Saturday, November 6, 2010

it's like they knew: a pondering of poor adaptations.

::I wrote this in July.  
I didn't post it then because I was too embarrassed.  
I'm over that, now.  
Confession number one:  I heart Avatar: The Last Airbender.  
This post is my love-splurge on the cartoon and subsequent "what-the-bluh?" on the film. ::

I must confess, I do love a good story, with great, well-developed characters, humor, heart, and a compelling plot. I must also confess, I hate it when these things are turned into films that miss the point, no matter how fun they are to look at through those abominable 3D glasses.
Two weeks ago [read: five months ago] at Creative Music and Art camp, our only boy (hereafter referred to as "Little Josh") had an adorable habit of waterbending in the hallway at Munday. I loved it. I even joined him, and we had epic battles in the lobby. Here's a picture of us, mid-showdown:

I'm not trying to be dramatic.  I just can't get the photo to go up any higher.
I was just about giddy when I first realized what Little Josh was doing. I asked, "Are you waterbending?" And he said, "Yeah, watch this one!" I practically squealed, "I love that show!" Little Josh said, "Me too! And my brother loves it too!" And then he taught me how to waterbend. My good friend and fellow counselor, Jesse, who has yet to see the cartoon, said, "What about... groundbending?" And I said, "Earthbending, Jesse, get it right." (Jesse, this is your second shout-out on this blog, which proves that you are super-cool.) [Jesse, now that five months have passed, have you gotten around to watching this show? You still need to. If anyone makes fun of you, you can blame it on me.]

Not many people will take me seriously when I tell them to watch Avatar, the cartoon that came before (and has absolutely nothing to do with) that James Cameron thing. But, trust me, if you're anything like me, you'll enjoy it. Then again, I am continuously, hopelessly drawn to things made for kids (two of my three favorite movies are Spirited Away and How to Train Your Dragon, after all), so take me as seriously as you want.
When I first dove into Avatar: The Last Airbender, I didn't want to tell my husband, knowing he would make fun of me for watching a kids' show, even if just a little bit. And, once I confessed, he did. Then he started watching it too. The next day, he requested that I not watch any more without him. Victory! We finished the whole series in about three weeks. We both laughed out loud, time and again, and I cried SUCH happy tears at the finale. The first thing I said when it was over was, "This does NOT need to be made into a movie."
But, alas, it had already happened, and we could not undo it. Thankfully, I had read enough to know how low my expectations needed to be in order to not throw popcorn at the screen. Actually, I suggested that we not even see the film, or just wait for Netflix, but my Joshua, who loved Avatar as much as I did, could not resist. So, for the first time in possibly forever, I went to see a movie on its opening day. Ha! Oh me.
Well, it wasn't SO bad that I wanted to leave, but I was tempted to take a bathroom break, which would have broken my usual hold-it-no-matter-what standard. In fact, the last time I left a movie to use the restroom (and buy a soda, and dawdle the whole way back) was when my best friend in ninth grade dragged me to see Love & Basketball.
I shouldn't go on and on about the misery of Shyamalan's The Last Airbender, because you can read about that anywhere. Or you can experience it yourself for $10 a piece on a Thursday night, like we did. [Or, you know, rent it, or something.] But I can't help it. Leaving the theater, Joshua had steam coming out his ears and kept saying, "I knew it would be bad, but I didn't know it would be THAT bad!"
I, on the other hand, couldn't stop laughing.  
I don't know what I thought was so funny. It definitely wasn't Sokka, whose lovable goofballery had been sacrificed for a more serious, "brooding" type.  Just look at Jackson Rathbone over there, pursing his lips. Who is this guy? Come to think of it, the whole thing seemed like it was trying to be the "serious version." Why?
[Hold on while I digress:]
Also, half the characters' names were pronounced wrong.  Maybe this is what cracked me up.  "Ahng? Soak-a? Ee-ro? [Ah-vatar?]" I wheezed. "What was that all about?" Joshua replied, "Maybe they changed his name to Soak-a because he always ends up getting wet," which made me laugh even more, because such moments were actually funny in the cartoon, but SO awkward and unnatural in the movie.  
Speaking of awkward pronunciations, none of the actors seemed convinced that they were saying the names right. I felt like every time the girl who played Katara said "Ahng" instead of good ol' "Aang," a tiny part of her died. I bet she'd been a fan of the cartoon, too. In fact, I think the only thing the new pronunciations gained was an alienation of the original fan base. Everything about these actors seemed shy, really. Shy and ill-fitting. Not including Dev Patel, of course, who pretty much set the bar way over everyone else's heads [dare I add, even over the head of the production itself?]. He was the only character I believed, though they totally dumbed down that wicked scar. Considering how great the other characters were originally, and should have been in the film, this makes me more sad than happy. The really funny part, I suppose, is that the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this could have been done right, but wasn't, and we may never know why.  
Oh.  Money.
On the way home, Joshua and I laughed at the fact that the first thing we wanted to do was go back to the cartoon and watch some of it that night, to get the bad taste out of our mouths. So, we did. And then, while perusing the internet for consolation, I found absolutely the best possible thing to make a sour Avatar fan feel better. 
This quote, and its corresponding video.
"Don't worry, folks, this movie isn't a live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but of the Ember Island Players." 

To quote everyone who commented on this on Youtube, " [o.m.g.] it's like they knew!"
I suppose the effects were decent. Buh.

This is what Little Josh said when I asked him if he was excited about the movie: "Yes! It's going to be awesome!" I asked him why he thought so, and he said, "Because, it'll look real, and everything's better when it's real!" I wonder what he thought of it, in the end?

**Addendum: Little Josh and I also went through earthbending and firebending, that afternoon in Munday Lodge. On of the absolute highlights of my summer at camp was when I asked him, "Oh, can you redirect lightening?" And he said, in 100% seriousness, "No, I haven't learned to do that yet." Seriously. I love kids.


  1. Bryan and I love the Avatar cartoon too (and we're watching through all the studio Ghibli movies! Spirited Away is our favorite so far!) and we hated the Avatar movie. it felt like one giant preview. saddening.

  2. Ha! My fiance and I watch the cartoon as well, and were both horribly disappointed with the movie. One of my biggest pet peeves is mispronunciation (which my fiance does just to screw with me, that rascal...), and I was cringing every time they said Soak-a or Ahng. Ugh.


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