The Last Airbender (2010)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 7:06 AM | Posted in

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 0.6/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 0/10 (Zero)

THE LAST AIRBENDER (2010) - M. Night Shyamalan

In my experience as a film critic as well as an audience, I live my life watching movies through three rules:
  1. If the film is a sequel or a remake, its rating is not determined by the original film's quality.
  2. While watching a film for the first time, there are no distractions allowed whatsoever (Using computers, talking on the phone, texting).
  3. The film must be finished from beginning to end, no matter how bad the film is.

I have followed these rules for years, and in my entire life, there is only one film where I have ever broken my rules, and that is Rule #3. That one film is The Last Airbender. In my confession, I did not finish the film. To be more specific, I did not even reach half of the movie.

Even though The Last Airbender opens with promising adaptations of the portrayals of the four elements, it is quickly downgraded with a surprisingly dreadful narration. Narrated by a young girl, which I suspected as Katara and as a critic I do not know who it is yet, the opening text rolls with words that spoken in medieval times -- words that emperors or monks would say. But before the prologue grabs me into the story, I could not help but notice that the girl's voice is reading the same exact thing as the text that is rolling up the screen. Yes, I can perfectly read the words. Even more appalling, the last sentence of the narration quickly shifts from medieval language to modern day jargon, to words that ten-year olds would say. One minute into the film, and I am already shocked.

The Last Airbender is based on the famous animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Why remove "avatar" from the title? As a little trivia, The Last Airbender was originally planned to be have the word in its title. However, a few months before its release, James Cameron's Avatar was released first. Since the studio does not wish to have the name confusion, the word "avatar" was removed from the title.

For those who are unfamiliar with the series, The Last Airbender takes place in a land where the world is civilized by four nations: The Water Nation, The Earth Nation, The Fire Nation, and The Air Nation. Each nation's citizens are born with the skill to manipulate, or bend, the specific element in their village. For centuries, the four nations lived together in harmony, until the Fire Nation chose to invade and control everyone. In the ancient prophecy, only the Avatar, the one who can bend all four elements, can stop the Fire Nation. However, when the world needed him most, he vanished. Years later, when almost every place is under the command of the Fire Nation, the Water nation siblings Katara and Sokka discover a round icicle sphere in which the new Avatar, Aang, is in slumber, along with his personal flying friend, Appa. Together, the trio find rebels to fight back against the Fire Nation, as Aang slowly learns how to bend all four elements. Hunting down Aang is Fire nation Prince Zuko. All in all, the narrative of The Last Airbender is a typical "chosen one" story, in which a hero is chosen through prophecy to stop a powerful evil.

Unless one has already seen the original series, it is agreeable that this story is indeed difficult to tell within an hour and a half when it took four seasons to tell the whole story. This is one of many (and I do mean many) flaws in The Last Airbender. I swear, if I have never seen the show ahead of time, I would have no idea what this movie is about. I would love to explain it to you, but I would have no idea. There are so many characters, so many "rules" of bending, so many concepts, so many creatures, so many mystical nonsense to learn before the actual story kicks in. Games are best with simple rules, right? How about playing a game in which you still do not comprehend the rules? This whole outpouring of concepts causes one to simply "check out" of the movie within the first ten minutes, not even reaching the 30-minute rule of grabbing the audience's interest.

The acting is absolutely horrendous, like the works of a middle school project where the students happen to have a big budget to afford costumes and not-so-good special effects. As for characterization, may I first say that the Avatar Aang's name is pronounced exactly the way it is spelled, without the second "a." However, for some dimwitted reason, his name in this film is pronounced as "Ong." Sokka's name is also pronounced exactly the way it is spelled. But the film pronounced it as "Soak-a." Does M. Night Shyamalan have a grudge against the show?

The thing about good directors is that they have the skill to adapt to the material that they are given. Steven Spielberg will understand that directing a war film like Saving Private Ryan is different from a more calm film like The Terminal. Gore Verbinski will understand that directing an action film like Pirates of the Caribbean is different from a comedy like Mouse Hunt. For people who do not know who M. Night Shyamalan is, he is most known for directing thrillers and horror films that have plot twists in the end. He is also known for having extremely slow camerawork to build suspense, using dread and skillful use of music. For the cinematography being uniquely slow, that is okay for thrillers. But for an action film like The Last Airbender, one has to learn that action films require fast camerawork as well as brisk editing. However, Shyamalan does not do it. Instead, he fully handicaps the film's potential to be the greatest blockbuster of 2010. As an alternative to having quick close-up shots during fight scenes, Shyamalan uses wide and slow camerawork still and what we end up with is an establishing shot of over ten characters taking it out with their bending and sword-fighting. Inevitably, it becomes hard to identify who's who and the fight scenes lose their intensity and entertainment. Pretty soon, you will find yourself jaw-dropped….… by your yawns of boredom.

M. Night Shyamalan, in this critic's opinion, is probably the most self-destruct director of all time. His directing style is much admired in some of his films, such as The Sixth Sense and Signs, but the style heavily parts from a fantasy like The Last Airbender. In watching the film, I seriously cannot help but ask myself "What was he thinking?!" It is no surprise that the film took home the Razzie for Worst Picture and Worst Director.

In conclusion, The Last Airbender is simply unacceptable. It is the worst film I have ever seen, evident from it being the only film I have ever broken my rules on. The minute the film begins, it throws you into a lecture class explaining everything to you, from characters to creatures, bending rules to locations. It squeezes the entire first season into an hour and a half, just like how the film Push squeezed the entire series of Heroes into an hour and a half. For the fans of the animated show, The Last Airbender is the biggest disappointment in the world. For filmmakers and critics, The Last Airbender is a confusing mess with laughable dialogue, poor acting, dismal directing, and no cinematic value whatsoever. In my career of reviewing films, I have always given a rating. For The Last Airbender, I refuse to give one. I shall air bend the shape of a zero on the clouds, flood around the filmmakers' studios with a zero shape, form a burning zero on the mountains, and raise an earth fortress the shape of….. you guessed it, a zero.

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