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The Last Airbender (2010)

A movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

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Indifferent Storytelling and Clumsy Direction Makes This Film Rather Dull!

  • Jul 2, 2010
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” was met with fierce criticism; this time around, Shymalan tries something that he sees to be easier, when adapts the cult animated series “Avatar The Last Airbender” into the big screen, hoping for a better chance at box-office success.

This film will be known simply as “The Last Airbender” since Cameron‘s “Avatar” was such a box-office success. Well, I have seen only a few episodes of the series and for what I remember it was quite good. Shymalan’s problems are just beginning as this film may try to act and look like its source material but instead becomes something that is rather dull.

              Noah Ringer in "The Last Airbender."

              Nicola Peltz as Katara and Noah Ringer as Aang in "The Last Airbender."

The Four nations of Earth, Fire, Water and Air are in disarray as the absence of the “Avatar” has made the Fire nation bold enough to terrorize the land. In a “Water Tribe” , Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) have discovered a young monk named Aang (Noah Ringer) frozen in ice. They free him and befriends the young monk, little knowing that he is someone that can be the last hope of saving the land. Aang is the “Avatar” a being whose destiny lies in becoming the savior by uniting the land and is destined to be a “bender” of all the four elements, plus the spirit world. But Aang must first realize that the threat of the Fire Nation isn’t something to be ignored as he is pursued by Admiral Zhao (Aasif Mandvi) and Prince Zuko (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire) who also wants to capture the last “avatar” in order to redeem himself in the eyes of his father…

                 Nicola Peltz as Katara in "The Last Airbender."

                Noah Ringer as Aang in "The Last Airbender."

I suppose that Shymalan truly intended to attract ONLY the fans of the series since the script is a bore and requires someone to be well-versed in its source material. Characterization is almost none-existent and for something that is supposed to be an epic, Shymalan stumbles around trying to gain some footing on the film’s premise but never realized it. Shymalan began with such a high note with “The Sixth Sense” and now, several years later, the man is beginning to show his limitations as a filmmaker. The film is originally intended to be the first in a trilogy, and I have to say, the producers may need to find a different director for the next two films.

Shymalan feels unfocused as I began to think that this concept may not be his forte, the film feels quite overcooked and yet so undercooked if such a thing is possible. The movie looks ‘spiffy’ at times and yet the script is such a jumbled mess. It does express the "Chapter One: Water" thing to emulate the series' "Season One" but it feels unnecessary. The source material was filled with epic battles with monsters, battles of such “bending” powers in a traditional battle of good vs. evil. Sure, the film has the right characters but they aren’t really the characters. Shymalan resorts to flashy editing tricks and visuals to express the fights; while this was exactly a bad thing, the set ups proved to be uninspired and I really never cared one bit as to who won the fights. Shymalan never made the fights mean something, and therefore he fails on emotional content that he never makes the sequences really come alive.

                  Nicola Peltz as Katara in "The Last Airbender."

                 Shaun Toub as Uncle Iroh in "The Last Airbender."

When the battles do come, the supposed “Tai Chi Chuan” of the Water Benders and the supposed to be “Northern Shaolin Kung Fu” of the Fire Nation feels well, they were rehearsed and the actors felt rather clumsy performing the moves. It wasn’t that they looked bad, but they felt real fake and the moves without grace. Shymalan does try to bring the film’s focus on young Aang as a conflicted lead character. I do have issues with Ringer playing Aang since the original character wasn’t Caucasian, but he does look alright in performing the moves (but it was still obvious that he’s a novice) and he did have some good moments as he performs the “air bending moves“. The supporting cast is another story as Peltz and Patel felt real clumsy in the action scenes and even worst as the film’s dialogue is bloated that their acting became wooden. The characters are mere caricatures of what they were supposed to be; and Ringer may be alright with the Kung Fu stances, but his acting was rather crude that he made the stakes feel unimportant.

