The Last Airbender

2010-09-16 15:31
 
The Last Airbender

What it's about:

Based on the animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender (three guesses why they changed the name), this live-action, children's fantasy film tells the story of an earth fractured into four nations, each a representation of one of the four elements – earth, water, fire and air – and a young boy, who may not only be the last of the long-annihilated Air nation but the last and only hope to bring peace to the world.   

What we thought:

As the seemingly endless exercise in dreary, life-sapping tedium that was The Last Airbender unfolded before my increasingly fatigued eyes, I was "saved" from the blissful oblivion of unconsciousness by a single, pressing question : Whatever happened to M. Night Shyamalan?

Here was a young filmmaker who was referred to, without any sense of irony, as "the next Stephen Spielberg" after bursting onto the scene with The Sixth Sense, a perfectly pitched ghost story that boasted one of the greatest twists in modern film history. Here was the guy who followed that incredible debut feature with one of cinema's most intriguing and refreshingly original takes on the superhero genre with Unbreakable. Then, sure, things took a turn for the worse with a string of much less satisfying genre entries but, even at their worst, his films were never less than interesting. Even Lady in the Water – a miserable load of ego-inflating nonsense in which Mr Shyamalan cast himself as the saviour of all mankind – at least had a car-wreck quality about it that forced you to keep watching.

The Last Airbender doesn't even have that. This is the sort of blindly inept and flat-out incompetent drivel that even a green, straight-out-of-film-school amateur would be embarrassed to have his or her name attached to. It's almost as if Shyamalan has spent the last decade and a half since The Sixth Sense unlearning how to make films. Sitting through The Last Airbender, you can almost see Shyamalan wishing away all the raw talent that made The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable such marvellous pieces of cinema, all for a big budget and the chance to sully the reputation of a beloved kids' cartoon.

For all my ranting and raving though, I suppose I should try and explain just what it is that makes The Last Airbender such a horrible viewing experience. On paper, there really shouldn't be anything too objectionable about it. It's a harmless fantasy film, when you get right down to it, so it's not likely to cause any real offence. The only real problem – and there really is no getting past this – is that it fails on every conceivable level.

The Last Airbender fails by committing the cardinal sin of kids' fantasy films: it is life-threateningly dull. Nothing that happens on screen throughout its entire two-hour running time shows even the tiniest spark of life. This is a film that is deader than the deadest of door nails but, perhaps, not quite as dead as Shyamalan's career will surely prove to be after this atrocity sinks any and all credibility that his earlier films might have earned him.

None of the characters in the film display so much as the slimmest shadow of what might be construed to be an actual personality, a fact that is certainly not helped by hopelessly wooden acting. Quite what Dev Patel, hot off the success and worldwide critical acclaim of Slumdog Millionaire, is doing in this travesty is anyone's guess but even he is hopelessly mannequin-like as the whiny, forgettable villain of the piece.

While the characters are boring the snot out of the (undoubtedly, restless) kids of the audience, the rest of the film offers them little else in the way of distraction let alone interest or, heaven forbid, fun. The story itself trudges along, never bothering anyone with engaging plot developments or surprising twists, while the action scenes are choreographed nicely enough but are sorely lacking in any sense of excitement or energy. Even aesthetically, the film doesn't even offer the smallest morsels of eye candy as we are offered nothing more than the most dreary of vistas, the crappiest of CGI effects and the most tasteless of costumes.      
  
It should be noted that I saw the film at a 2D screening but if the 3D trailer I caught is any indication, 3D is clearly the way to go, if you still insist on putting yourself through this joyless waste of two hours. Not because it adds anything to the movie, mind you, as nothing in the film suggested that it would be in any way improved by an extra dimension but because, with its dark glasses and 30% colour loss, you'll at least be able to catch a decent nap. Albeit, a very expensive one.

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Director M. Night Shyamalan’s career takes yet another nosedive with this dull, dreary 3D remake of the animated TV series.

nick 2010/09/09 1:08 PM
and the series on which it is based is a masterpiece of children's entertainment in any genre, with intricate plots, great laughs and some of the most nuanced and believable characters on TV. A note Holloywood: leave well enough alone. Sometimes the book (His Dark Materials,A Sreies of Unfortunate Events) or the animated series (Speed Racer, Avatar) is there is to it - and all there should be.
PRESHEN GOVENDER 2010/09/10 7:42 AM
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I like the hand movements in the fight scene ,they make great dance moves
remi 2010/09/17 2:13 PM
I took all 3 my kids last friday and they loved it and there was plenty of other kids in the cinemar who was not as you explained restless. they actually enjoyed the whole movie .. i did do and My family regularly watch the series. So i disagree with you... but for interest sake wat is your expertise again? I just would like to know ho they choose you critics sorry i mean review people?
remi 2010/09/17 2:14 PM
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your review is long winding and boring adn the movie is actually nice.
Ilan Preskovsky 2010/09/20 2:21 AM
"your review is long winding and boring adn the movie is actually nice." Ah, how do I even respond to this! Anyway, I am genuinely interested that your kids actually liked the film. I'm certainly willing to take on their opinion of the movie, seeing as how they are the intended audience. For me, personally, I honestly thought it was beyond terrible. I've heard great, great things about the series so I'm certainly not attacking that, just the movie. And seriously, I'm hardly going against the grain here. You're not going to find a lot of critics/ reviewers that liked it.
Morne 2011/07/14 3:25 PM
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I saw the movie on our satelite tv today and I thought it was great. I don't know what the fuzz is about. I was bound throughout the whole movie and disappointed when it ended. The Avatar still needed to master earth and fire bending. Although I haven't seen the tv series as it is not shown on our satelite yet. I'll have to disagree with all the critics and reviewers.
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