The Last Airbender
Starring Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, and Nicola Peltz
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Rated PG for fantasy action violence
Appropriate for all ages
In a world where there are four nations on Earth: Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, and each have parties that can bend the elements and use them to fight with, one individual alive has the ability to bend all four: The Avatar. When the Avatar is discovered by the evil Fire kingdom, they attempt to kidnap him to use him for their sinister plans. But when dissension in the ranks and a young Water kingdom girl get in the way of this happening, an immense battle occurs between the Water and Fire kingdoms.
This is a review where I have to keep myself from becoming too mean – but it is hard. So is there anything good about the film? Sure. The effects are decent enough and I actually like the lore of the film. The mythology works for me and I would have liked to have seen a decent representation of the original material.
But it appears Shyamalan is incapable of delivering that simple feat. He has such a huge ego and a destructively heavy hand that his will should be considered the fifth element – able to destroy any enjoyment from movies. He gets almost all of the blame – because it is almost entirely his film. His script is absolutely embarrassing and would have failed any of the most basic college screenwriting courses. He already had great source material, but chose to make the dialogue mundane and ridiculously uncreative. The story plods along like he knows he has shots to get to and he doesn’t know how to get there – so he has them say something. Anything. And the actors chosen to deliver the lines are great martial artists, but can’t act worth spit, so combined with poor directing provide a very miserable viewing experience.
And the great shots he supposedly has to get to aren’t so great. The battle sequences are far from exciting. In fact they are almost comical. For example, during the big one at the end, the Water kingdom is in prep to fight. The soldiers are all standing guard with weapons in hand in the streets. As fire rains down on them in the front lines, women are just lazily carrying baskets around. It’s incredibly silly. What would women with dainty baskets be doing in an epic battle? Feeding the soldiers berries?
Then there is the horrific 3D transfer. Just like Clash of the Titans, the studio decided to steal as much money from their audience as possible by doing a last-minute conversion to 3D that looks like garbage. The ending battle sequence is so dark that you can hardly see it and the whole thing turns out to be a giant waste of extra money.
The idea behind The Last Airbender is unique and imaginative but when given to a filmmaker like Shyamalan, the creativity seems to be stripped out and replaced with a genericized fantasy that neither excites nor entertains. My review of The Happening came with a plea to Hollywood to not give this man any more money to make movies. I am now begging. Hollywood: until he can prove to be a good steward of our hard-earned movie dollars, please stop funding this man’s mediocre-at-best talent. D