Shymalan is even more horrendous in shooting the fight sequences than he is telling the story. He relies on the usual slow-motion, cheap editing and visual effects to carry him through the scenes. The film’s effects are good but not impressive; then, after all is said is done, I really didn’t care anymore. Visual effects should only be a part of a film and not as a film’s best strength. I didn’t see this in 3D but I doubt it would’ve helped make it better. The film does have that darker atmosphere than its source material, and I thought this was a misstep.

I guess the film’s main flaw would be is that it tried too much to cover as much as they could in a 90+ minute movie with a weak script; that it really felt like it was meant for fans who could fill in the blanks in its shaky execution. But even the Spirit-dragon subplot felt imprecise and Aang‘s pet was just well--there for the sake of being there. Shymalan’s greatest fault would be that he felt real apathetic to its storytelling, that he miserably fails in exuding pure excitement that the film became a bore and he just couldn‘t get his directorial footing in this film; and for a cartoon made to be a full length picture, this is a no-no. I guess things look rather bleak now for its intended sequels.

RENTAL [2 Out of 5 Stars]

Indifferent Storytelling and Clumsy Direction Makes This Film Rather Dull! Indifferent Storytelling and Clumsy Direction Makes This Film Rather Dull! Indifferent Storytelling and Clumsy Direction Makes This Film Rather Dull! Indifferent Storytelling and Clumsy Direction Makes This Film Rather Dull!

