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The Last Airbender (2010)

A movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

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He's a bender!

  • Aug 30, 2010
  • by
If for no other reason, The Last Airbender will bomb in British cinemas for a very childish one: someone forgot to research local playground slang.

At a moment of critical plot exposition early in the film a character motions to the mysteriously tattooed child Aang, who has just demonstrated awe-inspiring mystical skills, and portentously asks an elder:"when did you realise he was a bender?"

What little spell director M. Night Shyamalan had mustered was broken, and the theatre burst into guffaws of laughter. (Those not familiar with British schoolboy dialect need only note that "bender" generally isn't taken as a generic reference to those who are skilled at bending things.)

Now it would be a real pity, were this a film of great (or even a little) merit, for an otherwise meaningful cinema experience to be ruined by such a careless and unfortunate error. But it isn't a great pity. This isn't a single error. It's indicative of the whole film.

I tried hard to find positives in The Last Airbender, which has already received a roasting back home, for every film deserves the benefit of the doubt. But doubts are few and far between. I got as far as scraping the "nice set design" and "impressive surround-sound rendering" barrels just to think of something nice to say.

The Last Airbender is a sub-Harryhausen car-crash of a movie. It has none of the adeptness, inventiveness or creepiness Shyamalan demonstrated in the Sixth Sense (or even in the flawed Signs).

The plot is somewhere between byzantine and incoherent - perhaps no surprise, as it is a condensation of something like seven hours of an animated TV series. But Shyamalan doesn't trust his own direction to handle the exposition (much less respect his audience to nut it out) and so repeatedly has his characters stop and explain what's going on in portentous, but ludicrously scripted and woodenly executed, soliloquies. That offends the first rule of film-making: show; don't tell.

Conceptually, The Last Airbender is dreadfully derivative and, by and large, of dreadful films (The Golden Compass looms large, as do The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, at least two lesser episodes of Star Wars, all three of the Matrix; the Last Emperor, Avatar and the bad bits of Lord of the Rings). Inexplicably, one of the beasties from Where The Wild Things Are - a large hairy, dopey monster with a platypus tail - seems to have wandered onto the set, been roped in, and given the most improbable power of flight. Whenever things look a bit touch-and-go for poor old Aang (who at some times is startlingly vulnerable, at others can effortlessly repel hoardes of attackers using only Tai-Chi) this great hairy boulder flies in from nowhere to save the day.

The universally wooden acting is almost entirely the fault of the script. This is therefore a let-off for Dev Patel and others, for there is no compelling way to say things like "your destinies are tied, Zuko". The script in turn drives a quite incoherent screenplay (you can follow it, but only by mapping it against archetypal plot formulas (for example: "this must be the bit where the hero is captured, nearly killed and then, because he has been underestimated, miraculously escapes to regroup and save the day" and so on).

The cast's general lack of acting acumen (one or two of the leads are so entirely forgettable that I honestly can't remember them) is only accentuated by the ropey choreography. From time to time whole troupes of benders break out into synchronised air-karate, in the manner of a Bollywood dance routine, only not quite in time with each other. And whenever it looks like a semblance of decorum is about to be restored, one of the characters will cry something like, "Earthbenders! Why are you acting this way?" (a question I pondered of Dev Patel on more than one occasion) or "Look! A bender!" Cue more guffaws.

To add unneeded insult to what are surely mortal injuries, during post-production someone had the bright idea of rendering the film in 3D, even though it wasn't shot that way, and so you have to watch it through blurry plastic glasses for a 3D effect that doesn't work very well in the first place.

The Last Airbender could almost have been a superb spoof. But not quite. I tried to convince myself that this was, in fact, what was going on in a last desperate attempt to give it the benefit of the doubt. But I really couldn't. The sad irony is that so little would be needed to change into the most subtle and devastating parody. A missed opportunity: perhaps Mr Shyamalan will release a director's cut.

