Aug 042010

Wow, you talk about low expectations.

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…”)


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 Posted by at 10:16 pm

  4 Responses to “Review: The Last Airbender”

  1. I agree with your assessment of the film. I thought it stood on it’s on better. As I say in my recent review, I actually like the fact that they skipped a lot of the dumber aspects of the cartoon.

  2. Limited response as I have not seen it, but what strikes me is it is such an odd franchise choice for Shyamalan. Avatar reeks of the weak, J-Pop crap that doubles as Naruto and Dragonball Z depending on which decade you fall. I’m sure it has its fans, but come on, most of them are 10. If he wanted to splash a cartoon and show off set design and effects, why not aim bigger and do “Star Blazers” or “Voltron” or friggin “Akira”? I could have told you 8 months ago this was a bad idea limping around, trying to break even at domestic AND foreign box office. Right now M. Night is movie Kryptonite resting somewhere between Joel Schumacher and Michael Cimino. I do hope he regains his mojo someday.

  3. I thought the cartoon series was pretty entertaining. It has a story line, it has character development, it has humor and it has action. It would have made a good book. From what I have seen of Dragonball Z, it seems lacking in those areas. So, I think Shyamalan had a story to work with initially. I just don’t think he took advantage of the character development and humor that he could have. I don’t know the actors, so I can’t say if it was their performance or bad writing or bad editing. I’m kind of leaning toward the latter, though. I was fine with the special effects / action sequences.

  4. I think it’s a little odd for Shyamalan to insert himself into a franchise at all.

    Two things I forgot to mention, one good one bad: the Fire Nation’s ships were awesome. Great work there. Also, the entire film was too dark, and the after-the-fact 3D didn’t help.

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