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Review of M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender 2010-07-01 06:30:00

The Last Airbender: Missing Some Key Elements

The Last Airbender may sadly be remembered as the Summer blockbuster that could have been. On paper, it has all the makings of a perfect popcorn movie: an experienced director in M. Night Shyamalan, a fan base thanks to the cartoon series on which the film is based, and a story that appears to be both intricate and action-packed. Things went awry somewhere along the way, and writer/director/producer Shyamalan is the only one to blame.

It's hard to believe the man behind The Sixth Sense is also guilty of the painful dialogue and lackluster script we're given in Airbender. While the gorgeous scenery and dizzying special effects keep the film from falling apart entirely, it's not a promising start for a franchise. To see what i mean, just


The film takes us to a fantasy world divided into four nations based on the elements of earth, wind, air, and fire. Amongst the "Nomads" are "Benders," a select few who can control their element (though it's unclear why this talent would be useful for anything other than battles). Keeping the peace amongst the four nations is the Avatar, the only person who can bend all four elements and communicate with the spirit world. The Avatar has been missing for 100 years, though, and the Fire Nation has emerged as the dominant power, taking control of the other nations and wiping out the Air nomads entirely.


Still with me? The film opens with Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) and Katara (Nicola Peltz), a brother and sister duo who are just trying to survive in the Water nation under the oppressive rule of the Fire nation. They stumble upon Aang (Noah Miller), a child who looks like a monk and is sporting some serious tattoos. It's not long before they realize he's the last known airbender and the Avatar — but he was trapped for a century before he was able to fully develop his power.

There are characters and plot lines aplenty in the film, but Shyamalan fails to amalgamate the components into an exciting tale. The movie rushes through its story line, seemingly eager to get us to the film's climax. But without building the right momentum, the crux of the film doesn't pack nearly enough excitement or suspense. The same can be said for the characters: clearly each person has a history, but there's not nearly enough time spent exploring what makes them tick, and the emotional disconnect makes the story even more flimsy.

Shyamalan does excel in one area, and that's in the visual effects. The 3D aspect doesn't bring a ton to the table, but the stunning backdrop (most of it is shot in Greenland) and well-choreographed fight scenes kept me entertained in the midst of some seriously wooden performances. The special effects are exactly on point (particularly when the benders are working their magic), keeping the action sequences engrossing and often mesmerizing.

The Last Airbender is a very, very good-looking film, but no amount of special effects can mask the gaping hole where a great story should be. Airbender is meant to be the first of three chapters, and though it ends with a semi-interesting cliffhanger, it's not enough to corral audiences in for more.

Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Join The Conversation
Datura2112 Datura2112 6 years
Ok I went and saw it and I really liked it. It is NOT exactly like the cartoon. This is for older kids and adults and is not a comedy in the least bit. It is a more serious movie with a serious plot that sticks well to the original basis of the story. Take out all the funny kid stuff from the cartoon and this movie is what you get. Sokka is not funny but is shown as a Brother who truly loves his Sister and wants to do the right thing,. Rathbone did a great job, I even noticed some of the facial expressions from the cartoon! You truly get that Aang struggles with the fact that he is the Avatar and does not take the job lightly. He wants to have a life, a family and love. Quite impressive that Noah Ringer was able to pull it off. Also Dev Patel as Zuko was great! He got it across that he was truly hurt by his Fathers actions, he struggled with it and it came across wonderfully. There were downsides to the film. Mostly with the relationship with Aang, Katara and Sokka. They just kind of met and took off and the relationship was never truly shown to be close like it was in the series. Yes some die harders are not going to be happy with it but that's the case in nearly every film but I was happy with it. Could it have been better? Yes but it also could have been a lot worse. I give it a 3.5 out of 5.
BabyNorbert BabyNorbert 6 years
I can't wait to see this... but I'll have to wait until August as that's when it comes out in Denmark... I'd like to know how Jackson Rathbone did... was he any good?
deeyawn05 deeyawn05 6 years
I like the cartoon series and that is reason enough for me to watch the movie. I do hope that they do justice to the story. Movie goers who does know a lot about the series might have a hard time getting behind the story but I do hope they give it a chance coz it really is a good series.
Entertainment Entertainment 6 years
Cool, thanks Datura! I actually watched a couple of episodes with my cousin a few weeks ago but I'm definitely no expert! I did notice, however, that there's a sense of humor in the cartoon series that was nowhere to be found in the film :)
Renees3 Renees3 6 years
Is Sokka funny? Please tell me he's funny!
Datura2112 Datura2112 6 years
I got into this cartoon after a lazy Saturday afternoon of watching it with my Son. Tonight we will be going to watch this film and he knows everything about the series so I will let you know just how on par it was. We both know a lot of details will be left out since it is a series but we are hoping the key elements will be there. I will let you know later!
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