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August 11, 2010
I have to admit, I'm pretty glad I didn't waste my cash to see it in theaters now. It's a shame that they remade something that already rocked, the TV show was incredible. Thanks for the thorough, honest review :)
August 11, 2010
Thank you for the read and the comment. Talk to you later :)
July 19, 2010
Pretty well put togehter I must say. This is the ONLY kind review I have read as many people are claiming that this movie is WORSE then the much maligned Transformers ROTF from last year and another internet critic pointed out that when this movie opens WITH Twilight and TWILIGHT is BETTER is a REAL sign of a tired director. I keep thinking of the first ninja turtle movie from 90 which also pointed out that "This is no cartoon!" That movie must be a masterpiece by comparison if what I've heard about this movie is true.
July 19, 2010
Thanks. I had some exposure to the series so I think I automatically filled in the missing gaps in the movie without me knowing which is why I was kinder to it. I think this may indeed be worst than the 2nd Transformers movie, but I dunno about the 2nd Twilight movie since that was just so painful to watch. I'll have to advise you to stay away from this one, unless you are a fan.
July 20, 2010
If your telling me that I need to rely on my knowledge of the Nick Cartoon to fill in stories, then this might as well have been another Star Wars prequel movie, where you need to cull from comics, novel adaptions and other crap to tell the story. That is a sign of lame writing or poor editing. Either way, it's bad.
July 20, 2010
Yeh, it is pretty bad. I just couldn't get it how my friends thought it was 'ok'.
July 05, 2010
I was a bit surprised to find out that Dev Patel was in this flick--and even more surprised to hear that he looked clumsy. After all nearly everyone in Bollywood is a dancer (see end credits for SLUMDOG to see a few of Patel's moves) and so he should at least know how to keep from tripping over his own feet. I'm even more surprised to find ouut about Aasif! He's from Tampa you know. He even worked the Largo Ren Fest for a couple of years and I have some pix of him playing as an evil Arab in the human chess match. I posted one on his website and he was surprised to see it after so many years.
July 19, 2010
I think for the most part it was the bad choreography that did it. I mean, how can you pull off the right moves when you're not given anything to make yourself look credible?
July 21, 2010
Did the give credit( lay the blame) for the choreography?
July 22, 2010 ok, he's to blame LOL!
July 22, 2010
Who he though? Or are you not a credit reader. If the choreographer is that bad it would make me really interested in checking to see. They credit nearly everybody including the guy who drives the honeywagon on flix and have done so since the 60s.
July 22, 2010
I usually do check the credits but with this movie, I was so disappointed that I just wanted out LOL!
July 23, 2010
Wow. This must have sucked royally.
July 05, 2010
In my review, I failed to mention the clumsy, ineffective "martial arts" moves. The hokey tai chi seemed overly dramatic and ugly. Although our ratings diverge a little, it appears we saw the same short-comings.
July 19, 2010
I think so too. I saw your review and we saw the same things but I was a little kinder since I thought that some of the EFX were acceptable.
July 04, 2010
I love the series. And I expect adaptations of anything to pretty much suck. But I always want to see them anyway, since there is usually a redeemable quality of some sort. And I don't get too caught up in the changing of details. This follows the series' order of events well, if quickly and sparsely. However, I think you're correct that Shyamalan didn't fulfill the movie's potential. I liked the effects; it's fun to see the bending more lively than the hand drawn of the series. The biggest disappointment to me was that most of the humor was cut out. The series has A LOT of small humorous moments that give it a lightheartedness while still being the epic good v evil story. It helps the audience connect more with the characters too. And, they're all kids after all, it needs some fun in it. Although, Uncle did keep his humor :) Overall, enjoyed it. But it's probably because me and my friends were obsessed with the show in high school and know all the little plot details to fill in the blanks that Shyamalan was stingy with. (The first 2 episodes of the series, the ones that set everything up are 1 hr. . . in the movie, this is about 10 mins.) And really, all I wanted to get out of it was the live-action bit, not so much the actual plot/story, since I know it so well.
July 04, 2010
Hey, thanks for the great comment! I am with you, I usually try to see the live-action adaptations of the stuff I like, just to give it a chance. I didn't hate the movie, but I felt that Shymalan did a hack job that instead of expanding or paying tribute to the series, he just put in some scenes together from the source material without taking the time to mesh them together. It is a display of his limitations as director. Good thing you mentioned the humor in the series, it was indeed part of its charm. This was Shymalan trying to re-create it to his liking and it made it dull. This movie is indeed aimed for its fans but it will not get new fans for the series from this movie; which is a shame. I hope they replace him as director for the sequels. Thanks again for the feedback!
July 05, 2010
Often directors (especially those on the way Up or Down in their careers) don't have as much power and say so over a film as people believe. It's the producers who real control in such cases. As you pointed out, Woop, Shyamalan has had nothing but dismal failures with at least his last 3 films--maybe more. Still which ever case, he will bear the blame and be replaced if the bother with a sequel.
July 06, 2010
@Queen-- According to Wikipedia M. Night Shyamalan was writer, director, and one of the 5 producers. I know that when the director doesn't have any other role in the movies production that they do have less power. And I'm sure even with Shyamalan being so involved, he probably still had to appease whoever was funding it. That's why I don't dwell too much on the discrepancies. Too many people trying to please too many other people, who are mostly concerned about the $$, not the fans or the integrity to the original. Most adaptations of series or anything else, usually would need to be several hours long to recreate the charm of the original. Oh well, I say to any of that. It's just supposed to entertain the audience for a couple of hours. Only every once in a while do I find something amazingly awesome in its second coming.
July 04, 2010
I was wondering about this flick man since the series is good.
July 04, 2010
If oyu loved it, you may be able to tolerate this one. I'll be by to check out your reviews this evening....
July 02, 2010
Wow, considering all the hype, this sounds like a disappointment! Everyone said that about The Village and I actually enjoyed it, but this one really sound meh. I'll sit this one out. Thanks, Woo!
July 02, 2010
I didn't hate the village; but the problem was, I figured it out 15 minutes into the film. I think Shymalan is in over his head when it comes to a movie based on a cartoon. I tried to like it, but I just couldn't.
July 02, 2010
lol, I didn't figure it out till, well, they revealed it in the end. Dang, Woo, you're good! I have a friend who's able to guess the ending of the movie way early on in the movie, too, and he always takes it upon himself to whisper to me. I hate that! I don't really think about or analyze the film while I watch it; I just like watching it unfold. If we ever watch a movie together, please don't whisper your hypotheses to me! ;)
July 02, 2010
Don't worry--I won't. You know what's worst? The "Saw" films--I get the twist 8 minutes into the film. he-heh. I usually don't talk in the theater anyhoo--if I do, just shove some popcorn into my mouth, then I'll shut up. LOL!
July 02, 2010
I guess the solution to this is a really, really big tub of popcorn then! ;)
July 02, 2010
@devora, yup---popcorn, junior mints, hotdogs, nachos, pizza, ice cream, shakes, corndogs...umm...what were we talking about again..?! LOL!

