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Last Airbender, The
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by Mel Valentin

"M. Night Shyamalan continues his descent into ineptitutde."
1 stars

M. Night Shyamalan ("The Happening," "Lady in the Water," "The Village," "Signs," "Unbreakable," "The Sixth Sense") continues his long, slow slide into abject incompetence with his latest film, "The Last Airbender," the adaptation of the Nickelodeon animated series, "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (“Avatar” was dropped from the title to avoid confusion with James Cameron’s science fiction/eco-actioner). "The Last Airbender" is, sadly, maybe even pathetically, Shyamalan at his worst, Shyamalan channeling George “Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones” Lucas. That Nickelodeon gave Shyamalan, a director with a spotty track record and zero experience with effects-heavy filmmaking, a $150 million budget has to be one of the most perplexing decisions made by a Hollywood studio in recent memory.

Throwing away everything he once knew (or seemed to know) about storytelling, story structure, and character development, Shyamalan dumps exposition via a Star Wars-style opening scrawl to introduce The Last Airbender universe to moviegoers unfamiliar with the animated series. The Last Airbender occurs in a mystical realm influenced by Eastern culture and philosophy where element manipulation exists, but only for a select few. We then meet Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone, Jasper Hale in The Twilight Saga), siblings and members of the Southern Water Tribe. Katara can bend water, but she needs training and experience to fully exploit her talent. On a hunting trip, Katara and Sokka discover a 12-year old boy frozen in a ball of ice. He’s Aang (Noah Ringer), the last Airbender of the title.

As the last Airbender of the title, Aang can bend air and use it defend or attack his opponents. He’s also the Avatar, the one bender who, through training and discipline, can bend all four elements, air, water, earth, and fire. His training incomplete before he disappeared, he can only bend air. His one hundred year absence as Avatar, chief protector and bringer of balance to his world, has allowed the Fire Nation to become the most powerful kingdom. The Fire Nation’s current ruler, Fire Lord Ozai (Cliff Curtis), has banished his son, Prince Zuko (Dev Patel), for a long ago, barely explained insult. To return to the Fire Nation and his rightful place as Ozai’s heir, Prince Zuko has to find and bring back the Avatar to his father, a seemingly hopeless task.

While Iroh (Shaun Toub), Prince Zuko's benevolent uncle, acts as mentor and companion during the search for the Avatar, Commander Zhao (The Daily Show's Aasif Mandvi, implausible in a non-comedic role), Ozai’s second-in-command, jockeys for power and influence. As both men pursue the Avatar, Aang occasionally tries to tap into his mystically powered talents, often inconveniently, via meditation. Meditating allows Aang to access the mystical realm where he encounters a cave straight out of Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back and a non-threatening dragon spirit. Following the first season’s story arc, Aang, Katara, and Sokka, head for the Arctic home of the Northern Air Tribe and the training Aang needs to master waterbending, the Fire Nation's armies always in pursuit.

The Last Airbender throws in a woefully, underdeveloped romantic subplot involving Sokka and a white-haired, Northern Air Tribe princess, Yue (Seychelle Gabriel), a convoluted, confusing subplot centered on Zhao’s plan to kill two bending-giving spirits, and the obligatory Hero’s Journey for Aang (someone owes Joseph Campbell's estate money). In case you weren't paying attention, Shyamalan uses the word “destiny” several times in reference to Aang. Although Shyamalan gives Aang a good reason for his intense dislike of the Fire Nation, the genocide of the airbending tribe, it’s impossible to care for the lost airbenders when Aang can barely muster a frown of indignation.

Aang's shallow, underwritten Hero's Journey isn't helped by Noah Ringer's painfully awkward performance. It's clear Shyamalan chose Ringer for his martial arts skills, not his acting ability Likewise with Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, and, surprisingly given his credible performance in Slumdog Millionaire, Dev Patel. Either Shyamalan chose badly or, tripped up by directing an effects- and CG-heavy film, directed their performances badly. It’s probably both. Shyamalan doesn’t help any of his young performers by giving them banal, faux-profound dialogue. And that’s not including the overabundant exposition delivered by The Last Airbender’s actors, young and otherwise, through dialogue or, in the case, of Katara, via exposition-heavy voiceover narration.

