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So! That Last Airbender movie.

Do not read if you don't want spoilers.



I'm afraid I have some issues with it. Most of which have been pointed out by many many reviews.

Instead, I've been trying to think how it could have been fixed.
A lot of people would hate me, because I would keep a lot of the material that was cut out.
I would cut even more!

Let's not touch the casting, just focus on trying to tell the story.

In a nutshell: The avatar disappears. The fire nation starts a war of conquest. 100 years later, the avatar reappears. In order to bring back balance and stop the war, he has to learn to control all the elements, starting with water.
Check. That's the basics.

Imagine, if you will, that you have as much time to try and tell the story as the movie has. You can't add another hour or even just 30 minutes. How do you edit this concept?
You can't do exactly like the show. You have to adapt and retell.
Imagine if you could write the whole series in about 4-5 episodes. That's about as much time as you have. One fifth of the time of the whole series. Even less.

Perhaps have a "hook" opening. Instead of having Katara narrate or see scrolling text, show some visuals.
For example: start at an air temple. The air is heavy, there are sounds of battle. A monk is looking for someone named Aang. Pausing a moment to look outside, not only do we see Fire Nation soldiers invading, but Sozin's comet filling the sky. All hell breaks loose.

Have a montage of different war moments. Have one shot of Zhao discovering the scroll in the library. At the end of the montage, fade and go to the Southern Water Tribe. We're a hundred years later, but we'll figure that out at the same time as Aang.

Showing the comet would be reference as to how destructive its return would be and why all must be done to stop the fire nation before its return. Show the stakes.

It's something the movie suffered from: too much exposition, not enough show, don't tell.

The story needs to focus on our main protagonists: Aang, Katara, Sokka, Yue, Zuko, Iroh and Zhao.
What is important: the relations between Aang, Katara and Sokka, between Sokka and Yue. The antagonistic relations of Zuko vs Aang, Zuko VS Zhao and Zhao VS Aang.
Just like in the first season, we don't need to see Ozai. Cut out all the Ozai scenes. Show almost nothing of the Fire Nation.

Unfortunately, I would cut all the Kyoshi warriors scene. To have Sokka have two possible romances in one movie is redundant. Focus on just one. Yue will have to do this time.
No time for Bumi nor Jet either.
Remember: you have no time.
If you don't want to rush scenes or dialogues, it's a sacrifice.

But you could use them all nicely in a sequel. Imagine: Sokka finds love again with Suki, Katara has her first romance with Jet (to Aang's despair), the search for a teacher fails with Bumi but they find Toph. Everything that is earth kingdom related is in that chapter.

You may wish to bring back some concepts that were cut out though: Avatar Roku, for example.
Would I bring back Koh to give the info about the two spirits? Maybe not, unfortunately, and I do love Koh.
The comet, the spirits. This could all be things Roku tells Aang. Remember: tight time schedule!

Now you may have enough time to try and tell the story of the main cast. Maybe. You'd need some tight writing and editing.
We would all do it differently. This is just a hint of what I'd try. If there was a brainstorming meeting, I'm sure more ideas could be pitched to make this better. I've seen it happen in the productions I've worked on.

It made me realise how different production for animated films and live action is: in animation, things can be changed late in the game. Heck, Dragon was in development for two years and redone in one!! Live action, I'm afraid, doesn't have that much leeway.

Plus, it seemed there was no quality control at the base for Last Airbender. Wasn't there someone, at some point in the production, that dare say "this part here is weak, let me suggest..."?
I don't know. I wasn't there. We will probably never know.

I've never really said anything about the casting controversy. I won't start here, but I will point out one thing:

Fire Nation: Middle eastern looking citizens. Our main bad guys, or so it seems in this chapter of the movie.

Southern Water Tribe: Mostly inuits except for a few odd ones, devastated culture, living poorly after Fire Nation raids.

Earth Kingdom: Asians, Blacks. Seem to be living under the heel of the Fire Nation. On their way to losing the war despite resistance. Probably miserable, except for Ba Sing Se but this city wasn't seen. Overall, place doesn't look good.

Northern Water Tribe: Caucasians. Beautiful city, peaceful looking people that look well off. Have managed to resist the fire nation for a 100 years so you know they kick @$$.

Erh-hum!
Really, Hollywood? You haven't seen anything? Diverse casting maybe, but look how you've used them.

One last thing: I don't care if Shyamalan wanted to give the "proper" way of saying the names, it still made me gnash my teeth everytime. It was a reflex reaction. I couldn't help it.

