It’s really tough to find a positive review of The Last Airbender. I really thought I was reading a lot of irrational Shyamalan hatred, so I considered that going in, but I still thought there was a good, solid 50% chance it would suck.
Now Lea and the boys follow the animated series far more closely than I do, and they had some gripes in that vein. This film contains little of the humor in the series, for example. Also, some mystical elements were either consolidated or eliminated in the interest of economy.
I was determined to evaluate The Last Airbender on its own merits, and I think having passing familiarity with, but not deep knowledge of, the series made me a good candidate to do that.
It’s a fine film. It’s not marvelous, but neither is it mediocre. I found exposition sufficient to advance the plot without fuss, good special effects, and excellent set design (the northern water village in particular was beautiful). Shaun Toub’s Iroh was a fine performance. Seychelle Gabriel’s Princess Yue was lovely.
Lea used the word “flat” on the acting at large, and I’ll go part of the way there with her. Plenty of fantasy movies deal with life, death, love, and war, without being so somber and muted. A bit more vibrance would have been welcome. Perhaps a sequel will remedy (if there is one; I understand that hinges solely on whether this one makes its money back, and that’s dicey right now).
I’ve been a steady M. Night Shyamalan collector, and though he’s made several better films than this, I won’t break the pattern here. This one will come to live with us on Blu-ray.
(Nathan told me on the way home that I should come on the Internet and say to all of the negative reviewers “hey, you’re a bunch of bozos!” I said “son, believe it or not, you’re not the first guy to think of that…”)