Saturday, July 24, 2010

Is The Last Airbender worse than Dragonball Evolution? That’s a good question, and one that has been actually raised due to the epic fail that The Last Airbender turned out to be. DBE is pathetically rated at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s pretty terrible. But The Last Airbender even managed to do worse with 8%.

But not everyone agrees with critics and Avatar probably has a younger fan base, which might be harder to please and might not grasp important things like direction or cinematography. So is it really as bad as DBE?

First off, I’m gonna start by saying that I’m one of Dragonball Z’s biggest fans ever. I was into fanfiction, had my computer filled with fanart, and watched it every time it was on tv. I even watched it when it showed throughout the week on Toonami and then on Saturday when they showed every episode that they just played during the week. I was into it!

When I heard some of the changes being done to the movie, I was appalled. First of all, if it’s “Dragonball” and not “Dragonball Z” then it should have been about kid Goku, not high school Goku (especially since he’s as dumb as a rock except when it comes to fighting). Bulma didn’t have blue hair, Master Roshi wasn’t really old, and Chi-Chi wasn’t really herself at all. So the more I heard, the angrier I got.

Then it occurred to me that DBZ is a crazy show. There’s no way that terrifying monsters that turn people into food or talking animals that can drive and pay mortgages on their houses would translate well into film. There’s just too much crazy stuff to make it completely accurate. So while I don’t understand why Bulma couldn’t have a blue wig, I decided to reserve judgement and go see the film for myself.

I was disappointed with the film, but I sort of liked it. It’s not a strong “like”. It’s a “shrug my shoulders, I didn’t want to kill myself and I might actually watch this again if I’m bored” sort of like. It was a bad film though.

Since DB/DBZ/DBGT was over, there was a hole in my heart. Presently, I’m lacking in really good animes. Death Note and Full Metal Alchemist was awesome, but nothing quite felt like DBZ to me. A good show that filled that gap was easily Avatar: The Last Airbender.

I was ecstatic when I heard they were doing a live action film for that show. My younger sister Tina put it in the calender in her phone so the alarm would go off the announced date of the movie. I was still pumped when I heard M. Night Shyamalan was doing it, because I like his movies. When I saw The Happening, I became very leery of him and began to lose faith.

Then I heard a bunch of crazy changes and I got angry, just like I did with DBE. When I heard some of the casting, I was upset. I’m not one of those “they should be Asian!” screamers, but I at least want the actors to look like the characters. Heck! Zuko’s scar is barely visible. It looks like he got smacked in the face, not burned. I remember staring at my computer screen and chatting with my friend on facebook saying “Why aren’t Sokka’s and Katara’s coats blue?” I was really upset!

Then I saw some trailers and I began to get excited for the film again. After all, it’s an easy film to make. The source material is awesome. It’s difficult to decide what to take out and what to keep, but the story is fantastic. The characters have such great chemistry with each other. The humor is amazing. And even though it’s a kid’s cartoon, the show has such serious content that it’s easily expanded it’s demographic.

So I saw the film opening day with an open mind. When I heard the first name mispronunciation, I think I twitched, but I told myself to go on. Then it happened again, and again and I forced myself to ignore it. But then there were so many other mistakes that just didn’t make sense for the sake of the plot. I tried to get over that too, but then the acting was bad and the characters were butchered. How can Asian Americans forgive the act of “race bending” when everyone was so bad? No one can believe the lie of “the best person got the job”. Crap!

So I left the theater angry. My youngest sister exploded as soon as the credits started rolling.

But the question still remains of which movie is better.

I have to sadly say that DBE is the better film. The reason is this, and this alone: The Last Airbender failed miserably on characterization. I can understand changing stories. I can understand taking out scenes or adding scenes or the director making his own race his favorite nation. I can’t understand, but I can forgive the name changes. What I can’t forgive is that the total lack of character. Aang–the fun, loving, goof ball might as well have put on black clothes and makeup because he was Emo. But he wasn’t a “dress Emo because I think it’s cool and it’s how I am” Emo. He was slitting his wrists material. All he needed was some sarcastic and demented remarks. Sokka–the joker–was completely humorless and didn’t have much of a part. Even his tragic love scene barely survived the editing room. Katara wasn’t motherly. Zhao was a punk, instead of the formidable, angry, and arrogant foe. The Fire Lord didn’t even seem like that bad of a guy!

Dragonball Evolution might have been rushed, the fighting might not have been up to par with the show, and the story might have been over all stupid, and fans might have had a lot of “what the heck!” moments, but AT LEAST the spirit of the characters were there. At least they had little moments to appease some people. Goku tried to gel his hair and his spikes wouldn’t allow it. Goku ate a giant piece of chicken and I could go “Oh! That’s Goku!” At least the guy playing Yamcha did his best and actually sounded like him.

I wish Sokka would have said a joke. I wish they would have ruined a cabbage man’s cart. I wish Aang would have hinted that he liked Katara. I wish. I wish. I wish!

But it didn’t happen.

DBE changed WAY more than TLAB, but the problem was that M. Night tried to fix something that wasn’t broken. As a matter of fact, it was perfect. I literally thought there was no way he could ruin this film. A DBZ movie should only be made if you want to see cool fighting. Some of the character’s stories are great (Prince Vegeta), but the show itself is nowhere as good as Avatar.

Sure Airbender had good special effects, but M. Night missed the mark. He must not have realized that he was making a movie based off of a beloved children’s cartoon. He somehow took all the fun out of the story and the characters while also making it cheesier. Congratulations for that, because that seems very hard to me to pull off. It couldn’t have been an accident. That must have taken a lot of effort!

The Last Airbender’s story was better, but that’s a reflection of the cartoon and had nothing to do with M. Night. This was probably his worst directed film. The acting was terrible, the shots were weird sometimes, and there was no character development. The special effects were very cool, but it took too long to bend anything.

I really would like them both to reboot. I’d take the chance, because I did love the shows.


  1. I agree with you on the Dragonball movie. I haven't seen the The Last Airbender though.