Hopes were high in some corners of the movie-related blogosphere that Shyamalan would break out of his self-imposed slump by adapting a work from another medium, rather that directing an original screenplay. Adapting someone else’s work hasn’t made him a better director. Early in his career as a filmmaker, Shyamalan seemed more suited to direct, rather than write and direct, but hubris, in part caused by the critical and commercial success of The Sixth Sense eleven years ago, convinced Shyamalan that he could do both. He can’t. He shouldn’t. The weaknesses in his previous films were usually script-based, not direction-based. Adapting, compressing, and condensing a season-long story arc (the equivalent of eight hours of television) was, in hindsight, beyond Shyamalan’s screenwriting talent or skills.

"The Last Airbender" often looks impressive visually even if, as with too many Hollywood directors, Shyamalan overcompensates by cramming every frame with CG. Credit there, however, shouldn’t go to Shyamalan, but to the production designer, Philip Messina, the cinematographer, Andrew Lesnie ("I Am Legend," "King Kong," "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy), and the innumerable visual effects technicians at ILM and other effects houses for creating the Airbender universe. Unfortunately, studio-imposed post-production conversion to 3D, which looks dim and grim, detracts and subtracts from any positives associated with the visual effects or production design. But even in 2D, the visuals can hide Shyamalan abysmal attempt at storytelling.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19249&reviewer=402
originally posted: 07/01/10 04:52:21
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User Comments

