I didn't know anything about the Nickelodeon animated TV series before seeing this movie. I had a friend who was a fan. I had seen a really good trailer or 2 for this movie and it looked cool. It was directed by M. Night Shyamalan which piqued my interest. M. Night has had a spotty track record. I loved The Sixth Sense, Signs and Unbreakable. I absolutely hated The Village & Lady in the Water and have yet to see The Happening. Thankfully there is no twist ending in this movie. I also believed that he would try to stay true to the story. In short, this movie is a big fat disappointment for me and filled with wasted opportunities.
I actually was hooked in the beginning of the flick. There is a mythology that is interesting and there are some pretty spectacular special effects not too far into the film. As the movie went on, it just got bad. The writing in the film just keeps hitting you over the head and I felt like many of the characters kept saying the same thing over and over again. There is far too much voiceover in this movie too. Many times, the voiceover talks about what I thought would be cool stuff to see. Perhaps there is just too much information to get across in one film, not sure. All I know is that when a movie starts telling me stuff and not showing me, that's never adding to my level of enjoyment.
The movie has a really dark tone. Not really one moment where I felt the mood lightened and I was feeling a sense of wonder. Which is odd, because the subject matter lends itself to that. Overall, it just feels like it is taking itself so serious and important. That lessened my enjoyment. I mean even The Dark Knight which was ultra-violent and ultra-serious at times, made me chuckle a few times.
The acting feels very robotic and at times just awful. I suspect that had a lot to do with the writing, but there are only a few bright spots. Anytime that Dev Patel (Prince Zuko) and Shaun Toub (Uncle Iroh) are on screen together, I felt a connection. They have a real father-son type bond.
The movie isn't a complete waste of time. There are some spectacular effects - especially the water bending effects. The pacing seems good, except for all the voiceovers which drag it down. Appa - Aang's pet or buddy, whatever you want to call him - looked very cool too.
After the movie - my friend Mike had me watch 2 episodes of the series. The tone is completely different. It has a fun and coming of age, exploring your powers kind of tone. Downright hilarious. Strong mythology and can get tense at times (granted I've seen 2 episodes), but overall whimsical really. This movie totally doesn't give you the same feeling. I would watch the series again, but probably not the movie.
Overall, a really big disappointment of a movie which seems to have a very rich mythology to pull from for a film franchise. Too bad. It's not an unwatchable bad movie. I was entertained. There are some cool moments to watch, but overall, it's just OK. I want to add that I saw this movie in 3D, which I generally enjoy, and this movie has horrible 3D. It's like a hatchet job in my opinion. It gives the technology a bad name. Don't waste your money - the glasses don't do anything to improve the movie.
Thanks for reading, I hope to post more reviews soon. I haven't seen as many movies this summer as I normally do, but I have seen a few.