In other unrelated news, my dad is not doing too well, health wise. We hope the doctors can figure out what is wrong. Nothing too serious yet, but I hate hearing how poorly he is feeling these days. It's worse being so far away.
:( :( :( :(

Comments

( 101 comments — Leave a comment )
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riicchan
Jul. 5th, 2010 06:50 am (UTC)
D:! A thousand good thoughts to your father, I hope he recovers soon.

I'm marathoning the original animated series instead of seeing the movie and it's filling me with such inspiration. Reading your comics helps too! I recently brought back that Alternate History story, it's still one of my favorites. c:
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 06:56 am (UTC)
The alternate history.
I wish I had time to go back and rework it.
pretty_angel
Jul. 5th, 2010 07:14 am (UTC)
*applauds* As I said on dA - if you had any say in this it would be a hundred times better. Heck, if anyone with basic knowledge in storytelling had a say the movie would be a hounded times better!

Also, it feels good and bag being right about the cast ever since it was announced. Good because I was right all along - bad because it's even more horrible than I imagined. The only East Asian characters in the movie are either betraying the white hero or are carrying a huge idiot ball and need a white hero to tell them to fight back. As I hear you just see black characters waving as the Gaang flies by and Gyatso in flashbacks or something. DIVERSITY - UR DOIN IT WRONG!

P.s.: Best wished to your father. I hope he'll recover soon. *hugs*
pretty_angel
Jul. 5th, 2010 07:17 am (UTC)
Sorry for typos! D:
(no subject) - nthdraft - Jul. 5th, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC)
Yay for your mom!
(Deleted comment)
inknose
Jul. 5th, 2010 07:46 am (UTC)
Ah, if only you'd been in charge! :P
It's hard for us fans to be realistic when it comes to cutting things out, but I've always accepted that a film adaptation needs to be quite different sometimes in order to work. Lots of stuff has to be cut, sometimes the sequence of events has to change, sometimes even little events that never happened in the original material need to be added. But all of that can be swallowed, even by the most dedicated of fans, if it works to preserve the spirit of the story. ...too bad this movie didn't manage that. Sigh.

I hope your father gets well soon! :(
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 03:59 pm (UTC)
Not me in charge- I've worked surrounded by extremely talented people. I'd just like to have the power to put THEM in charge.
masterofraviel
Jul. 5th, 2010 08:07 am (UTC)
god i would have watch your movie over 'that' thing = =;;

also how they had firebenders NEED a fire source seemed...a bit stupid since how the hell did they manage a war for 100 years than :\

the waterbending was cool but...they needed to work on the earthbending...

oh and shamalamalan needs to learn how to script without making the dialogue/movement so cliche and awkward = =;;
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:01 pm (UTC)
The choreography of the fights definitely could be improved. If the firebenders had generated their own fires, it would have come out at the first punch instead then after their routine.
I was expecting better writing from Shyamalan, what with working with existing material. I am disappointed.

Edited at 2010-07-05 04:01 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - masterofraviel - Jul. 5th, 2010 04:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rufftoon - Jul. 5th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - masterofraviel - Jul. 5th, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
ca_cha
Jul. 5th, 2010 08:22 am (UTC)
I hope it's really nothing to serious with your dad and tha he's gettin well soon.

I haven't seen the movie jet (yeah stupid German Dub takes a nearly two month...) but I've read quite some reviews which were horrifying. So now here is yours and I think, accept of the race issue and the dialogues, I can see were the problem is. It seems to me, as if it's even worse than the HP movies... *sighn* I mean I will see it myself but sooner or later but do you think an outsider could have understand fully the story and the emotion? I've heard there was quite some jumping between the scenes.

Well thanks for this different review, it gave me a small hint what's expecting me. And thanks very very much for praising Zuko's Prequel Story. I've just got it this weekend and it was really awesome (especially with all this characters in it, which still had the 'old' design) Thanks a lot! ^^
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC)
Hopefully, news from the doctor soon.

