Tentacle-Free Anime: "Dragonball: Evolution/Last Airbender"
- by Kazekun, 12 October 2015
Hahahahahaha! Ahahahahahahaahaha! Hhahahahahahahhahahahahahaha!!
It's horror month. Let's just do this.
So by now, most of you are probably familiar with the hilarious yet enraging disasters that both of these movies were. Well, for horror month I decided to do a review on these fear inducing, mouth frothing narratives. But instead of doing two different reviews, I'll be reviewing them simultaneously as there's no reason to repeat myself. Because both movies suffer from mostly the exact same issues.
So, why are these two films so bad? They're both based off of wonderfully popular shows with incredibly rich worlds to explore and solid narratives that – in theory – should be pretty hard to screw up. They both feature lovably powerful protagonists that take on a sort of “chosen one” role in their respective series, which is a common narrative to mess around with. There is an abundance of creativity in the cultures of both worlds, and a ton of comedy all around.
Also, let me preface this going in by explaining that I am aware Avatar: The Last Airbender is not an anime, but it is inspired so heavily by anime that it becomes a blurred line a lot of the time. Much like RWBY. So I feel it still fits within the confines of me reviewing it here, it just happens that we'll be starting the eventual Avatar: TLA saga with the abysmal live-action movie.
Well, it's hard to really think about what was going on in both the minds of James Wong and M. Night Shyamalan. But it may not be far from the truth to imagine that both directors were keeping in close contact with one another and giving the other tips on how to royally screw up each other's films. Examples in both films include, but are not limited to: Mispronunciations of many character's names, this is most prevalent in TLA as Aang which is originally pronounced with a long 'A' sound is changed to Aang with a short 'o' pronunciation. And the Kamehameha technique in DBE is changed from an energy beam to an “airbending” move.
Coincidence? I think not!
Continuing with the examples, both films also feel as though the directors purposely want to keep the viewer at arms length of actually experiencing this world. Part of what works for both DBZ and A: TLA as epics is that we don't just rush from one story to another with flimsy “plot threads,” if you wanna call them that, holding them together. We slow down, explore the world these characters are inhabiting and get a sense of scale. What is really at stake if these character's lose the battle? We don't get that.
With The Last Airbender, Aang, Sokka (now called Sokka with a long 'O' sound instead of Sokka with a short 'o' sound) and Katara bounce continent to continent in what I can only assume was a few weeks at best as Shymalan rushes through storylines without giving us a chance to really get a look at what this world looks like. Consequently this also takes out many key moments for the character's that help let them grow and drive them. There's no reason for Katara and Sokka to care so much about Aang in this film. He doesn't do anything to make them see him as a friend, he's the avatar and a random boy they found in the ice: therefore the story dictates they “protect” him and that's all it should've amounted to given the time constraints Shymalan put on the story.
And with Dragonball: Evolution, literally Dragon Ball which this movie is pulling most of its inspiration from is a story of adventure about a boy who doesn't know anything about this world that surrounds him going out and discovering it for himself. For DBE, Wong compeletely disregards that and makes Goku a teenager who knows all to well what it's like to be a social outcast but doesn't give him any sort of innocence. He's actually a dick for the entire film and doesn't go through any actual character arc. And as fast paced as this movie is, making sure we get to point a to point b in any way neither Bulma nor Yamcha should've had a romance, and yet it's there because the director dictates it be there.
This leads us into our next example: Completely disregarding canon because the director thinks it will work better. I've already touched a bit on it with DBE, making Goku a dickish teenager instead of an ignorant child, but adding in Yamcha being a complete “ladies man” when his most defining feature as a character when we first met him was that he had a considerable phobia of talking to women. Piccolo is a completely 2-dimensional baddie who is angry because he was imprisoned or 2,000 years but WHY was he imprisoned? What drove him to be evil in the past that he had to be imprisoned? The great monkey that Saiyans turn into on a full moon is changed to a solar eclipse and also instead of being a giant monkey that's bigger than a mountain we get a large werewolf like creature that's barely taller than a normal sized man.
I could go on an on about the incorrect canon of DBE, but you get the gist of it. Now, what about TLA, eh? Well many key moments are left out of the story or changed entirely, such as Katara getting her waterbending scroll by it being given to her. Saving her from the “disgraceful”, yet incredibly character defining moment from the original series where she flat out steals it from Pirates who at the time were not doing her any harm. Sure, there's a whole thing about how they originally got the scroll, but that doesn't change the fact that she stole it. Movie Katara would not be so ballsy.
Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation is an incredibly defined character that grows from an honor bound punk to probably one of the most conflicting anti-heroes in recent fictional imagination. It takes many, many episodes to reach that point and while he thankfully doesn't reach that point in the film, his character arc is incredibly rushed nonetheless and many of his key moments – such as the Blue Spirit arc – are left with little to no explanation as to why they're even happening. They were “cool moments,” so Shyamalan is going to stick them in there.
There's also a very big elephant in the room that is TLA in that we get to not only see the face of Lord Ozai of the Fire Nation, but we also get to interact with him in several scenes. The literally goes against everything that is Ozai as a character, who is the shadowy lord and no one really knows what he looks like outside of the heart of the Fire Nation, because he likes it that way. We're not supposed to get to see him until much, much later in the series, so having him shown at all goes against much of the first Book (or season) that this film is based off of.
The comedy for both of these films of overworked and childish, attempting to capture innocence and instead floundering into idiocy. The characters, all of them in both films, are incredibly de-powered and every “epic fight” is really just a bunch of people running around being like putties to the equivalent of heroes being Power Rangers. In that if you're not a main character, you suck at fighting. And even the main characters all suck at fighting. The choreography is all sloppy, and the effects are abysmal. Such as the “energy beams” or “airbending movies” of DBE look like stylized and colored puffs of smoke, and there is a specific scene in TLA where it takes SIX Earthbenders to pick up a single – not that large really – stone and slowly move it across the screen until a seventh guy came in and pushed it into the enemy. Like, really?! These movies...
Look. I've been trying very hard not to rage out on these films. But I have to wonder how these two directors could've gotten SO MUCH wrong. They definitely did not research the source material, they couldn't have, because what these two films are based on are so much better. That's not even bias, it's true. I know there's no sense in beating a dead horse, and I've really only touched on a bit of what is truly wrong with these two films. There's still so much more I didn't even get to talk about. But this review is reaching unending territory and I need to stop before I continue to ramble.
The movies SUCK. They are horrifying atrocities, and I promise that if you are fan of either show and have not seen these movies, you will scream in agony when/if you ever do. But take my suggestion and stay far, far away from them. My burn list of films is very short – it's a list of films I feel all copies in this world should be burned. And these two movies are on that list.
Just... stay away. You'll be a happier person for that.
Final Score: Did you really think I was going to give them one? No. I will not. I don't care enough.
P.S. - Next review will be about an anime that's actually good, and fits perfectly with horror month. Get ready for some – oh, let's just say, vampiric justice. See you then!
Are you the one person in the world who would disagree with the final verdict?!? let us know what you think below!