5/28/16 Ken Shyamalan is a gigantic fuck-up! 1 stars
1/09/15 michael LOL only retarded people gave this crap 5 stars 1 stars
7/31/14 haydenk loves the D I LOVE THIS MOVIE SO MUCH OMGOMGOMG <3<3<3 5 stars
2/20/14 Justin R. Don't bother seeing this dreck. 1 stars
10/18/11 Magic A terrible script, filled with the most laughable dialogue. Best comedy of the year. 1 stars
8/15/11 chris Makes The Happening look like high art, bad acting embarrsing scenes and special effects 1 stars
8/08/11 WENDY I actually turned this off and never finished it 1 stars
4/18/11 aj This was honesly the worst movie ive ever seen 1 stars
10/23/10 Rob Really a talking dragon! WTF!!!! What happened to Avatar Roku 1 stars
10/11/10 nik i couldn't believe that they screwed up so badly. RIP The Last Airbender 1 stars
10/03/10 Tino your daughter is a genius, be proud. and your review was ncie too 1 stars
8/25/10 The Last Buddahead I'm happy that I only paid $2 dollars for a pirate DVD 1 stars
8/24/10 Davey Shyamalan sucks these days. I'm not really a fan of the TV show either though. 1 stars
8/19/10 MikeAT Where to begin. Well I will not rant on the race issue when there is so much else wrong wit 1 stars
8/15/10 Terry GAME OVER YEAH!!!! 1 stars
8/13/10 Raquel As a fan of the animated series, I completely agree... They did mess up everything! 5 stars
8/09/10 Rob This review nails in on the head. I couldn't have said it better. 1 stars
8/08/10 Matthew Raymond Ember Island Players takes on a whole new meaning after seeing this movie. 1 stars
8/04/10 Kain I have never enjoyed an M. Night Shyamalan film, and The Last Airbender is no exception. 1 stars
8/01/10 Total Crap Does he take direction tips from Uwe Boll on how to utterly ruin a series? 1 stars
7/28/10 James i hope a better film maker redoes this catastophic failure, the nic series is phenominal 1 stars
7/25/10 lexi Horriable but atleast he tried 1 stars
7/23/10 Seth Airbender is the Hurricane Katrina of cinema which makes Shamashit the equivalent of FEMA 1 stars
7/21/10 Al I might be showing my agebut, Howard The Duck was a better adaptation(from Marvel comics). 1 stars
7/21/10 wil epic fail. the fire nation aren't scary at all. everything is out of the picture. 1 stars
7/20/10 luis i feel completely let down by everything about the movie. 1 stars
7/20/10 Samuel It was AWESOME! Like The Happening meets Crank, M. Nite is a GOD!! HE SHOULD DIRECT LOTR!!! 5 stars
7/20/10 Dre A horrible affront to the best American cartoon series made. M. Night is a talentless hack. 1 stars
7/19/10 gideon wow.....the movie was terrible...how the cast the avatar state made him look like a ragdoll 1 stars
7/19/10 garrett for shame shyamalan... 1 stars
7/18/10 Antman They took a really great series and discarded everything likable about it. 1 stars
7/18/10 Spencer Bad actors who can't pronounce names, a director who destroys childhood dreams, thanks dick 1 stars
7/17/10 kin torture. TORTURE 1 stars
7/17/10 Faylum Looking for donations, building a prison for M.Night Shyamalan in Mordor. 5 stars
7/16/10 Newbunkle It sucked ass, but I thought Dev Patel did a reasonable job. 1 stars
7/16/10 John Updick i took a dump and it came out better looking than this piece of crap 1 stars
7/16/10 JaMarr And why did he cast Master Pakku as some fat out of shape guy??!! 1 stars
7/16/10 JaMarr I liked the McDonalds commercial WAAAY better they should replace M.Nite with dat director 1 stars
7/16/10 Abby Argh! All the firebenders look like giant oompah loompahs! .....poor zuko 1 stars
7/16/10 Ziemz Epic Fail! 1 stars
7/16/10 Trae Well, everyone else (besides that one guy who likes it? Wtf is up with that?) is right. 1 stars
7/16/10 cranier actually it should be a half star rating but there isn't one so... 1 stars
7/15/10 titan the ember island players were better 1 stars
7/15/10 Bryceh I'm a huge fan of the show, and i was dissapointed after exactly 24 seconds. 1 stars
7/15/10 Lou Booooooooo 1 stars
7/15/10 Nick Vandekieft Proven, 10 year olds had a bigger clue of whats going on than M. Night DickHead did. 1 stars
7/15/10 christoban Dialog was so painful. Constantly narration was unbelievably lazy filmmaking. 1 stars
7/14/10 Brian Almost a completely different story.. except that it could not develop a story of its own. 1 stars
7/11/10 Liz "...Northern Air Tribe..."? Wtf! Its "Water" not "Air"! Btw, movie sucked. DItto, Ken. 1 stars
7/11/10 Larry Worst movie I've seen in years 1 stars
7/11/10 Rand Aweful is too tame a word to describe it. 1 stars
7/06/10 Brad It was a great movie 5 stars
7/04/10 Doug Honestly one of the worst movies I've ever seen 1 stars
7/03/10 puddleduck Bad on so many levels, I demanded a refund after 15 minutes of sheer torture. 1 stars
7/03/10 Darkstar Worst movie I've seen this year. Sucks, Sucks, Sucks. 1 stars
7/03/10 Ken First: racist casting, 2nd: slumping director, 3rd: movie has flop written all over it. 1 stars
7/01/10 Craig Bastardized the show. Didn't even pronounce names right. Night should kill himself 1 stars
7/01/10 Ming 3D is useless. You don't need it..Worst film of the year 1 stars
7/01/10 D³ck Peter Johnson I'm totally nude! I've gotta boner!! ...and I've gotta take a sh³t!!! 1 stars
7/01/10 g bad bad bad bad bad bad, etc 1 stars
7/01/10 Alex So painful to watch. 1 stars
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  01-Jul-2010 (PG)
  DVD: 16-Nov-2010


  DVD: 16-Nov-2010

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