A Letter to M. Night Shyamalan

*be warned, this letter will have plot spoilers to the movie “The Last Airbender”.  Skip if you don’t want to learn about the movie.  You have been warned.*

Dear Mr. Shyamalan,

Today, the husband and I took our four children to see your version of Avatar: The Last Airbender.  The kids were especially excited to see this movie, as they are huge fans of the tv show.  Even us parents couldn’t wait to see it.

Now, usually we wait for movies to go to the little local theater that shows one movie a week for $3 per person, as taking a family of six to the movies can get quite expensive.  But seeing The Last Airbender was such a big deal for us, that we parents chose to pony up the cash to see it in 3-D.  It was going to be a special treat for our kids.

Instead, it was a big huge disappointment.  To quote my fourteen-year-old – “They butchered it.”

I assumed you never actually watched the tv series.  To my shock, I read on Wikipedia that indeed, you have watched the series.  Which makes me have to ask the first question – Why were half the names pronounced differently?  Aang, Sokka, Avatar, Iroh – all mispronounced.  It was the first thing my nine-year-old daughter stated after the movie was over – “They didn’t even say Aang’s name right!” 

Next, let’s discuss the storyline.  If one wasn’t familiar with the tv series, the movie made absolutely no sense.  It skipped about here and there, sort of touching on this and that, but never coherently coming together.  We had a few moments of “Aang didn’t do that.” and “That’s not how it went in the tv series.”  What can I say?  We’re sticklers for consistency.  Though really, in the scene with Aang rallying the Earthbenders…you had them in a camp and not a boat?  Surrounded by dirt?  Really?  That made zero sense in the movie. 

All the bending?  Now that could have been cool.  Instead, there seemed to be lots of build-up to produce not that much.  In the tv show, they move their hand and boom – bending.  In the movie, three minutes of tai chi to produce a ball of water.  I will give the actors credit – their movements were very well done.  But it was overdone for minor results.

Mind you, we might have forgiven the lousy script and weird bending moves if the characters were at least portrayed correctly.  But even that you got all kinds of wrong.  Zuko’s scar was barely noticable.  In the tv series, his scar is that visible reminder to him and all who sees him of how he lost his honor, why he’s the bitter boy hunting the Avatar.  In the movie, it was almost nothing.  Katara was not the strong yet nurturing girl.  Iroh and the Fire Lord didn’t look anything like their animated counterparts.  Momo is an afterthought.  But most disappointing to my children was the character of Sokka.  They love Sokka and his crazy ways.  The one thing my oldest kept saying during the previews for the movie was “I hope they get Sokka’s sense of humor right.”  Not only didn’t you get it right, you didn’t get it at all.  It wasn’t there.  It didn’t exist.  There was no humor in this film at all.

At the end of the day, we found the movie The Last Airbender to be a slightly depressing, disjointed disappointment that wasn’t even really 3-D.  My children spent the next two hours afterwards talking about all that was wrong with it. It’s not like my children are Siskel and Ebert.  They usually enjoy movies.  But this one will stick with them forever as being their first big movie disappointment.  I can’t blame them. I can’t remember the last time I wished for my money back after watching a movie. 

We are going to give you a second chance and hope you get Book Two right.  My children have all offered their services if you need help with the script or directing.  But we decided already to save our money and not see another 3-D version.  We may just rent it.  Meanwhile, we shall still love the tv series.  That at least is fun to watch.