The Last Airbender is a 2010 action film that was based on a beloved show of the same name. The film got really bad reviews, but I actually really liked the film.
I only saw clips of the animated show before watching the live action film so I'm judging this film by itself instead of comparing it to the show. I still haven't watched any full episodes, but I did enough research to understand the plot and characters.
The film focuses on Aang who's the avatar. He's discovered by a duo of siblings, Katara and Sokka, who become his friends. It's up to them to save the world from the evil Fire Nation. Zuko, the son of the Fire Lord, and Zhao, the Fire Lord's second in command, are up to no good.
The film has been mocked for combining the whole first season of the show into one film. I personally thought this risky decision paid off well. The film was filled with exciting storylines and action scenes. Aang, Katara, Sokka, and the antagonists each get a subplot and all of them are interesting.
There's a lot of compelling characters in the film. Aang, Katara, and Sokka are all likeable and fascinating heroes and the villains are epic and threatening. Aang and Katara have a strong friendship in the film that was nice to see. Zuko was a well written and sympathetic villain which balanced well with the more cruel Zhao. Zuko and his uncle have a nice bond and their family relationship is emotional. From what I've heard about the show the Fire Lord barely appears in the show which is a unforunate problem that happens in shows and films where the "main" villain has his children and sidekicks do everything for him. Although the Fire Lord is pretty lazy in the film he has a fair amount of screentime which was a nice surprise. Azula has an awesome cameo that makes me wish that the film got a sequel.
Argubaly the film's biggest standout quality is the visuals. There are very few live action scenes as impressive looking as this film. The scenes of Aang practicing fight moves are visually impressive. The special effects of Katara's water powers look amazing! I was blown away by the fantastic sets and awesome action scenes. Although I miss and love Roger Ebert I disagree with him about the film's visuals. It was a wonderful treat to look at the film.
I can understand why fans don't like the film. From what I've heard about the show it sounds like the film doesn't represent it very well. However this film shouldn't be mocked just because it doesn't resemble the show. The film has a compelling plot, interesting characters, and some of the best visuals ever put to film. I recommend this underrated masterpiece.