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18 Major Things The 'Last Airbender' Movie Got Wrong 

Jacoby Bancroft
Updated June 4, 2020 73k votes 9.2k voters 417.1k views 18 items

List Rules Vote up the biggest mistakes made adapting Avatar: The Last Airbender

Never has there been a more reviled cartoon adaptation than the live-action version of Avatar: The Last Airbender. The film takes a great Nickeloden cartoon, drags it through the mud, then stomps on Aang's head for good measure. There are many, many reasons the movie is bad, but the focus here is on how specific elements of the Avatar show were mishandled in the movie.

Overall, there are about a million ways The Last Airbender movie screwed up Avatar, and now many of them are compiled in one handy list. Obviously, the film became a big example of Hollywood's tendency to whitewash casting, since the good guys are turned into Caucasians.

This list isn't about that, though. This is about all the other things that annoyed Avatar fans. So check out this list to relive the worst things about The Last Airbender movie, and learn what exactly M. Night Shyamalan and his team of filmmakers got wrong about the classic cartoon. Short Answer? Everything.

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The Movie Decided The Firebenders Need An Existing Fire Source To Bend
The Movie Decided The Fi... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 18 Major Things The 'Last Airbender' Movie Got Wrong
Photo:  Paramount Pictures

Of all the stupid changes in the movie, this one might be the most groan-worthy. For whatever reason, director M. Night Shyamalan decided to give the other benders slightly more advantage by removing the firebenders' ability to create fire. Instead, they can only manipulate existing flames.

This is a drastic change from the cartoon, and also means the movie has to bend over backwards to make sure fire is always available. In almost every scene with a firebender, whether it's on a ship or in the middle of the Arctic tundra, there's a working fire pit somewhere in the background. It's a an inexplicable alteration that makes the villains so much less imposing, you wonder how they took over the world in the first place.

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The Movie Just Glosses Over Katara's Training As A Waterbender
The Movie Just Glosses O... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 18 Major Things The 'Last Airbender' Movie Got Wrong
Photo:  Paramount Pictures

The first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender is just as much about Katara's quest to become a great waterbender as it is about Aang's journey. Near the end, it gets harder for her. When they get to the Northern Water Tribe in the series, waterbending Master Pakku immediately agrees to train Aang, but dismisses Katara. She's a girl and supposedly isn't tough enough to fight. But in a badass Katara moment, she proves herself worthy of training and starts on her way to waterbending mastery.

That differs immensely from the movie, as Katara's training is never a factor - or mentioned at all, for that matter. The film version exists pretty much purely to support Aang's narrative.

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The Movie Replaced A Raged-Out Avatar Monster With A Useless Giant Wave
The Movie Replaced A Rag... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 18 Major Things The 'Last Airbender' Movie Got Wrong
Photo:  Paramount Pictures/Nickelodeon

A lot of fans probably walked into the theater wondering, "How could they possibly do justice to the giant Spirit Monster that Aang turns into at the end of Season 1?" The answer: by not even trying. In one of the movie's biggest disappointments, the finale is changed almost entirely, and the result is lackluster and anti-climatic. Instead of Aang tapping into his Avatar State to completely wipe out the Fire Nation's army and save the Northern Water Tribe, he makes a gigantic wave that causes every single Fire Nation ship to just turn around and go home. It's stupid, and even though it plays into the theme that the Avatar needs to inspire hope and not kill bad guys, it robs the movie of a proper finale.

And here's the thing: Having Aang turn into the monster to destroy the Fire Nation doesn't make him a killer. It instead highlights how much the Avatar are capable of and what Aang needs to do in order to harness that power. It's also super cool. But forget all that, because here's a big computer-animated wave.

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Everybody Mispronounces Everything
Everybody Mispronounces ... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list 18 Major Things The 'Last Airbender' Movie Got Wrong
Photo: Paramount Pictures

In M. Night Shyamalan's defense, his idea to honor the original Asian pronunciation of character names probably seemed like a good idea at the time. The cartoon was always deeply spiritual and took elements from a lot of different Asian cultures, so he probably thought people would respond well to a more authentic version of the cartoon. He was wrong. Almost every character has their name pronounced slightly differently: Aang is Oong, Sokka is Soh-ka, Iroh is Ear-oh, etc. Even the word Avatar is pronounced Ah-vatar!

The problem with that is, no one cared! No one watched the cartoon and thought to themselves, "Hey, I love this show, but it would be so much better if the names were slightly more authentic." Audiences fell in love with the cartoon, so those different pronunciations in the film were just teeny-tiny daggers to the eye every time they happened.

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