DISCLAIMER: I am not writing this because I don’t like anyone or any group personally. I am simply writing this because I disagree, and frankly this movie deserves it. Feel free to agree/disagree in the comments (and give your comments on the prompt; it’s part of why I’m doing this).
A lot of people hate the characters in the movie solely because all of the characters were entirely different from the series (read: entirely botched up), and while I respect that, I really don’t consider that a very strong argument. After all, re-imagined or re-tooled characters aren’t necessarily a bad thing; new takes on characters can be a fascinating addition to a story and provide a new perspective on the narrative. That said, it doesn’t always work. Imagine if they remake Raiders of the Lost Ark, or ET, or Aliens, or the original Star Wars (it’s in the works, I’m sure), and the movie makers completely change the characters we know and love, to the point that they are practically unrecognizable. That’s what happened here, but there is a lot more to it than just fan service that was dragged through a meat packing assembly line and then through a sewage plant silo. The characters in the movie are the same as in the series only in name, and often not even that. There are two reasons why I despise the characters in the movie: not only because the characters are different from the show, but because the characters they were changed into are just dreadful.
I have a wooden plank in my room. It holds up my mattress and keeps my bed together. That plank has more personality than the movie’s take on Aang. Aang has NO personality; not at all. This is partially because Noah Ringer’s performance is stale and lifeless, but also because he’s not written as a compelling character. He doesn’t try to deal with his depression, things just happen to him and he doesn’t seem to care, and his struggles with his dark past are phoned in and arbitrary (Oh, noes! He can’t focus because he’s lost his family and his way of life. That is so sad. Boo-hoo. In fact, it’s so sad, it happens to him a whole three times and is barely talked about throughout the movie). Just look at the series’s Aang; he’s bursting with personality; fun and fun-loving, mischievous, energetic, outgoing, and that makes him a deep, 3-dimensional character. See, he’s not goofing around and cracking jokes just because he’s a twelve-year-old kid (Although I have been recently informed that 12-year-old boys can be classified as “squirrely”), but because it’s his way of overcoming the tragedy of waking up a hundred years after his people were purged from the Earth. And when he lapses, when he can’t crack a joke to make everything better, it’s that much more emotional and powerful to see him submit to his darker feelings. He was complicated. Flawed. Hell, he even had an arc. Multiple arcs. What does the movie’s Aang do? “I’m sad. ......... And that’s it. Give me your empathy. RELATE TO ME, BITCHES!” Now, there’s something to be said for complexity through simplicity. After all, 2010’s True Grit was comprised mostly of characters that were complex through their simplicity. But there’s a point where your characters stop being compelling and become bland, like what happened to Aang. All the emotion I could muster for this character was apathy.
Katara fans should especially be ticked. They took a strong, confident female lead and turned her into a pretentious, incompetent, male dependent waste of space! It pains me to say this, but it’s true. She shows ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST OR INITIATIVE to master waterbending. She doesn’t even seem to care that much that she even is a bender. So why does she want to go to the North Pole at all? She doesn’t. Not at all. She just wants to tag along with Aang wherever he may go, like a puppy on a leash, and if that means uprooting herself and her family to travel with some bald wind-hippie (I just snickered a little bit) that she shared ONE scene with, well whoop-dee-DOO!! But a bigger problem that expounds on how weak her new character is is that she’s not very competent. The first time they get captured is entirely her fault (or maybe Aang’s too, because we saw him fend off several soldiers single handedly), and she hardly does any fighting. Her fight with Zuko is just embarrassing (Thirty seconds? Really?). Here’s the entirety of the fight:
Zuko shoots a fireball, and Katara blocks it.
Zuko shoots another fireball, and Katara blocks it again.
But this time, clever Zuko shoots two fireballs at the same time and Katara is easily defeated. And feminism marches on...
Seriously, she remains fixated on the first one even though she clearly saw the second one and lets it knock her out, acting like the brightly lit, slow moving fireball that she saw him shoot at her was a complete surprise.
Katara, honey, YOU’RE NOT VERY GOOD AT THIS!!!
Sokka is just a waste. Plain and simple. He doesn’t have an arc, he has no personality, and his two character traits are his boomerang and Princess Yue. Remember when he was fun? Remember when he had more personality than a bowl of milk? How he was complex by using sarcasm to cope with the fact that he was constantly out of his comfort zone? How he tired to be a leader, to give himself a sense of control in a world that was out of his control? When he was funny, when he used to have a point in the series? Ask yourself, in the entire movie, what does Sokka do that’s useful or propels the story forward? I honestly can’t think of anything other than when he first broke the ice above Aang’s ice globe. Waste.
