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Monday, January 3, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW - The Last Airbender

I’m not entirely certain what is more confusing, this movie or M. Night Shyamalan’s career. The man threw down three of the most entertaining thrillers of my time and now he’s the Brett Favre of cinema. If there’s a trailer for his film, it will read “From the director of The Sixth Sense and Signs.” Nothing he’s done in the last seven years is worth a mention and his resume is now filled with as many blunders as Jimmy Fallon.

And yet my sympathy for the man still runs based on those three early triumphs. It may be that’s why I can’t condemn The Last Airbender as the worst movie of the year. Or maybe I really do believe it’s more worthwhile than say, Copout. Regardless, there’s no refuting The Last Airbender’s gaping void of decent filmmaking.

The Last Airbender
has the story of those classic epics. A dark empire is running over the land and a young, reluctant hero must go on a quest to gain the powers necessary for peace. The difference between this film, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings is that the latter two treated their characters like Christ and His Apostles. Instead, the special effects get that respect in The Last Airbender.

Noah Ringer, the lead character Aang, isn’t terrible considering he’s had no prior acting experience. Yet I’m astounded, with all the talent in the world, Shyamalan decided being a black belt in taekwondo is more important than delivering lines. Was there a stunt man strike I wasn’t aware of this year?

Despite having more experience the rest of the cast isn’t any better. It makes you wonder what director Chris Columbus and the casting director of Harry Potter could’ve done. After Last Airbender, I dare anyone who criticized the early performances of Daniel Radcliff and Rupert Grint to tell me it couldn’t have been worse.

And as if having a poor script for poor actors isn’t bad enough, I’ve come to question Shyamalan’s shot choices as well. It was becoming evident in The Happening that his eye for great cinematography was waning. But The Last Airbender has shots that would only make a SyFy channel movie director proud. The director is supposed to make his actors look good. It’s an unwritten rule based on trust and collaboration. M. Night didn’t get the memo. He drenches the adults in even more ridiculous garb than the children and reveals the hokiness of the sets with very wide and puzzling cinematography. The 360 degree stuff worked in The Matrix. It even worked in Godzilla: Final Wars. It doesn’t even begin to work here.

And yet, with all the poor choices made with this movie I seem to have a soft spot for it. Perhaps the word-of-mouth that this was the worst movie of 2010 prepared me for something much worse. The Last Airbender is far from a good film, but it can be fun. Like I said, the story is a classic epic—Pure myth that we can all enjoy and look up too. Maybe that’s not a reason to have sympathy for a film and its director, but I’ll take it over The Happening.

*½ out of ****

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