So! After posting Rant Three, I got busy and sick and then sick-and-busy, and not only completely failed to finish and post this, but managed to forget I’d neglected to do so. I blame that on PID and NaNoWriMo. But better late than never, right? CJ wisely commented on Rant Three demanding to know where this post was and that made me remember I’d never actually put it up. Oops. Thanks, CJ!
Onward! Remember, I’m using sarcastic names to refer to most of the characters from the movie, to distinguish them from the characters in the series. :D
A cardinal sin for an action/fantasy film is to be boring and senseless, and Failbender managed to do that. I’m talking overall, not during the intermittent bits of excitement or the occasional scene where it looked like maybe it was going to stop sucking and get good (spoiler alert: it doesn’t). I can handle a movie being a little boring or not making much sense (I mean, I love BBC docudramas and I love dumb action flicks). But you can’t be both at once.
The biggest way it bored the crap out of me was in completely failing to follow that old adage: SHOW, DON’T TELL. I felt like I was reading a series of five-paragraph essays. We’d get told what was going to happen, it would happen, and then we’d be told what happened. Characters would do stuff — sometimes off screen! — and then tell other characters what they’d done, yanno, in case the audience wasn’t paying attention or had to go pee or something. We’d get badly-combined expository voiceovers and flashbacks where we’d see the boring stuff and be told the interesting stuff. WTF?!
Consider Zuko’s fight with his father, which leaves him horribly scarred. In the series, it’s a moving scene and helps us understand why he is the way he is. When the film set up a scene where Muko was obviously going to talk about it and started a flashback, I perked up. This is a great, emotionally powerful scene in the series, surely Twistalan wouldn’t, couldn’t fuck this up! Right? Right?
Wrong. Never underestimate the Twistalan Touch (yanno, like the Midas Touch, but it turns everything to shit). In the flashback, we only see glimpses of what happened but not of the actual duel, and everything is voiceover. And remember how shitty the script is — it’s not even good voiceover. GAH. There’s no clear explanation of why it’s such a big deal that his own father forced him into a duel in spite of being under age, and the cutting and voiceover are so badly done that it’s impossible to get caught up in this pivotal point for the character.
The Tell-Don’t-Show approach makes the film dull and the pacing uneven. On top of that, the script’s incoherence manages to make everything feel arbitrary. Rather than a coherent story with overall themes and arcs like the series (which ran three seasons and had a definite complete gestalt storyline going on in addition to little side stories), it feels more like a series of events. It’s hard enough to get invested in characters who are so poorly developed, but when stuff happens for no clear reason, it’s impossible.
By way of example, let’s look at Ong’s visit to the Northern Air Temple. For no obvious reason, he goes by himself, leaving Whitara and Soaka behind to eat bonbons or whatever. It’s never so much as suggested that they go with him. Strength in numbers? What’s that? While there, he’s suckered in by a peasant, surrounded by Fire Nation soldiers, and taken captive. How did the peasant know he’d be there? Did the Fire Nation put decoys and battallions in every Air Temple in the world just in case? How could they spare them, given the ongoing war? WTF?
Muko, disguised as the Blue Spirit, rescues him — we never hear how Muko knows Ong has been captured. Given that Admiral Zhao keeps it secret and Muko isn’t with him, maybe he’s psychic? Regardless, Ong is definitely psychic, because he recognizes Muko in spite of his thorough disguise and in spite of only having crossed paths with Muko briefly prior to this. Further, why the hell does Ong save Muko when he’s injured? Given that Ong is a terrifying, immoral, emo Child of the Corn nutjob, it makes no sense that he’d suddenly be besties with the guy who captured and attempted to deliver him for execution on the only other occasion they hung out.
Hell, how did he save him? No idea, that bit got cut. We just go from Muko collapsing and Ong deciding to save him to Muko rejoining his uncle. There isn’t even any expository voiceover. WTF?
You can tell this film made a serious impression on me. Usually when I dislike a film, I block most of it out and can’t remember jack about it after a few months. However, I spent so much time and energy being angry about this piece of shit that I didn’t even have to go back and rewatch bits of it for this entry. I looked over the little outline I made for this final rant and was like, “oh, man, I remember that. What is this fuckery, Twistalan? I do not approve!” GRRRRRRRRR.
Phew. So that’s that, the rants are complete! I feel better now. :) Thanks again, CJ! And watch this space — I have another rant brewing about the stuff that pissed me off about Tron: Legacy. It’s not going to be so virulent since there was plenty of stuff to like about the film, but it’s coming.
I may have to go watch some episodes of the TV show to re-cleanse my palate. Feh.