As most of you have noticed by now, I generally like M. Night Shyamalan’s movies. The Last Airbender, based on the Nickelodeon animated TV show, is an exception. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I saw this in theaters when it came out (for a date), but I knew nothing about the TV show at that point. I will give this movie credit that I could tell there was a good story somewhere in the source material and ended up watching the show because of it, but in the end that made me more furious at what I had seen in the theater.
The Last Airbender is about a number of “characters” who can control the different classical elements (earth, fire, water, and air) but instead use their screen time to monotonously explain plot points to the audience. As explained repeatedly, the main “character” Aang is the only one able to control, or bend, all four elements, and is the last remaining member of his culture, which was wiped out 100 years earlier. As ALSO EXPLAINED he froze himself for 100 years until being freed by Katara and her brother Sokka. He’s pursued by Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation (which is at war with the other countries), who wants to capture him to restore his position. Usually I would mention the names of the actors, but as terrible as this movie was I will spare them unless it’s relevant to a point I make later on. Again, all of this is EXPLAINED in boring, monotonously delivered dialogue, rather than diverting some of the $150 million budget on great effects to show these scenes.
Speaking of which, the special effects in this movie are sometimes painful to look at, even though they’re almost competently done. The CGI effects in particular are very noticeable and are not done in a unique way to offset it. The animated TV show looked MUCH better. The sets are well-constructed though. Where did all that money go?!
The writing and dialogue are, without exception, agonizing to sit through. Nothing is said throughout the entire running time that makes me care what happens to any of the characters or during any of the events. The story itself, as I mentioned above, could have been interesting if it made the audience in any way invested in it. This dialogue is so bad that not even Dev Patel (Zuko) could make it interesting; in fact it was during one of his scenes that I gave up any hope of this movie being any good. Unfortunately, none of the other actors are as good as Patel, and if even he couldn’t make it bearable then imagine how bad it was when delivered by the rest of the cast. The actor who played Aang (Noah Ringer) was a newcomer…and it showed. Shyamalan’s awkward writing style in this type of movie worked as well as putting hot sauce on a band-aid.
I haven’t even talked about the reversal of the characters’ skin colors. In the original cartoon, the protagonists tended to have darker shades for their skin while the villains were mostly from the Fire Nation, whose people had the lightest skin of any of the countries. In this movie, for reasons I can’t understand, the Fire Nation is made up of people who look more Middle Eastern/Indian in skin tone, while the protagonists (particularly the Water Tribe, based on Inuit culture in the show) are suddenly portrayed by white actors. I don’t know if this was a studio decision, especially as Shyamalan himself is Indian, but did they really think fans wouldn’t notice this? Who thought this was a good idea?!
In short, this is a movie that makes me angry just thinking about it. This is the new Batman and Robin; it’s horrendous on its own, but better videos have been made about its many, many failures. If you want to watch it, have some friends over, serve some VERY stiff drinks, and make fun of it the whole time instead of getting invested in a single second, otherwise avoid like the plague. Watch the excellent TV show instead.
Rating: 1/5 ★
Did anyone like this movie, or does it fill you with rage? Comment below!
See below for my reviews of Shyamalan’s better movies.