The Last Airbender | M. Night Shyamalan, 2010
For this, I’m going to do two reviews, one where I discuss the movie in detail and one where I just get down to the nitty-gritty. Read that one after the jump
I have just recently finished watching the animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, and I can tell you that without a doubt, it is one of the greatest things ever to be put on celluloid. It has such a rich story, fantastic performances; great scripts, and is a ton of fun. And if you think about it, if the right person were to make it into a live action movie, it could be something quite special. Well, M. Night Shyamalan tried to be that one person, and people were surprised that he would take on it since it was not his story and there was no twist, but nonetheless, I was curious and it led me to the wonderful series. Then, once The Last Airbender, just about everybody hated it. Still, I had to see it, if only to see how hard it had failed. Once I had the chance to see it, I went in with the lowest expectations one could have. And yet, it did not even meet them.
So, at this point of the review I should say that this is a movie about a young boy named Aang who is the most powerful spiritual leader there is and that he has been frozen for 100 years and is the last person of his kind. Katara and Sokka who tell him that the fire nation has been trying to conquer the world during the last 100 years found him. And so, he must travel to master the remaining four elements to bring peace to the world, starting with water, and along the way he will meet colorful characters and get into exciting and funny situations.
But no, that is not what this movie is about. Here, there are a couple of kids who live on ice and they are walking. Then, they find a boy frozen in a bubble. They then take him to their village and the evil people come and take him. Then after a few words of wisdom from grandma, the kids set off to rescue him. Then they roam the earth kingdom for a while, then Evil people make evil plans, then there is a battle.
That is exactly how it felt while watching this movie. Yes, it is based on a TV show with episodes, but there was no reason for the movie to feel this episodic. And that is not the least of the problems that Shyamalan’s script had.
First off, there is the condensation of the story. I understand that certain thing that were great on a 10 hour season of a show have to be left behind for a 2 hour movie. But Shyamalan handled things so poorly. We spend a couple of minutes introducing the characters, so right there something very important is taken away. Then the Zuko shows up and we don’t really understand why he is the way he is. Then there is Zhao, who for some reason is über evil. I mean, WHAT THE HELL.
Even when it does feature some of the best moments in the show, it all feels so rushed and dull that it made me cringe. For example, one of the most poignant moments in the show is when Zuko, disguised as the Blue Spirit saves Aang from Zhao, but is hurt along the way. Then Aang discovers that it was Zuko, and eventually tells him that they could have been friends. In the movie, that is just said as a throwaway line, and it doesn’t help that the way it was said was fucking awful, but more on that later.
So, like I said, the plot lacks a lot of coherence due to the way the scenes were strung together in the script. But also, the characters, and they are written lack the spark that the writing gave to the characters. Like I said, we don’t get to meet the characters that well, so that does not help (like Sokka and Princess Yue‘s relation ship, they were friends for like two minutes and then suddenly they are in love, what the fuck, where did that come from). Another thing that does not help is the dialogue. The lines that the actors say vary from corny to downright cringe worthy. If this isn’t enough to convince you about the awfulness and stupidity of the script, go watch the now infamous earth prison scene.
Oh, and one more thing: The portrayalas of Momo and Appa are a travesty.
Now the direction:
So, Shyamalan once had a future, but he let all those “ZOMG!!! he’s the next Hitchcock!!!” comments get to his head. I stuck with him even when The Happening came out, but now I’m officially over him. His work here is fucking lazy. He either didn’t try or he honestly believed that what he was doing was great. The action scenes are poorly shot, some shots are awkward, The sets and costumes he approved were horrible, overall, this is an ugly production. And the way the bending happens, was just, ugh. In the show they don’t dance to do bending, what the fuck was going on here. And all firebenders are supposed to be able to create fire, but not here apparently. The one thing that he did right was hiring James Newton Howard to do the score, and he delivered one of the best scores of the year.
But his greatest offense is not caring enough to get good performances out of his actors. Aang is supposed to be innocent, yet have a dark side, especially since, you know, his whole race was destroyed. Noah Ringer can do none of this. He shows absolutely no emotion, his line delivery is amateurish, and well, he’s horrible. The rest goes for the rest of the cast, I just don’t feel like going over every one. Let’s just say that the Emerald Island Players were better in these roles.
So, The Last Airbender is a piece of shit. Avoid it at all costs and watch the show instead.
FUCK YOU SHYAMALAN!