You know, I was thinking about Avatar: The Last Airbender and how the terrible M. Night Shyamalan movie nearly destroyed it all. It was the biggest cinematic-adaptation flop since…well, since Eragon. God, remember that catastrophe? I certainly do. Which brings up the question: Which one was worse?
And not just a terrible movie, but a terrible film overall – an affront to our favorite series and our senses. It’s not going to be easy but someone’s gotta do it. So let’s compare: The Last Airbender v. Eragon.
Let’s start with the travesty that is Last Airbender, a movie so poorly made, they couldn’t even pronouce the names of the characters correctly. Shyamalan apparently got the idea to make the movie after his daughter pleaded him to, and I bet she regrets that decision now. After having gotten the rights to the show, one he probably never even sat through the entire way, he ripped it to shreds. Aang is no longer a fun-loving kid but a mini adult, Katara is an idiot, Sokka is super serious and overall unpleasantly creepy, and Zuko’s…boring. Like, really boring.
The movie follows a very loose outline of Book One: Water, starting with the discovery of Aang and ending with the defeat of the fire nation in the Southern Water Tribes. But that was a whole season compressed into a two hour movie and it shows. It’s filled with poorly placed exposition to the point where more is actually being said than shown. The actors…oh good god. It’s not even a contest for last place, they were all awful.
I refuse to talk about the utter race fail controversy, if only because everyone else has talked about it to death before and after the film’s release, and I’m middle of the way. I do very heavily support the appropriate race playing race roles but I am also willing to give anyone and everyone a chance when it comes to color-blind casting. But I will say Dante Basco would have been freaking perfect as Zuko, he even wanted to play him – it was such a clear choice! They got Slumdog Millionaire to play the role, and he is a fine actor, but he’s not Zuko! At least it wasn’t Jesse McCartney, who was originally promised the role but couldn’t commit..
The fight choreography is not only poor, but also nonsensical. Even though there was a huge bootcamp for these actors, there’s no flow in the set up of the action, the moves can look sloppy and its so uncreative and dry. Say what you will about Sucker Punch, but that movie knew how do to fight choreography. And the bending seemed off and disproportionate to the actions done. It takes one guy to make an earth wall, but like 6 to make a torso sized ball? And their movements look completely weird – that’s not any martial arts I’ve ever seen…
This is one Hell of an ugly movie. It looks like they spent all their money in the wrong places, i.e. the somewhat decent CGI. The backgrounds and outdoor sets look terrible. This is a multi-million dollar movie, yet I have seen episodes of Supernatural in its first season that have better set design than this movie. That. Should. Not. Happen.
Shyamalan should not be trusted with a camera again. How this movie was released to the public is an astonishing miracle, let alone making over $300 million dollars. And I don’t want to know how he managed to convince them to let him release this. I want to believe that somewhere out there, some production company is telling him to shove off OHWAIT Columbia Pictures is releasing his newest project, After Earth, in 2013, starring Will and Jaden Smith June 2013. Humanity is dead to me now.
The other film is Eragon. In 2006, a movie was released based off the popular fantasy series by Christopher Paolini, and was coming off the heels of the Harry Potter series’ popularity What fans were instead treated to was a mishmoshed version of the several hundred page book they loved, which changed characters willynilly to fit the classic movie stereotypes. And when you’re 13 and dying to see your favorite epic dragon come to life, anything less than accurate to the book is going to disappoint you.
The story follows Eragon, a young boy living in a made-up kingdom, ruled by an evil king (of course). An elf princess Arya has stolen a precious dragon egg and sent it off to protect it from being put in the wrong hands again. Eragon and the egg form a bond and little baby Saphira pops out. And then it’s training montages, escaping dungeons and getting into walled city, the usual fantasy scenario. Hey, I said it was epic, not original.
The biggest problem was the stupid romance going on between Eragon and Arya. What in the flying Hell was that?? She’s a centuries-old elf princess, and he’s a 17 year old boy. They are two very different planes of their lives. Hell, they’re not even the same species! And to top it off, the BOOK ITSELF STATES that while Eragon is infatuated with Arya, she does not return his feelings. But Lord forbid a little something like the source material keep Hollywood producers from introducing romance. You think you guys have it bad with forced love triangles? This was all the way back in the day when ‘love interest’ was the only real role for a lady in an adaptation.
If there’s one thing this movie does get points for is cinematography. This is a Van Gogh compared to Airbender’s 3 year old coloring book. The landscapes are sweeping and gorgeous, the effects are well designed and elegant, and the CGI is pretty standard for the time.
BUT despite this pleasing aesthetic, nothing in the movie looked like it was supposed to. Unlike Last Airbender, which had the decency to at least copy the costuming and hair styles and general look of the show, the designers of this movie decided they would do as they damn well please, screw the book and its fans in favor of their own preferences. Saphira, the dragon, the most central part of the dragon-fantasy, is all wrong. Her wings shouldn’t be feathers, her color is a touch off, her scales are wrong – it’s a CGI dragon, it’s not like you had to build it by hand, it could have been exactly as described!
Arya looks all wrong too (and it could have been fixed with some hair dye and heels!), the urgals are way less epic and terrifying, Brom is nothing like described in the book…do you see a trend here? No one look like they are supposed except Eragon himself. And I mean, come one, Jeremy Irons? John Malkovich? Could we not find anyone blander to star in this thing? Who cast these people? The acting itself is…okay. I mean nothing that can compete with the Last Airbender’s style of stupidity, but it’s not exactly Shakespeare either.
In the end, whose worse? I got to give it to Last Airbender. Don’t get me wrong – Eragon is a terrible, terrible adaptation, but it’s not that bad of a movie. Last Airbender fails as both, despite being a highly beloved series and getting all the plot and aesthetic points correct. How this even made it to screen, let alone got a DVD release, I’ll never know. Or why there aren’t public burnings of it.