The Last Airbender - Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, starring Noah Ringer, Jackson Rathbone, Nicola Peltz, Dev Patel, Cliff Curtis, and Shaun Toub - Rated PG
In Shyamalan's last crapfest, they were running from the wind, now they're bending it...and it still sucks.
M. Night Shyamalan has outdone himself yet again…but not in a good way. I actually enjoyed his films up until The Village, which had its moments but was ultimately a letdown. Then The Lady in the Water came out and I couldn’t gain interest in it whatsoever. He hit his low spot with The Happening, but even that movie is redeeming in that you can make fun of it to get some enjoyment. Now, he has unleashed The Last Airbender, a film not even worth making fun of.
I’ll keep the plot synopsis as short as possible for this one because it’s so simplistic and cheesy that it’s hardly worth writing. The Last Airbender takes place in a fantasy world that is divided up by the four elements: earth, water, air, and fire. Each one has its own nation. The fire nation is bad, I presume only because fire is usually associated with evil, and they want to rule everything. It’s up to Aang to stop them. Aang, a child, is the titular airbender who is also supposed to be the avatar (no relation to the blue folk), destined to bring peace to the world.
The Last Airbender is based on a Nickelodeon show, which means that children are the core audience for this fantasy film. Shyamalan must think all kids are idiots, though, because he messes up the most important rule of writing/filmmaking: Show, don’t tell. Well, not only does Shyamalan constantly have characters tell the audience exactly what they are thinking and doing, he shows it, too. There is actually a scene in this film in which the narrator states that Aang put on a display of his airbending skills, then, seconds later, we see Aang do just that. Was the heads up from the narrator necessary? Was this done as some kind of service for the visually impaired members of the audience? Because anyone with sight would understand what had just happened without being told…even a young child.
The narration also destroys any chance of character or relationship building. The characters are so bland I could barely recall their names after I walked out of the theatre. They are just shells that carry on their boring journey. I did not care what happened to any of the “good” characters. In fact, the only remotely compelling characters are the exiled fire prince and his uncle, played by Dev Patel and Shaun Toub, respectively. But even those characters are weakened by over-explanation.
As far as the relationship building I mentioned above, that might constitute as the weakest storytelling I have seen in years. The narrator says that the lame good guy character and a princess hit it off immediately and become inseparable. The only hint we are shown of that is that they look at each other and smile. In the next scene, they act as if they have been in a relationship for months. This movie didn’t need a bland love story added to it and this awkward attempt did much more harm than good for the film.
The characters may be weak and their dialogue is laughable (I literally laughed a few times at how simplistic it was), but the actors don’t help matters at all. A decent actor can make terrible dialogue seem slightly natural, but this cast only seemed to accentuate how bad it was. I didn’t find any of them, save perhaps Toub, to be convincing in any way at all.
With a movie like this, I would be willing to forgive some of the weaknesses if the action was amazing. Sadly, that is not the case for this film. I was expecting some cool action scenes involving all of the elements, but it was all very tame stuff. The only slightly enjoyable action scenes were showcased in the trailers for the film, so save yourself some time and check those out because the rest of the film simply does not deliver.
I also had the misfortune of wasting three extra dollars to see this crap in 3D. I am done giving these conversion movies a chance. If you do your research, you can find out if a film was filmed in 3D or converted to 3D. If it was filmed, by all means, check it out. If it’s converted, stay away and save your money. In the case of The last Airbender, however, you should avoid all versions of it. I certainly wish I had.