In the mean time, masochists only need apply

Olly Buxton

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More The Last Airbender reviews
review by . July 02, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Indifferent Storytelling and Clumsy Direction Makes This Film Rather Dull!
I have always said that like him or not, M. Night Shymalan makes an effort to try to be original. Yes he does, but lately, it can be said that he is experiencing a sort of a creative slump, that his latest movies have become more of a miss than a hit. The last movie that I really liked from him was “Unbreakable” and that has been such a long time ago. People then began to become disappointed with Shymalan‘s “The Village” and his recent film “The Happening” …
review by . January 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
* out of ****     As if "Lady in the Water" and "The Happening" weren't enough to concern us of director M. Night Shyamalan's current mental state, "The Last Airbender" essentially confirms that the man we once loved has officially gone mad. This is the man's first revoltingly unwatchable feature; merged with that now complete feeling of pretentiousness that's been building up faster and faster as Shyamalan's movies have been getting lamer and lamer. I mean, at least "The Happening" …
review by . December 14, 2010
I have one word respect. None of which is in M. Night Shamalayn's The Last Airbender. Not only does it not give respect towards the original work but there is no respect between the characters in the picture. Watching Airbender made me so nauseous that I felt like throwing up my popcorn. And believe me, it's that bad.      The Last Airbender is the culmination of season 1, dubbed Book 1, of the hit nickelodeon series Avatar: the Last Airbender. Sadly because of the super …
review by . December 16, 2010
As a great fan of the original animated series, of course I had high expectations for this movie. And it was agonizing.      There are so many problems in this movie that I don't even know how to begin. Let's start with the most obvious. Oh, wait I still don't know what the most obvious is. But well, the first problem that really began to disturb me are the fights. If you've seen the original cartoon you know how awesome the fights are. They are exciting and …
review by . July 21, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
1/2 a star :
Long ago in a forgotten land there were four nations Earth, Air, Fire and Water the four fabled nations lived in peace and harmony with one another that is until the ruthless and power hungry fire nation declared war on the three other nations. Only the fabled AVATAR the master of all four elements could stop them but when he was needed the most he vanished, for a hundred years, the Fire nation ruled thinking that the only threat that had   the power to defeat them was long deceased. …
review by . December 05, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: The opening element montage is directly out of the show     Cons: The humor and rounded characters were left back in the show     The Bottom Line: It's a great late-night movie after a bad day at work.     Zuko: "That... Wasn't a good play."   Aang: "I'll say."   Katara: "No kidding."   Suki: "Horrible."   Toph: "You said it."   Sokka: "But the effects were decent."   Avatar: …
review by . July 01, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Ever since seeing "The Sixth Sense," my nature has been to resist the films of M. Night Shyamalan. I have to admit that now. I'm aware of his technical skills and his ability to build tension, and yet something within me finds his work profoundly unappealing. I go in with an open mind, but then, minute by minute, it seems as if he's purposely trying to push me away with his unreasonably slow pacing, his amateurish dialogue, his bizarre character development, his ill-fitting sense of humor, and in …
review by . July 06, 2010
The Last Airbender? Could be Possible
The Last airbender is a live action adaptation on a nickelodeon tv show Avatar: The last Airbender. Now the show was devided into three seasons and this film adaptaion was directed by the sixth sense director M. Night Shyamalan. Now i have to say i did like the movie but i can see why other people did not. For those who watched the cartoon the end of season 1 with the water nation vs the fire nation battle was one of the biggest events in the series but i thought the friendship between Sokka …
review by . July 15, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
When I first heard that this series was being made into a movie I was very excited. Then, however, I learned that M. Night Shyamalan was directing the movie...I was afraid that it would bomb because Shyamalan's latest films have not been the greatest. As soon as the first scene played in front of me, I knew that it was as bad as I expected it to be. First of all, Shyamalan change the pronunciation of many of the character's names. Watching further I found that many of the scenes were precise …
review by . December 01, 2010
The Last Airbender staring Dev Patel and Noah Ringer and directed by M. Night Shyamalan is an adventure film that takes place in a fantasy world. There are different tribes and each has the ability to control one of four elements: air, water, earth and fire. The "Avatar" is the one person who can control all four at the same time.       The Avatar disappeared and many believed that he was dead. When a brother and sister find a boy frozen in ice, they soon learn that …
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Olly Buxton ()
Member Since: Sep 26, 2009
Last Login: Dec 22, 2010 09:37 PM UTC
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The Last Airbender is an action-adventure fantasy film released on July 2, 2010. It is a live-action film adaptation  based on the first season  of the animated television series, Avatar: The Last Airbender. The first of a planned trilogy, it will be produced by Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies. The series, influenced by Asian art, mythology and various martial arts fighting styles, was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, and was adapted by M. Night Shyamalan, who will also direct and produce the film along with Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy, Sam Mercer and Scott Aversano. Filming began in mid-March 2009; the movie is scheduled to be released on July 2, 2010 in both traditional two-dimensional projectors, as well as in 3D.

Poster art for "The Last Airbender."

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Runtime: 103 minutes
Studio: Paramount

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"Elemental, My Dear Shyamalan"
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