As for an outsider understanding the movie...well, mostly I guess, but there's a lot of awkward cuts and jumbling around of story elements. I would suggest these people watch the series, either before or after.
I still tell people to see it if they want to. We all have different tastes and opinions, and some people do end up liking more things about this movie than I did.
Good for them.
(no subject) - ca_cha - Jul. 6th, 2010 09:43 am (UTC) - Expand
zfiledh
Jul. 5th, 2010 08:24 am (UTC)
Man, M. Nightie really sucks as a visual storyteller. :/

Sorry to hear about your dad. I hope he gets better soon.
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:05 pm (UTC)
Thing is, I look at the 6th sense and think he's got something.
I don't know. Has he lost his skills over the years? That would be a shame.
(no subject) - karine - Jul. 5th, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zfiledh - Jul. 6th, 2010 03:30 am (UTC) - Expand
themadfish
Jul. 5th, 2010 08:24 am (UTC)
So...I heard how they tried to use the correct pronounciations of their names(and if you're gonna make that accurate, why not the accurate races too? meh), did they correct Yue's name too? I've heard about the other characters corrections, but not if they did her's. It made me curious.
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:06 pm (UTC)
Nope, Yue stayed the same.
Is there another way to pronounce Yue?

And all that name pronunciation thing- pfah! Do I correct people when they say my name with an english accent rather than a french one? no.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jul. 5th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - themadfish - Jul. 5th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rufftoon - Jul. 5th, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
engelen
Jul. 5th, 2010 08:46 am (UTC)
1)readin how you could have done it better only makes me sadder *sigh*
The movie of "could hae beens"

2) I hope the doctors find ou what's wrong with your dad and he gets better :3
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
1) Shyamalan had a gold mine of material, but only extracted a few nuggets.

2) Hope we find out soon too.
baroncognito
Jul. 5th, 2010 09:03 am (UTC)
How was Aasif Mandvi?
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)
He was...Aasif Mandvi, with hint of his correspondent self in a few moments.
Some awkward dialogues, but I blame the script for that.
Never let that man firebend. Terrible terrible stance. XD

I actually felt sorry for his character at some point: Ozai is definitely messing with him, and Zhao has no way out.
(no subject) - baroncognito - Jul. 5th, 2010 08:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rufftoon - Jul. 5th, 2010 09:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC)
I've been reading a lot of "Where's Teo? Where are Bumi, Suki, Jet, Cabbage Merchant".
I would be so hated for having cut them out too, ha ha!
It is sad when a movie, a visual medium, isn't used to its full potential. I don't mean to go completely silent but dang it!
When I try to write comics, I have problems editing myself out extra material. I try to have some help with that, especially if I have a limit on the page count (Water Tribe doesn't count, I could ramble on and on and on, ha ha!).
It seems like M.Night didn't have an editor.
(no subject) - mooseprints - Jul. 5th, 2010 07:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
arrayepl
Jul. 5th, 2010 09:19 am (UTC)
I wished too you had the time to make more of your ATLA Alternate History. Not that I don't love your Water Tribe Zhao-ka :)

I think your move version would be much better and acceptable for the actually raging fandom.
I didn't see the film jet and I'm not sure if I will, because it will be probably translated to my language. I have seen one episode of ATLA translated *still makes me cringe* and if I haven't seen it in German and English, I would never fall for this series.

PS: Hope your dad will get better.

Edited at 2010-07-05 09:20 am (UTC)
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
I do wish I had time to play more with the Alternate history. It would need some reworking first.
Oh, the raging fandom would kill me for keeping other important characters out. My only defense could be "next movie".
Translated ATLA- I still can't watch the french episodes, the voices are awful, ha ha! I have watched a few German ones on Nick DE, and it was kinda fun!
(no subject) - arrayepl - Jul. 5th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ndgmtlcd - Jul. 5th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
makkurakoyappi
Jul. 5th, 2010 10:30 am (UTC)
Ok, first off I haven't seen the movie yet, but from what my friend, who did see it, related to me it sounds like your changes would be spot on. When I first heard there was going to be a movie I was wondering how they were going to fit everything that made the series great into 2hrs. Its a lot to condense and obviously a lot was going to get cut or get only a quick mention, and as more info about the movie would pop up I had a hard time knowing if I was just being a nit picky fan or if it was really as bad as it looked. It's probably still a bit of both but from what I know I'm not sure I can see this movie in the theaters.

"Show don't tell" is the most basic rule of any visual medium for very good reasons. It's tried and true but somehow it seems M. Night has tossed it out the window for reasons I cannot fathom. I wonder if he has become one of those directors that no one stands up to or questions, he's done such good movies before and I'm shocked at how bad his recent ones have been. But perhaps on those good movies he did have people saying "how about this idea" or "what if we did this instead" maybe he had input and brainstorming sessions that made his concepts great. I don't really know, I'm just supposeing here.

