Movie Review: "The Last Airbender"

 

Based on the animated series, “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” the live-action film adaptation should entice you to do one of two things: see “Toy Story 3” again, or better yet, purchase the original animated series.

The film follows Aang, portrayed with some success by Noah Ringer. Aang, as the title says, is the last Airbender, able to “bend” the air to attack and/or defend. But Aang, we soon discover, is also an Avatar, the latest in a line of reincarnated Avatars who control all of the elements. The world needs him to bring balance.

His goal here: to stop the war brought on by the fire tribe, the same people who slaughtered the Airbenders a century ago.

“The Last Airbender,” written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan is so immensely frustrating to watch, that it’s hard to quantify the missed opportunity.

It isn’t just M. Night Shyamalan continuing a momentous downward spiral, though the case exists.

Eye the studio that created it, Nickelodeon Movies, and you’ll find a company desperate to create mediocrity. Previous efforts include: “Imagine That,” “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” and “Barnyard.” It had to have been a concerted effort to create something so filled with opportunity, and with opportunity so obscenely wasted.

Is the judgment harsh? If anything, it’s not harsh enough. Why? Because we are expected to bring our families this holiday weekend. Families will spend ungodly sums of money this 4th of July to bring everyone together to watch a 3-D converted “epic.” This is how some families anticipate spending their time. Families want experiences of celebration, something to gather around and share. Nothing to find here; move along.

I don’t overly shower companies with praise, but Pixar doesn’t seem to assume children and the movie going public are idiots. Their stories are multi-layered; they don’t shy from drama that entices a larger demographic. However, with “The Last Airbender,” there is no respect paid to the filmgoer, because no respect is shown to our intelligence.

The 3D conversion, often making the film look as if it has a sheen of dirt spread over it, is the biggest disgrace of all, because they expect you to pay more for it. Nickelodeon serves even more disappointment on this outing, and they’ll make your children pay more for the privilege of experiencing it.

Yes, Nickelodeon makes films for families, just not intelligent or poor ones.

With elements of magic and adventure, the potential is precisely why the disappointment is so great.

Sometimes, something is good enough to give you a second opportunity to make it right. The Chronicles of Narnia is a good representation, not great, but enough of something going right that you’re excited about the possibility of more.

There could have been more here. In fact, there should have been. Having never see the original series, the story was easy enough follow; everything was there for the taking.

Appa could have been the new Falcore, and the loss just breaks what lingers of my juvenile heart.

 

What: "The Last Airbender"

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel

Rated: PG, for lots of blood-free violence

Should you go? Eh, perhaps if you’ve seen everything else. The Visual Effects were pretty decent.