(Sorry about the different fronts, blogspot is acting weird on me today :S Please ignore that! )
A few days back, I went to see Avatar the Last Airbender. I’ve been a big fan of the nickelodeon show ever since it first aired and I was really excited. Unfortunately the movie was disappointing—for several reasons.
Don’t worry I won’t spend the entire post whining everything I think is wrong about the movie, but I will list some of the things that irritated me and give you some advice on how to avoid them in your writing.
(There are some very minor spoilers ahead. If you don’t know the series and haven’t watched the movie yet, you might want to wait until after you’ve saw it!)
1. 1. Characters make the story.
One of the reasons why the movie was nothing like the series was because the whole light tone, the humor of the series, was nowhere to be found. I’m really wondering if the makers of the movie actually saw the original series. Of course they would change several aspects of the story to make it fit the movie—but to change entire characters?
Anyway, Sokka was all serious and was portrayed as this warrior, while in the series he’s silly and clumsy and the comical relief. If something gets too serious, Sokka will be there to do something funny, often at his own expense.
Aang was also this serious avatar, while in the series he’s just this cheerful child. And because he’s portrayed as a kid, just like the kids watching the show, it makes the burden of being the avatar and the things he has to go through even worse. All this was missing and it changed the story.
What I’m trying to say is that your characters are the most important thing in your story. If you take two identical story lines and change the main character from serious to cynical or funny you’ll have three completely different stories.
So try to find out as many character traits as you can about your characters. Do they fit with the way they act? Is there someone for comical relief? Does the story need that? Try to figure out of the characters serve the story or if they slow it down and ruin it a bit.
2. 2. Bad lines = bad acting.
I’m sure that the actors did their very best, but to be honest I thought their acting pretty much sucked most of the time. In my opinion that’s mostly because the lines just weren’t right. Writing a script is different than writing a book. Some lines that work on paper just don’t work when said out loud. Most lines and often reactions of the characters were just too unnatural in the movie.
This in turn made the actors say the lines without much emotion. They sounded empty and really, really played. More like you were watching a play than a movie. And movies should make you feel, if just for a moment, that what you’re watching is real.
In novels you can get away with a lot, but try to make the lines your characters say as realistic as possible. Try to say it out loud and see if it works or not. The reactions of characters are also very important.
It might serve you as a writer to have the main character immediately accept something terrible about her boyfriend, but it doesn’t mean that it’s realistic and your readers won’t believe it. Or won’t understand your main character (which is bad).
If your characters don’t act like most real people would, it’s hard to see them as “real” people.
3. 3. Show don’t tell.
I’m planning to do a more elaborate post about this, but for now I’ll tell you in short what I mean. One thing that bugged me (yes I’m really hating on this movie right now, sorry! I actually didn’t mind seeing it, but it could have been sooo much more better) was that they told you so many things about the story instead of showing. One part that comes to mind is when they went to the North Pole and met the princess. You heard Katara’s voice saying something like “Sokka and the princess became friends right away”. This probably had to explain to us why they were suddenly in love. Never tell like this! Show us that they are in love. In fact they did show in the movie. Telling it as well was really unnecessary and kind of ruined the moment.
You had “the look” between Yue and Sokka. Then you saw them together a lot. Sokka even wanted to be Yue’s bodyguard. We get it! We understand that they like each other (or at least that Sokka likes here, there would have been a slight suspension to see if Yue liked him too, if they hadn’t told us already).
I’ll tell more about showing and telling in another post!
4. 4. A story needs suspense.
And this movie had none what so ever. Which made it kind of boring to watch. I still liked watching because I’m a fan of the series, but if you don’t know it, then I wouldn’t be surprised if you fell asleep…
There was no suspension at all! The only real bad guy was commander Zhao and we never saw him do something more evil than taunting Zuko. (and that with the moon spirit but that was only at the end of the movie) We just had to accept that he was the bad guy. There was no suspense there.
Then you had Zuko, but the biggest threat about him is that he’s so strong headed that he’ll never give up on capturing the Avatar. And most of his evil-ness is taking away when we see him as the blue spirit.
The last thing that could have given the story a bit of suspense and danger was the battles. But again—disappointing. The bending was way too slow for it to be really dangerous. You saw an attack coming hours before it would hit. There was no danger. Plus it was more like a dance off with all those moves they had to do before the actual bending even begun.
In your story, suspense is one of the most important things. You need to keep secrets from your readers, you need to make it dangerous for your character. Make sure the stakes are high. Make your readers care about them, make them want to know for sure that your main character will be alright. Make them need to read on, because they want to find what happens next.
If you don’t you risk them putting your book away!
Well that was what I thought about Avatar the Last Airbender. There were also some small mistakes like using extra’s twice in a scene, looking the exact same like they did the first time, while in the story days have passed. And I couldn’t stand how they kept mispronouncing names of people and things, while they have the example of the series and how they pronounce it there.
The only good thing about the story was that though the bending wasn’t fast, it was pretty to watch. Plus the costumes and the sets were amazing, really breathtaking at times. Those guys really did their job well. The entire mood of the movie was well done and I really enjoyed watching that.
If you saw the movie, tell me what you think. Did you enjoy it? Perhaps I’m just way to analyzing whenever I watch a movie and none of this bothered you at all :-)
I hope this helped you with your stories a bit! Please comment and tell me what you think! Should I do more posts like this from time to time when I’ve watched a movie?
Oh one more thing! If you guys saw the movie what did you think of Iroh? He was nothing like the original, but I thought he was pretty cool!