Also as a side to the name pronunication: it irked me as well, more because if you wanted to get specific about it I would consider the established pronuniation to be correct with the original spelling being off rather then the other way around. things can be spelled and pronounced many diffrent ways(particularly considering that the names were set by English speakers) I found it weird that M. Night would even bother to change something so basic.

Anyway sorry for rambling, just my two cents

and of course I wish all the best for your Dad's speedy recovery.
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
Make that less than 2 hours.
I knew I was going to nitpick, but I went in there with an open mind. It's just that technically, it grated on my nerves.
Obviously not everyone's nerves as some people liked it.
But some of these cuts, angles, dialogues...everything to help tell the story felt extremely clunky at times.
I am also wondering if no one at those studios had any backbone to stand up to Shyamalan and say "hey, change that".
As for name pronunciation, as I said in one comment above, it would be as if I was chastising every english speaker for not saying my name with the french-quebecer accent. No, I wouldn't do that. It's still Johane, no matter how it is said.
gummibaehr
Jul. 5th, 2010 11:03 am (UTC)
I agree whole heartedly. I'm not a purist when it comes to movie adaptations. If they had taken the concept and presented it in a coherent way in film, I would have been happy. There's no need to cram everything in. Just the important parts that tell the story. But instead it was a garbled, confusing mess. :-( Disappointing. And I saw no need to change the pronunciation of the names. That made me cringe.

I hope your dad gets well soon! My thoughts are with you and your family.
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
Agreed with what you said.
It would be sad to cut out so much, but with such a short amount of time, you have to stay on the ball. Don't introduce concepts or people that you won't end up using at the end of the film. It has to stand on its own.

Thank you.
egoulet
Jul. 5th, 2010 01:44 pm (UTC)
I hope your father gets well soon!

big hug!
Emilie
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
Thankees for the hugs.
Hopefully, some news soon. My dad is tired of feeling so off.
kt_shy
Jul. 5th, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC)
My best wishes to your dad's super duper quick recovery!

And I totally agree with your post analysis, I felt the film had potential (serious race bending controversies aside) and a couple reworks, hell even a TEST screening, should have fixed those (do they not test screen live action films all that much?) The only thing I could not let go was some of the weird shot compositions, and what in the world was with that scene in the Earth kingdom where Katara, Sokka and Aang are talking to each other and the camera cuts are "medium close on siblings" then "EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE closeup on Aang!!!!!!" I couldn't stop laughing at that, it was so weird.
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
Many thanks for your good wishes. Dad is going to be seeing different doctors for the next couple of weeks, hopefully one will find out how to help.

I do believe a test screening was had, around the 2/3 completion mark or so.
Apparently, only a few tweaks were done. Guess there was not enough time or budget for a lot of re-shoot.
And that cut you mentionned.
Oh yeah.

Maybe it was to try to conceal some bad acting? I don't know.
secondlina
Jul. 5th, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC)
I agree about a more visual opening. And removing Ozai would have been nice too. He's not a looming presence. He's just... flat out there. and that kinda makes him less scary.

Keeping Suki and Jet for the sequel is a great idea. Heck, they could even happen at the same time (Kyoshi is a big island) thus doubling "Sokka is feeling sucky because someone is more badass then him" time.
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC)
Yup! Goodbye Ozai! If the animated series didn't need you, the movie could do without.
After all, since M.Night liked the Star Wars analogy, you didn't see the Emperor until the 3rd movie.
Na!

It could be interesting to have Suki and Jet at the same place at the same time. It would mean some changes in dynamics and some major re-writes, but a good writer could make it work.
(no subject) - secondlina - Jul. 5th, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
secondlina
Jul. 5th, 2010 02:17 pm (UTC)
And best wishes for your dad =(
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
my_hanzatsu
Jul. 5th, 2010 03:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this! My thoughts, your thoughts. Same thought. My friends disagree entirely and I doubt anyone can change their minds, but as a theatre student I understand what you're saying here.

Thanks~ :3

Well wishes for your father. <3 I'm sure something will be done.
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:32 pm (UTC)
I would be interested in knowing your friends' opinions. Was it that they liked the movie? What elements made them like it? Or would they disagrre with the lack of certain season 1 characters that they feel would be oh so important for the first movie?
Personally, I'd be sad to have been introduced to fun characters only to see them disappear and never heard from again until the end of the film. What a waste of their potential.

