Review: THE LAST AIRBENDER (2010) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 17 November 2010



Ever since his embarrassing fairy-tale effort of LADY IN THE WATER (2006), writer-director M. Night Shyamalan has never really recovered his career deficit. His next highly-anticipated movie, THE HAPPENING (2008) continues his downfall. And it's sad to say that his latest effort here, this time in the form of THE LAST AIRBENDER, cements his reputation as a box-office poison.

Based on the beloved Nickelodeon's TV animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, the movie is about an alternate world which is populated by four factions: Fire, Ware, Air, and Earth. We learn that there are "benders" within each group that have the special ability to possess their respective element. At the beginning of the movie, brother and sister Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) and Katara (Nicola Peltz), the latter which is the last surviving waterbender, discover a boy named Aang (Noah Ringer) buried in the ice sphere. They have reason to believe that he many be the Avatar, an all-powerful "chosen one" with a special gift of airbending. They know that an Avatar is capable to combine all four elements to bend whichever power he wants, but Aang confesses he has hardly learn the trade ever since he escaped from his heavy responsibility. And now a young and scheming Prince Zuko (Dev Patel) of the Fire Nation is desperately in search to capture Aang at all cost as a means of claiming the throne.

No doubt the premise is highly conceptual and very fascinating, which is why the animated series have been phenomenally successful all this while. But that's hardly the case for this big-budget movie adaptation. M. Night Shyamalan seems to be clueless to make this into a captivating piece of work. Instead it's a confusing mess that is surprisingly lack of ambition and imagination. Make no mistake, the production design are a marvel to look at (shot on location in Greenland) and the visual effects, courtesy of Industrial Light and Magic are seamless (especially its eye-popping waterbending and firebending effects). Too bad first-rate technical alone is hardly matters when everything else are painfully tedious.

Shyamalan's adapted screenplay is totally botched up with way too much exposition-heavy dialogue and the pacing is erratic. It's also very obvious that he is lackluster when comes to handling an epic scope this large. He doesn't know how to elaborate the potentially interesting action set piece other than containing them into a few slow-motion act and some entertaining tai chi movements (which are already exhausted from the trailer itself). The cast are equally wasted, especially the terribly miscast performance of Noah Ringer as Aang who is also exceptionally wooden.

Shyamalan has originally planned to make this movie into a trilogy, but with THE LAST AIRBENDER itself has come off such disastrous result, it's hardly justified any reason for a sequel to come.

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