The Last Airbender
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan Cast: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: PG Release Date: June 30, 2010
PLOT: A young boy named Aang (Ringer) must stop the bossy Fire Nation from ruling over the Earth, Wind, and Air Nations, all while trying to elude the evil Prince Zuko (Patel).
WHO'S IT FOR?: Fans of the animated series are probably best prepared for what lays ahead with Last Airbender. Those who are outsiders to this show should still probably be of the same middle school age. I am not of this demographic, but I still found this to be somewhat enjoyable (find out why below!)
EXPECTATIONS: I was a little bothered when I was handed a pair of 3-D glasses, but I was not going to hold that against this movie. While I think Shyamalan has been slumping the past few films, I was curious to see whether his “twisty” ways of story-telling would make this adaptation of the Nickelodeon cartoon more fun for non-“Avatar: The Last Airbender” fans.
Noah Ringer as Aang: This oddly named character has the niceness of any other kid actor you’d see in a family movie. That is, of course, until on his bad side. Then, his eyes light up, and the arrow that doesn’t say “I’m With Stupid” or glows. Aang is shown performing a lot of the bending seen in the film, and he sells it. The kid should open a pilates shop. Score: 5
Dev Patel as Prince Zuko: The former Slumdog Millionaire returns to the silver screen to show us that he can scowl, with an intense look that gets old. In his first few scenes he carries a junior villain idea with some intimidation, but then he can’t add much to it. His angsty barks are good, but by the end of the movie he’s become a bit of a joke. As Kurt Cobain once said, “teenage angst is dead and gone, and now I’m bored.” Score: 4
Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathbone as Katara and Sokka: These two teens really bring the “Magic Teens!” edge of Last Airbender, which takes it down a notch of seriousness in its entirety. Their interactions are relatively hunky dory, especially with their grandma. This movie feels like kids in costume hurling sh*t at each other in some form of "play time" the most when these two are on screen. Score: 2
TALKING: I am not an M. Night Shyamalan apologist by any means. But there’s a slight chance that the dialogue is intentionally bite-sized and incredibly obvious. I mean, this movie is for kids, right? Regardless, the talking here is just goofy. Sometimes, it's to a laughable extent. Ouch. Score: 5
SIGHTS: The saving grace of Last Airbender is not its cinematography - the camerawork is oddly pretentious - but more specifically, its special effects. I'm not sure I've seen any CGI this year that is as impressive. The difficulty of presenting "elemental" fighting is surpassed by very realistic effects that make water and fire "bending" look totally plausible. Score: 8
SOUNDS: I do not remember anything from the score, which is both a positive and negative thing. Positive in that it wasn’t distracting, but helpful to the scenes that it was accompanying. Negative in that it apparently was not special enough to stick any part of it in my head. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: The final segment when Aang shows off his water-bending skills, as presented by a fluid and mesmerizing one shot. One of my favorite shots of the year. Very, very cool.
ENDING: There is an M. Night twist, but it is less of a "Ha! Fooled you!" kind of tag than it is a "Oh, snap!" ... If that makes any sense.
QUESTIONS: Oh, Aang, 3-D again? Don’t the gods of Hollywoodland know how much it sucks to a view a movie with an obvious tint of darkness? Don’t they know how f**king STUPID it is that I have to wear two pairs of glasses to watch a movie?
REWATCHABILITY: For a cheap matinee, I could see myself getting a bag of popcorn, sitting in the back, and taking in the action scenes/funny dialogue once again.
There are a fair amount of things that do not work with The Last Airbender. For example: the pretentious camera framing. What’s with not showing the expressions of main characters while they talk? Remember, M. Night Shyamalan, that you’re filming a movie for Nickelodeon. Those types of art-house tricks aren’t going to reverse the legitimate and recent accusations of being a hack. And neither will your dumb dialogue, which had grown men and women giggling like children all around me.
However, in importance to the mission of the movie, those are relatively minor elements. Perhaps, when combined, they can create on big, avatar-sized problem. But the action of The Last Airbender is so unique, presented with wholly awesome special effects, that I can’t deny the truth that I had fun with this summer flick. Maybe I am just glad to see a different style of combat, and one that requires more than just careful fight choreography.
At least it's better than The Happening, right? M. Night Shyamalan may not be able to contribute much of his own prowess into this movie in a positive way, but at least he was able to spin up his own fun action with a lot of CGI magic.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10