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.
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.
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.
Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) gets angry as the 16-year old Fire
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?
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
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.