The Last Airbender

27 Jul

Title: The Last Airbender
Year: 2010
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan based on the original stories by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko
Starring: Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Dev Patel, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi, Cliff Curtis
MPAA Rating: PG, fantasy action violence
Runtime: 103 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 4.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 8%

This film’s just plain bad, and I was really angry about that because the source material, the popular animated series, is one I’m a fan of and, more importantly, one that had massive potential as far as making a great franchise, but then again maybe this will make it to franchise, it has already raised $150 million which is not bad and stands as M. Night Shyamalan’s third highest grossing film to date, but what it didn’t do for Mr. Shyamalan was get him any closer to recovering the critical success that he started out having so much of with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, and that has eluded him since 2002, or 2004 if you were particularly fond of The Village, which I thought was an okay film but nothing spectacular.

The thing with The Last Airbender, which adapts the first season of the TV series, is that, even though it does count with some pretty nifty special effects, has a plot that over-complicates itself by going all over the place without really ever finding a track to stay on, and the dialogue is completely stale as well, which obviously didn’t help either. I’m sad that Shyamalan didn’t turn this great property into a great film and franchise-to-be, yes, Lady in the Water and The Happening were two seriously bad films, but you can see why he was attracted to this, and I personally was sort of imagining him delivering like crazy and becoming, once again, a critical darling, but alas, his horrible-movie streak now sits at three, but maybe that’s a good thing? He did three really great films, then an okay one, and now three really bad ones, maybe he’ll do an okay one next and then churn out three great ones? This is the optimist in me speaking, obviously.

A word of advice, as is the case with pretty much every 3D film out there, don’t watch it in 3D. As I said, one of the only cool things about The Last Airbender, if not the only cool thing about it, are the visuals, and 3D, as per usual, completely ruins the visuals by making everything seem darker and just plain shittier, the fact that the 3D conversion in The Last Airbender was one of those cheap ones done in post-production only adds insult to injury, fortunately I opted for the 2D and didn’t experience said suffering but was repeatedly told of the harm it did to the moviegoing spirits by many friends. This is a film that spends an amazing amount of time just trying to explain stuff in fancy ways and throwing things at you, but in the end the explanations sound a bit daft and the things that it throws out you, while visually cool don’t really make up for the lack of good storytelling and just leave this film feeling completely flat, go see it in 3D and you’re in for a world of hell.

Roger Ebert opens his review of The Last Airbender with some really harsh words: “The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here. It puts a nail in the coffin of low-rent 3D, but it will need a lot more coffins than that.” Harsh indeed (and brilliantly written, as always), but you won’t see anyone jumping out of their seats to tell him he’s wrong. Because he’s not (and he’s usually not), because that’s really how The Last Airbender feels, I will admit I liked the film a bit better than that, maybe that’s because I had the emotional entanglement of being a fan of the original series (though it did completely piss on it’s name), maybe it was because I didn’t suffer through the 3D and was just told by many people I trust about just how bad it was, but yeah, in a nutshell Mr. Ebert is right. Though Mr. Ebert does go on to say that he found the special effects “atrocious” and on that, I must tell my favorite film critic, we disagree, I actually quite liked them, or maybe I liked them in comparison to how crappy everything else was, I’ve no idea.

The Last Airbender is a really sucky film, look how I haven’t even bothered to tell you a thing about the plot, it’s of no importance, I mean it is, the plot of the series is brilliant, and in this film it is said to be important, hell, they go to great unnecessary lengths to give explanations about it all with one seriously corny and stupid dialogue doing all the delivering, but once you’ve sat for fifteen minutes of the film you’ll stop caring and you’ll just wait for the flashy effects to come to at least offer something decent to look at while you chew your popcorn really fast to get an excuse to go outside for more and avoid a couple of minutes of the tedious dialogue and hope to come back right when another flashy part comes on screen, or, if you are like Mr. Ebert, and hated even the special effects then you’ll probably just leave the theatre for more popcorn, but make that popcorn at home watching something decent on your blu-ray player.

Grade: D+


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