Many thanks for your good wishes.
(no subject) - my_hanzatsu - Jul. 5th, 2010 07:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
tammylee
Jul. 5th, 2010 03:19 pm (UTC)
My thoughts and goodwill are with your father.
<3
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:32 pm (UTC)
Many thanks.
yaytime
Jul. 5th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
Well wishes to your father.

I love your reimaginings. So much clearer and focused. I think the film tried so hard to keep favorite scenes from the show, but the way they rejiggered them it lost the point of why they existed in the first place. Having to explain why the Earthbenders would let themselves be imprisoned, surrounded by dirt was the easiest example of this. They are telling us why this is a problem rather than showing us. It doesn't feel right.
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for your well wishes.

It may have been the problem: trying to keep too many favorite scenes. You just can't. Some can be kept, but you have to meld them together seamlessly!
Zuko raiding the Southern Water Tribe can still work.
The Blue Spirit sequence can still work.
The Northern Water Tribe assault can still work.
Just sew everything together, but avoid making a quilt!

I ended up comparing the movie to the Manga adaptation. Interesting to see some of the concepts cut out or some dialogues.
That bit where Zhao said that he couldn't even swim and that's why he hated water, I guess was in the original screenplay?
amiraelizabeth
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
Best wishes and good thoughts to your dad.

I wish the movie had had more of what you suggested. It would have i think flowed better. It just felt like it was struggling to keep momentum.

And the name changes were a distraction, and IMO unnecessary.
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, to me (and it's my personal opinion) it had major writing and editing problems.
*sigh*
I wanted to go in, have a good time and like it.
Not a flawless movie but you know, a fun ride.
(no subject) - amiraelizabeth - Jul. 5th, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - amiraelizabeth - Jul. 5th, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
sweet_gardenia
Jul. 5th, 2010 04:58 pm (UTC)
I went to watch it. I actually missed the first 30 minutes of it and didn't mind hahaha. The whole time I was thinking how eerie it was how dead on the Ember Island Players had it XD so now I fully expect Toph to be played by Arnold Schwartzenegger (spelling haha) now. MOST AWESOME MOVIE EVER (sarcasm)

Zuko was haallllfway ok but LOL those scenes with him and Uncle Iroh sometimes drifted a bit over in the creepy side.

AND THERE WAS NO FISH PUNCH (only a fish skewer it would seem)

HOW COULD THEY HAVE LEFT OUT FISH PUNCH

HOW

;___;

(I did find the Ozai/Zhao BFF scenes hilarious. Now I imagine them doing all kinds of awesome BFF things together with " Imagine me and you and you and me " playing sunnily in the background)

Avaturd staring Ear-roh, Ung, Kintera, Socky, Zippo, Harpo Groucho and Chico.

I turned around to the first person sitting behind me and was like " Ah. Watch the animated series. It is SO much better..."
sweet_gardenia
Jul. 5th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC)
Oh also sending good thoughts and well wishes to your dad. I hope things will get better and he gets the diagnosis and treatment he needs
(no subject) - rufftoon - Jul. 5th, 2010 06:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rufftoon - Jul. 5th, 2010 06:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sweet_gardenia - Jul. 5th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rufftoon - Jul. 5th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
dj_rocca
Jul. 5th, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
The problem I have with the movie WASNT the cast, it WAS the WRITING. It was AWFUL!

A little boy left in almost tears! He walked in SO excited but walked out crushed.

Iroh rocked. That was about it.
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 06:38 pm (UTC)
If the writing ain't good, no matter who the actors are, it will fail.
(no subject) - leoprincess - Jul. 5th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
nthdraft
Jul. 5th, 2010 05:13 pm (UTC)
re: the name pronunciation thing. He "corrects" it to "authentic Asian names" while insisting that the rest of the world not follow suit? He dials UP the pronunciation but dials DOWN the characters wearing them?

Imagine if MNS had gotten to do one of the Harry Potter films and he'd said, "the name 'Harry' is too modern and unsuiting a heroic, we shall call him the older English original name 'Harold'... and 'Hermione' is too hard to pronounce from the spelling so we'll shorten it to 'Mia', and Ron should be pronounced in two syllables like 'Rowan' to hearken back to older, original English root words..."

Yeah, that would fly about as far as a lemur bat in a lead lined trenchcoat.
rufftoon
Jul. 5th, 2010 06:39 pm (UTC)
Very true what you said about the pronunciation.

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