Saturday, July 3, 2010

In Theaters: The Last Airbender

(Spoiler Warning: This review may contain minor spoilers so be warned just in case you still want to go see it after reading it.)

"I close with the hope that the title proves prophetic." - Roger Ebert (Probably a little weak on my part to quote a reviewer's review of this film in my review but it was to good to pass up.)

M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender opened up this weekend and I made the unfortunate mistake of going to see it. Avatar: The Last Airbender is the popular anime from which the film was adapted. A good friend of mine is a huge fan of the anime (supposedly there is a debate on whether its an anime or a cartoon but I digress) it is based on and has tried to get me to watch it numerous times. Since it recently was added to the Netfilx Instant I have started watching it and while it is geared towards a younger audience it is still enjoyable. Unfortunately for those fans who want to see more anime made into live action films the same can not be said for the film. While I had read some of the reviews that bashed the film, I kept assuring myself it couldn't be that bad and the images of the original trailer were only contributed to that thought.

Spoiler: None of this trailer is in the actual film. (So just watch this and save yourself ten bucks.)

To start off with the majority of the acting and casting is terrible (with the partial exception of Dev Patel and Shaun Toub as Prince Zuko and Uncle Iroh respectively.) Its hard to believe the director who got such a great performance out of Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense could do nothing for the main child performances in this film, whether it be helping the actors with their craft or getting them replaced. One of the three main characters has a blank stare on his face for a good eighty to ninety percent of his screen time, pulling quite a similar stare from anyone watching the film. Moving on to the hot issue of the race of characters, which is another disaster all in its own. In the anime all characters were of Asian culture influences and looked the part, while the film starkly divides races making the Indians=Bad Guy, Caucasian=Main Character Good Guy, and Asian and African=Everyone Else. Don't really want to go into the whole topic here but if you would like to know more about this blog is an interesting read.

But this is a summer blockbuster right? So cast and acting doesn't really matter as long as it has awesome effects and cinematography, right? Well in that case it is still 0-2, the effects of this film are just as bad. While having the four main elements at his disposal (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) Shyamalan and his effects team manage to show us no new or memorable uses of them instead electing for 32 part step sequences that enable the characters to move a pebble or puddle ten feet. Granted the effects the anime could be considered hard to translate into live action but this film almost looks like they took screen grabs into the generic Paint program. Staying on the course of train wreck in progress, the cinematography was horrendous. I didn't realize it was possible to mess up a shot reverse shot dialogue (Character A talking to off screen Character then cut to Character B talking to off screen Character A) but one of the few parts of actual story falls victim to it in this film. Add to it the useless panning shots and oddly framed characters shots and you have yourself a how not to shoot movies video.

Rounding out the film we have story, editing, and script or terrible, more terrible, and most terrible. Condesing the narrative of the anime down to a managable film prooves to difficult for Shyamlan (yeah, he wrote it as well as directed and produced) turning into a cutting frezey leaving only the barest of plot lines. The editing and continuity leaves the film with no coherrent pacing causing the viewer to wonder if days, months, or years passed in between scenes. Lastly the dialouge is stripped of any emotion down to the one word responses, cliche sayings, and empty expository monolouges.

Working on a five star system (excluding zero) I have to give it one out of five although that almost seems too generous. If you haven't seen the anime go watch that instead and if you have skip the film since it will just dissappoint you. Leave your thoughts below in the comments, I am off to get the taste of this film out of my mind.


  1. Now, the real question is, would this be a decent film to get a group of guys together, crack open some beers, and riff to?

  2. It might be, the beers would have to be plentiful through.