Zhao and the fire lord aren’t much better off. Zhao is just there to be a foil (almost a comedic foil) for Aang and Zuko. That’s it. He doesn’t want honor or power for himself, like in the show. Needless to say, his motivations are very confusing. The fire lord is a bit better, but not by much. He seems to be kind of sympathetic to his son’s plight, and that gives him a little depth. Beyond that, though, he’s just no good. Why? He’s BORING! All we ever see him do is walk around and talk. He doesn’t even seem invested in the war, or interested by the fire nation’s progress. He’s like on the level of Jonah Hex’s villian, Quentin Turnbull. His voice never breaks an octave, he doesn’t have any facial expressions other than blank (I’ll give him credit: his face almost looks stern once), and it just seems like they could have done so much more with their respective roles.
The only few characters in the movie that are close (well, closest) to resembling their television counterparts are Zuko, Iroh, and Yue. Mind you, these characters weren’t changed around as much as watered down (drastically so), so some basic character traits are intact, if barely. Zuko is obsessed with capturing the Avatar and restoring his honor. One point to the film. It’s not done nearly as well in the movie as in the show (I’ll get to that next time), but at least his motivation is the same. And the filmmakers seemed to take some effort into having Zuko reflect the tragic nature of his character. ... well, maybe it’s just thrown in there, but at least it’s there. Kind of. A little. When he’s not having a snitty fit (which is most of the time). Anyway, Iroh also comes pretty close (no, not really, just kind of close) to reflecting his “wise, concerned uncle” character. He doesn’t have much opportunity to do so because moments like that are few and fleeting, but they’re in there... barely. Last is Yue, and only because of her “tragic self-sacrifice”. Again, the way the show portrays it is infinitely better (i.e. it’s actually worth something and actually evokes a few emotions), but at least it’s present. And that’s good, because none of her other character traits are. She feels no obligation to her people or her culture to marry against her will, she feels no guilt in being around Sokka because she doesn’t have to marry Han, and the whole forbidden love point is omitted entirely because Han’s not in the movie, which is a shame because that’s one of the better “forbidden love” plotlines done in recent memory (I’m looking at you, Twilight). Again, the most credit that I can give is that it’s there, because it’s really not done well. She’s not much of a character until her last few minutes onscreen, and until then she’s just there for Sokka to awkwardly hit on. And because she’s a such flat character up until then, her sacrifice loses almost all of its punch. But at least it’s there.
And then you’ve got Azula.
Oh. My. Gammit. I have never seen anything like it. In merely two shots (TWO FARGEN SHOTS!!!) lasting less than ten seconds combined, her character was completely... BUBAR. (botched-up-beyond-all-recognition). All of her threatening demeanor, her menacing presence, gone in an instant. She wasn’t in the first series much (also two shots, neither of which were very long at all), but the difference between them is night and day. How can the giggling, twitchy, hey-look-at-me-I’m-doing-a-crappy-Heath-Ledger-impersonation of the movie possibly compare to the cold, calculating, T-1000-esque demeanor of the show? About as well as Michael Keaton vs. George Clooney when comparing Batmen (Batmans?). In the flashback where Zuko has to fight his father, she looks bloodthirsty, like she’s made the winning chess move, like she’s anxious to see her brother become agonizingly destroyed by his own father. In the movie, she laughs like someone made a fart joke. Night and Day.
Some of you might be crying “Oh, stop being such a nitpicker”, but I believe that a well written character with an equally well delivered performance has a certain resonance to it, a kind of power that cannot easily be explained that can make a movie/show that much better with its inclusion or that much worse with its absence.
Some of you might also be crying “Oooh, I thought you didn’t just hate the characters because they were different”, and you can hush up, now. I don’t like what the writers (writer) turned Azula into. Regardless of her infinitely better cartoon counterpart, this new Azula is just lame. Even if her character in the show wasn’t as impressive, the new Azula is still just as lame. She’s not engaging or interesting, and when the show was able to make her so with only a few seconds to work with, there is little sense in comparing either of them.
Well, that’s that. Not much more to talk about why the new characters suck so bad. So, what do you think? Was I spot on? Was I completely wrong and am a total butt wad for doing it? (hint: yes, no, and no). Who are your favorite characters? Who are your least? Are you a Katara fan? (if so, my condolences) Engage!
Last edited by The Blue Cinic
on Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.