The Last Airbender Movie Review

The Last Airbender may be the biggest crime that M. Night Shyamalan has ever cinematically perpetrated on an unsuspecting fan base. But don’t take my word … watch The Last Airbender and make your own determination.

The American animated series The Last Airbender has been running on the Nickelodeon TV channel for 3 years. It has quite possibly been the best 3 years of TV in the past decade. With its complex, ingenious storyline and exhaustive character development this groundbreaking series has built a huge worldwide following. In the hands of a director skilled in big budget, big story action films (ie; Peter Jackson – Lord of the Rings or James Cameron – Avatar) this could have been a masterpiece. All the elements were there.


The Last Airbender Online Links


But M. Night Shyamalan is NOT a director with experience in these types of movies. Most of his past shows involve drama and suspense. They start slow, build slow and end with a twist. Unfortunately his inexperience comes across very clear in this picture.

The story of The Last Airbender takes place in a fantasy world where there are 4 major tribes, or nations. The people of each nation have the ability to control (or bend) one of the classic 4 basic elements (Earth, Water, Air and Fire). There is supposed to be a balance between these four nations so that no one single group can destroy the others. But the Fire Nation has upset this balance by becoming much stronger than the other 3, and they are determined to conquer the world.

Only one person, an Avatar, can control all four elements and bring a peaceful balance back to the world. This Avatar, known as Aang (played by Noah Ringer), was the last known surviving Airbender who went missing over 100 years ago when he was frozen in a block of ice. Wishing to stop the Fire Nation from world dominance, 2 people (Katara .. played by Nicola Peltz and her brother Sokka … played by Jackson Rathbone) begin a hunt for the long missing Aang. They eventually find and free him from his icy tomb.

The remainder of the movie deals with Aang and his friend’s attempts to bring all the 4 elements under his control and stop the Fire Nation from killing everybody.

Now this is a story! And with a massive built-in fan base all the director and studio had to do was not blow it. But blow it they did.

The first mistake was to try to cram an entire season of the TV series … 420 minutes worth … into a movie that lasts little more than 90 minutes. This results in hours of series storyline being chopped down to 2 minutes of film time. Many events that were animated in the series are now just mentioned in the film. And the constraints of fitting the story into 94 minutes means that nearly every line of dialog must advance the story. There is virtually nothing that helps develop the characters. No dialog or back stories that make us care about these characters. Suddenly, that envious situation of having a ready-made, built-in audience now becomes a curse as fans who have been awaiting this release mock and deride the results.

The second mistake was that the actors hired for the roles just aren’t very good. Yes, I know that they are very young, but you would think that somewhere the director could have found actors who didn’t look like they were reading off cue cards every time they delivered a line.

The CGI and special effects were decent, but not great. With the current, advanced state of special effects technology we should have seen scenes of element “bending� that would have blown us away. What should have been a highlight is just another letdown.

Overall, The Last Airbender is a major disappointment. The movie ends in a manner that suggests at least one sequel is on the way. The problem is that no one will go to see it.


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