Not as bad as everyone is making it out to be, but, yes, the script DOES suck.
This is mostly in response to other reviews...
It opened just the same as the cartoon, and I really liked that.
I could have done without Katara's narration.
The fighting/bending style was done really well - I didn't think it looked silly at all, or like they the characters were having "epileptic fits" (I'm not sure if the reviewer who said that has SEEN an epileptic fit, but it doesn't not look like people doing martial arts, so I don't know what they were on about.)
Here's an important fact: IT WASN'T RACIST! So, geez, shut-up people. They still had the Earth Nation as Asians...in my opinion, Aang and the rest of the Air Nomads were always racially ambiguous (either white or Asian with no way to say for sure). In the movie, M. Night actually makes the Air Nomads more racially diverse by having BLACK people too (something the cartoon never had). The Water Tribe also had Inuit/Asian looking members amongst the Caucasians...so yeah...and for those who want to complain about the main characters still being 3/4 white, I'd like to point out that if there were to be a second movie, the AWESOMEST PART EVER would go to an Asian female.
Further to the racist thing: People complain that the fire nation is made up of people of colour, and therefore M. Night is saying that brown-people are evil...I'd like to point out that the whole point of the cartoon is that the people of the Fire Nation are NOT ACTUALLY EVIL. They are a people lead by a misguided (child-abusing) megalomaniac. There's a big difference.
Ok, next, I'll address sexism. The cartoon is loved the world over by having strong female characters (one of which is insane). Sadly, in the first season, we only do get to see TWO of said strong female characters - Katara and Yue. Yue is only in present for two episode and spends most of her time being ethereal and laughing at Sokka, and then has like two minutes of being awesome. So, I think M. Night captured that fine in the movie. He DID however fall down a bit with Katara. He should have included more scenes that showed how awesome she had become at Water Bending by the end. I know...time constraints, but being awesome is another thing that makes the audience fall in love with characters, which leads me to my criticism:
The Script Was Bad
1) It's all exposition and no character development.
2) The story has such RICH characters - the (Dean Winchester-like) funny overprotective brother, who becomes an amazing weapons expert/strategist by the end of the series. The empathetic, but kick-ass tough, Water Bending girl, who surpasses all other Masters by the end of the series. The exiled, dishonoured, abused, confused, reluctant/accidental bad guy, who is actually more skilled at the sword than his element....who you emphasis with because you can't help but love someone who screams "WHY AM I SO BAD AT BEING GOOD!" out into the night (and who is also the most adorably awkward guy when it comes to any social situation).....and yet, you get NONE of this in the film. The film is all about THE PLOT. But, the thing is, if no one cares about the characters, no one is going to care about the plot.
3) I don't know if this is a direction thing, or an acting thing, but it would have been nice to have characters with INTERNAL lives. You know how, on Supernatural, Dean and Sam called each other Bitch and Jerk in the pilot, and we knew without it being explained what the exchange really meant, just by the look in their eyes and the way they acted the INTERNAL emotions - there was NONE of that in this movie. There was no emotions behind the lines, there were no emotions between the lines, there were only the emotions OF the lines and even those were few and far between.
-Exceptions to this were the dude that played Iroh, and to a lesser extent Dev Patel, who were able to transcend the bad script and give us a LITTLE something. The guy who played Iroh was especially good, I thought. And I was not at all disappointed that he wasn't an overweight, tea-loving, grandfather character - because he embodied the most important part of the character: He loved Zuko, and had great respect for what is basically the world's religion.
The Visual Effects and Whatnot:
Were awesome. He had the cities and landscape just as the cartoon. It was great to see them brought to life like that.
I agree that he should have kept Appa's face hairy though - I didn't like the more monkey-face that they used in the film.
But yeah, Susie said that it felt "like one of those movies where a kid finds a dragon" meaning that I think M. Night made it for an audience that is younger than the ACTUAL audience. Which is unfortunate.
That being said, if he WERE to make a second and a third film, I would probably watch them. But I'd prefer it if he got someone else to write a script..because it's in the second and the third films that the most character rich events happen.
Unfortunately, since this film as so widely panned - I doubt that more films will be made. It's very unfortunate, because it's a really rich story. I hope that in a few years time, Hollywood will get desperate for ideas again and someone will actually make an adaption that does original work better justice.