The Last Airbender Movie Review - www.impulsegamer.com -

The Last Airbender
Reviewed by Glenn Erskine on September 3, 2010

Paramount Pictures
presents a film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Based on the Nickelodeon animated series, Avatar: The Last Airbender
Starring:  Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Aasif Mandvi, Cliff Curtis, Seychelle Gabriel
Running Time: 103 mins
Rating: PG
Released: September 16, 2010


5/10

 


After The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, M. Night Shyamalan was heralded as an exciting, upcoming filmmaker. Some were even calling his aesthetic sensibilities Hitchcockian. Heavy praise indeed, but his fan base and credibility have since diminished with each successive project. 


Aang (Noah Ringer) training. While the choreography is impressive, at time it is also unintentionally hilarious.

I was one of few who enjoyed The Village and Lady in the Water, but the train-wreck of The Happening was indefensible. The Last Airbender is quite a departure for Shyamalan – based on a popular and acclaimed Nickelodeon animated series, it’s his first adaptation, and one that comes with high expectations from the series’ devoted fan base. Unfortunately, Shyamalan has dropped the ball yet again. 

The story follows Aang (Noah Ringer) after he is awoken from a frozen tomb after a century of slumber. The four kingdoms of Earth, Water, Fire and Air still exist, but much has changed. Many Airbenders have been wiped out and the Fire Nation wages war against the others.  Aang is the last remaining “Avatar” – an exclusive group with the rare ability to manipulate all four elements. He must now lead the battle against the Fire Nation to avoid a catastrophic war. 

Though I’m unfamiliar with the source material, it’s clear that Shyamalan has had a little too much fun adding his own changes to the characters and story.  The main mystery here is why all the primary Asian characters are now Caucasian, pitted against darker skinned enemies. If this was to appeal to a wider American audience, then this film only serves to highlight some serious problems with our society. To make matters worse, the performances are akin to a group of high school students being forced to read aloud from a book.  Unfortunately, Ringer has neither the appeal of skill to fill the important role of Aang, and his sidekicks Kotara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone, following one of the most unintentionally hilarious performances in the abysmal Twilight series) are walking and talking narrative signposts. 


Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) gets angry as the 16-year old Fire Nation prince 

To give Shyamalan some credit, this is an impressive looking film. The colours are rich, the landscapes are spectacular and the fight scenes are well choreographed, despite some oddly placed digital zooms. The 3D is so flat that I often forgot the film was even in 3D – and not in the good, ‘wow-I’m-so-immersed’ way. The biggest omission here is the heart of the story – why should we even care about any of these characters? 

Thankfully, we can be grateful it’s not as bad as The Happening. The film has made a decent amount at the box office, but whether or not this will be enough to green light the second movie in a planned trilogy is yet to be confirmed.  

Shyamalan name will next be seen above the title in the first of his “Night Chronicles” trilogy, the promising Devil (about a group of people stuck in an elevator with Satan incarnate), for which Shyamalan only receives story and producing credit. It may be time for Shyamalan to take a break from filling all major creative roles on his projects and dabble in some collaboration. Maybe then we’ll see that exciting creative spark that Shyamalan seems to have recently misplaced.






 
 



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