Friday, May 25, 2012

The Last Airbender (2010) - Review

You have to be impressively bad to lose your street cred as fast as M. Night Shyamalan has. His career is actually pretty interesting to look at. He went from making some genuinely good movies like The Sense Sense and Signs, to some flawed but forgivable movies like Unbreakable and even The Village. But with Lady in the Water, he began to swing towards the hilariously awful, culminating in the so-bad-it's-really-really-hilarious-to-the-point-where-I-can't-tell-if-it's-supposed-to-be-scary-or-an-avant-garde-comedy The Happening.

The short version: Shyamalan has steadily gotten worse and worse.  And as far as sheer difficulty to watch, The Last Airbender trumps The Happening in every possible way.  Whereas The Happening is funny (or possibly brilliant) in its ineptitude, with The Last Airbender, it's simply infuriating.  I can't decide if those unfamiliar with the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender are the lucky ones or not.

On the one hand, newcomers won't know how completely and utterly Shyamalan has gutted the source material.  It's simply not possible to cram a season's worth of events into an hour and a half long movie and have it make any sort of sense with any kind of narrative coherence.  The movie is comprised entirely of exposition, so desperate to explain the rather complex plotline of the season that it forgets that actual movies have character interaction.  The script is beyond godawful, and it rushes through the whole season, taking large chunks out and replacing any character moments with pseudo-impressive (mostly) water effects.

Add to this that Shyamalan couldn't direct an action scene to save his life and the movie gets messy really quickly.  It isn't helped that the casting is probably the worst I've seen in a long while, particularly the kid who plays Aang (whose name, in a baffling creative decision, is pronounced differently than it was in the show) and Jackson Rathbone of Twilight fame.  This movie has no point of existing.  It's the cinematic equivalent of soda that is three-quarters of the way out of carbonation at a restaurant.

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