the beautiful visual effects and the thrill of seeing a cartoon come to life.


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