@AerinBlue, you woudn't believe the jokes my friends say when we see a movie on dvd. LOL!
July 02, 2010
I'm with @devora and @AerinBlue. I enjoyed "The Village" a lot. I got wrapped up in the story, and I didn't even think about trying to guess or figure it out. I'm not sure where it ranks based on all his films, but I'm still a big fan of his work. I think "Unbreakable" is my favorite probably followed by his bedtime story one. :)
July 03, 2010
Yup. They only behave when their GF's are around--well, barely LOL!
July 02, 2010
Shyamalan is a total hack as far as I'm concerned and when I heard he was directing this I knew I'd stay the hell away. Based on the reviews I've already read, there's nothing in the entire film to redeem it from a terrible script, bad acting, clumsy direction, and too many mediocre and distracting CGI elements. Skip!
July 02, 2010
I almost gave it a 1.5 star rating but I thought some of the effects were good enough to warrant a 2 star rating. So far, this film really exposed his limitations as a filmmaker.
July 02, 2010
Most professional critics gave it between half a star or one star out of four. Ouch! Your rating has actually been the most generous, which doesn't seem like you. ; )
July 02, 2010
yeh. I guess I saw its misplaced merits when some kids and teens behind me were enjoying the film. They were even mouthing off some of the dialogue after. Weird!
July 02, 2010
Funniest thing I ever saw like that was when I went and saw "Spider-Man 3" and had to use the theatre's restroom after. Two kids were sharing the same urinal and arguing over who the next Spidey villain would be. I couldn't get out of there fast enough!
July 02, 2010
I rarely give 1 stars, they're as hard to come by as my 5's but when I do it means it really was stupid, moronic and uninspired. Spidey 3 and Indy 4 I would give a 2-2.5 also.
July 02, 2010
I think I gave Spidey 3 a 3, but I'm not sure. I know that "X-Men III" warranted a 2 and I recall thinking Spidey 3 was slightly better.
July 04, 2010
there are those like Punisher Warzone that was bad but for some reason it became tolerable because of all the blood and gore. As for future movies, expect them to have really low quality, since Iron Man 2 was the last produced by the studio; Disney is on.
July 04, 2010
Yeah, don't mention Disney or Marvel in the same sentence or I just get pissed off with both.
July 04, 2010
check out Sean Rhodes' new review....(I am not talking about the new Twilight Movie)
July 02, 2010
I haven't seen it yet, but I'm guessing the reason for the lack of emotion in the fight scenes has to do more with the lack of character development than the actual scenes themselves.  Usually you can have a lot of flash and whatnot in a fight scene and people will find it worthwhile... if they care about the characters within it.

I've heard this one is worse than Shayamalan's last film... which is pretty hard to do.  I didn't think you could get any worse than The Happening. 
July 02, 2010
The thing is, the premise is simple--good vs. evil but Shymalan messed it up. It was easy--take time to make the viewer care about your characters and the struggle must take central stage--yet, he messes it up. He just couldn't establish a feel for it. i hate to say it, I think Shymalan is showing his true lack of abilitites.
July 02, 2010
I've been thinking about seeing this, but I was worried about not fully understanding everything since i haven't seen the animated (anime?) series. So, this helps a lot. I know how popular the series is, but when I saw the promos on TV I thought it seemed kind of werid someone would make a movie based on this series since it seems to be kind of a niche series--you know, I am sure a lot of people that have seen it have no idea it's actually a TV series.
July 02, 2010
Stormtamer, this film depends on the viewr's knowledge of the series; there are a lot of incoherent scenes that made me grind my teeth. See the series instead! I still need to finish the three seasons unfortunately.
More The Last Airbender reviews
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 . August 30, 2010
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 …
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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About this movie


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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