I guess the best way to describe what I feel about TLA is... underwhelmed. I had been looking forward to it for so long and so excited to see it come the midnight showing that the lackluster elements that accumulated during the film just kinda watered down my enthusiasm. Its a bummer and a real shame because from all the previews, interviews, footage and everything leading up to the movie, it had so much potential to be really, really awesome. And I think it could've been. Something just went wrong in the execution.
That being said... I can't lie, I did like the movie. On the whole it's not very good, objectively and subjectively alike, but individual bits and pieces made me happy. So I can't say the night and the seven dollars for a ticket was a complete waste. It's just that, while I liked the movie, I really wanted to love it. I really wanted to squee and flail with all my fellow fans afterwards. I really wanted to be cheering my head off at the fist-pumping awesomeness, because that's how the show made me feel and that's what I expected from the pre-movie promotion. I just didn't enjoy the film like I was expecting to. I actually enjoyed Eclipse a lot better when I went to it's midnight showing Tuesday night. So in that regard, it is kind of a letdown.
I'm not going to say it's awful. I have honestly seen WAY worse movies in my time. But I also won't deny that the bad parts soured the whole and dragged the good parts down a few notches. So, for me at least, it's a mixed bag.
Clumsy. Not very strong. Dialogue is, like many others have said, pretty awkward at times. Cheesy occasionally (though I didn't really mind that) and in some cases repetitive. (Zhao talked about the scroll he'd stolen from the library WAY too often for my taste.) I didn't think it was terrible or piss-poor awful but I'm gonna go with my sister here and says it was "juvenille". M. Night was really out of his element scripting for this film and it shows.
I wasn't bothered by the pronounciation changes since I knew they were coming but it wasn't a big hit with my fellow Avatar friends and the others in the theater. I can understand and sympathize.
Story and Plot--
Mediocre. Never really felt it much. I actually didn't mind the changes and reordering of plot points from what I read of the novelization and manga. All the treatments and script excerpts I'd seen had done a fairly decent job of telling the story. It was different from the source material, obviously, but the treaments seemed like an okay adaptaion of Season One.
The problem is that the movie didn't stick to those treatments. The manga and novelization of the movie actually did a better job of telling the story than the movie itself did, an issue which I think I will have to blame on my next point of contention.
Ultimately I think this is the film's biggest weakness. I dearly hope there's going to be a director's cut because that's the only way I can explain why the editor did such a hackneyed job. Sometimes it felt like you were speeding through and hitting a series of high points in a rapid-shot sequence, sometimes it felt like it dragged on and lingered too long on certain scenes. It's obvious that huge chunks of the story were cut out, needlessly, and when there was space for them. It's like the editor was either lazy (potentially due to having to par the film down so there was less to 3D-convert, yes I do think that played at least one factor), incompetent, or REALLY had it in for M. Night.
Again, the novelization, the Zuko book special, and the amerimanga did an okay job telling the story, explaining things, and developing characters. I dunno, I think I got really attached to the way they handled it, so whenever the editor chopped a bit of them out it just didn't feel right. And the trailers and TV spots definitely had a bunch of great footage and nice character moments that were awesome and made the movie feel like Avatar and they chopped those bits out too. I uh... I didn't expect to be spoiled to hell and back for the movie from the promotions and tie-ins only to find out those bits were all on the cutting room floor.
I'm not going to blame the poor editing on Night. I think he was burned out and tunnel-visioned by that point. I'll nag at him for the bad writing but I think even that could've been made a little more tolerable/pardonable by better editing.
Basically, I just REALLY miss the Sokka woohoo-ing, opening lantern shot with Sokka and Katara, Kyoshi warriors, and various Kataang moments like the hugging and talking Aang down out of the Avatar State that I was promised.
By the film's advertising.
It might be just me but every time the film did a different take from the trailers/TV spots (saying a line differently, cutting a line, cutting the last half of full scenes, staging the scenes differently), it irked me.
There's not denying it; the film was gorgeous. Beautifully shot, lovely scenery. Amazing set direction. Very pretty film.
Again, gorgeous, lovely, no complaints.
James Newton Howard can do no wrong. His score is epic and awesome and I'm still buying it.
ILM is once again, very awesome. I loved the bending. Water was awesome, fire was awesome, air was awesome, earth was... underutlilzed but awesome. Background and scenery done in CGI were lovely and felt real.
Not gonna be ashamed to say it, I thought the whole cast-with one glaring exception, Zhao, which I'll get to later-did a great job, especially with what they were given.
Noah Ringer was Aang. Peroid. He was the best thing about the movie for me. His flashbacks with the Air Nomads were freaking adorable, he emoted well, he was kickbutt. He just rocked. Nicola and Jackson were good, quarrelsome and siblingy. Jackson's Sokka was funny. Shaun Toub and Dev Patel were good. Cliff Curtis was good, and I just ADORED his awesome deep voice. Sechyelle was suprisingly touching. And heck, she had one line and fifteen seconds but Azula was CREEPY AS HELL. Quite a feat to impress in fifteen seconds.
The only one who didn't really act well, in my opinion, was Zhao. Sometimes I could see it but sometimes, eh... I just wasn't feeling it.
Great. Exciting. Well-staged, although I did get tired of how there seemed to be so much more movement to bending. Needed more bending, less hand-waving.
Opening and beginning, up until the FN arrived at the village.
The whole Sourthern Air Temple scene where Aang finds out he's alone was very good. (Needlessly truncated at the end but still good.)
I actually loved the montage of the Gaang liberating EK villages.
Blue Spirit+Aang sequence. YES.
Zhao humiliating Zuko in front of his troops at dinner.
Iroh and Zuko in the Fire Nation colony, with the cute Fire Nation girls getting rock candy treats.
All Sokka's funny bits.
Every time Aang and Katara practiced their bending together.
All the Air Nomad flashbacks.
In conclusion, it was a disappointment but I can't say I hated it completely or that I didn't enjoy it on some level. I'm going to relegate it to my "Gulity Pleasures" list, but I don't plan on seeing it again. I would recommend buying the tie-in materials instead of going to see the actual film.
It's a bummer, but it's not like it's the end of the world. I feel kind of sad, but I'm not going to rage about it. I'm just going to take a deep breath, step away, and move on.