Other than The Last Airbender, it’s hard to think of another movie that conveys so much urgency in every line of dialogue and yet goes absolutely nowhere. M. Night Shyamalan, fighting to reclaim his commercial viability, wrote, produced and directed this live-action adaptation of the hit Nickelodeon animated series, and while he successfully condensed an entire season into one feature-length film, he did so by packing it with only exposition, leaving no room for characters, story, or anything else. A soul-crushing disaster made worse by unnecessary, counterproductive 3-D, The Last Airbender fails to immediately qualify as the worst film of the summer only by virtue of the year’s abundance of other candidates…read more [Cinematical]
The good news for those eagerly anticipating this live-action, big budget adaptation of the Nickelodeon anime series is that the 3D isn’t horrible. The bad news? Just about everything else is. Fans of the series may appreciate The Last Airbender’s faithful adaptation of the series’ first season (at least in terms of plot; less with its white-washed casting), but laborious storytelling and clumsy performances drag it down. Waaaay down. Helmer M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs) ably manipulates the technical elements to create a fantasy world with scope and cool effects, but he seems to have spent too much time crafting CGI balls of water and not enough writing a passable script. Worse, he fails to keep his cast from drowning in a sea of cheesy, ham-fisted dialogue, instead leaving his actors to suffer valiantly on-screen and us to watch helpless as they bravely tai chi their way to the end. The Last Airbender may not be the worst film of the summer (that honor remains with Jonah Hex), but it’s certainly the biggest disappointment…read more [Movies.com]
“The Last Airbender” is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here. It puts a nail in the coffin of low-rent 3D, but it will need a lot more coffins than that.
Let’s start with the 3D, which was added as an afterthought to a 2D movie. Not only is it unexploited, unnecessary and hardly noticeable, but it’s a disaster even if you like 3D. M. Night Shyamalan’s retrofit produces the drabbest, darkest, dingiest movie of any sort I’ve seen in years. You know something is wrong when the screen is filled with flames that have the vibrancy of faded Polaroids. It’s a known fact that 3D causes a measurable decrease in perceived brightness, but “Airbender” looks like it was filmed with a dirty sheet over the lens…read more [Roger Ebert]
For a long time, I’ve been an M. Night Shyamalan apologist. It was mostly misplaced civic pride. He shoots his movies in Bucks County, PA, which is for all intents and purposes my old backyard. But no more. I’m done. We’re breaking up. He’s fucked with my heart for the last time. If you remember what it felt like when George Lucas raped your childhood, at least he had the common fucking decency to lube up first. Shyamalan takes the remarkable and groundbreaking Nickelodeon cartoon “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and doesn’t just violate all that was charming and amusing, but he castrates the characters and feeds them their own genitals. The dialogue is so laden and heavy with exposition and explanation, it’s like listening to an audio recording of someone reading the Wikipedia page. It’s as if Shyamalan left the cartoons on in the background while he made dinner and figured it counted as research. The character names are butchered, the film is grievously miscast, and the general storyline is chopped up and cobbled together until it’s fairly unrecognizable…read more [Pajiba]
Created by Westerners Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko to capitalize on the success of “Naruto” and other serialized martial-arts manga, the series centers around a 12-year-old Airbender named Aang, the gifted once-in-a-generation figure who possesses the ability (but not the training) to master all four elements: Air, Water, Earth and Fire. Frozen in ice for 100 years, Aang awakens to find the balance between the different nations disrupted by the Fire people’s ruthless desire to dominate. Only he can bring the four cultures together, but first, Aang must learn the other three fighting styles.
With overtones of Tibetan Buddhism and various Eastern philosophies, “The Last Airbender” is a pacifist’s action movie. We go to see the spectacle of benders harnessing their native elements in battle (an Earthbender might build a wall to block a hurtling fireball, for instance), but instead the movie preaches a message of peace. Like his fellow Air nomads, Aang (newcomer Noah Ringer) was raised by monks to follow a code of nonviolence. However, in Aang’s long absence, Fire Lord Ozai (Cliff Curtis) exterminated his entire tribe. Now the young “chosen one” must choose between revenge and — well, it’s not entirely clear what the alternative is, but something to do with uniting the hearts of all the nations…read more [Variety]
M Night Shyamalan, to this reviewer, is a wizard of cinema. The fact that he sought to write and direct something so beloved as Avatar: The Last Airbender, is a tribute to his belief in his abilities as a filmmaker.
The Last Airbender is a film that leaves you wanting more, which I suppose is a good thing. In this era of judging its worth by its opening weekend, we are anxiously awaiting the box office report after the Fourth of July weekend to see how the charming film does.
After all, there’s a little film called Eclipse hitting theaters that already broke the record for a midnight showing by taking in 30 million dollars. Yes, you read that right: That’s 30 million dollars…read more [SheKnows]
The Last Airbender has been awash in controversy since the trades reported Shyamalan was casting white actors in key roles instead of Asians, but the real scandal is that a property with the potential to become a franchise arrives nearly stillborn. The problems begin with Shyamalan’s script, which is an orgy of exposition. The characters explain and explain and explain some more, points driven home with the subtlety of a jackhammer. There is almost zero character development and perhaps most egregious of all, most of the humor that peppered the TV series has been stripped from the big screen translation. Added to that is Shyamalan’s wretched direction of his actors. Based on Dev Patel’s overacting here, one would never guess this Slumdog Millionaire star was a critically praised performer with awards and nominations. The younger members of the cast fare even worse with the filmmaker apparently unable to coax more than flat performances from any of them. Only Shaun Toub emerges from the wreckage unscathed, delivering an effective performance as Zuko’s wise, sympathetic Uncle Iroh…read more [BoxOfficeMagazin]
So what does that leave? A lot of headache-inducing CGI-effects sequences, many scenes of children doing tai chi, and some imperiled magical fish. Another filmmaker might have crafted the material’s themes—which reference Buddhism and Christianity while exploring the relationship between good and evil—into a striking film. Shyamalan lets his unimpressive special effects do the work for him while coaxing performances from his young cast that make Jake Lloyd’s performance in The Phantom Menace look studied. (Star Noah Ringer, who plays a messianic figure who might unite the warring forces, delivers his lines as if reading a book report, and his older co-stars don’t fare much better.) The Last Airbender isn’t that much different from the rest of this summer’s generally dire multiplex fare—from The A-Team to Jonah Hex—which started with established properties and half-decent ideas, then cranked up the volume, velocity, and effects to the point where neither sense nor tender moments could escape. But it is remarkable in one respect: It’s the worst of them…read more [A.V. Club]
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Cast: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi, Cliff Curtis and Seychelle Gabriel
Director/Screenwriter: M. Night Shyamalan
Producer: Scott Aversano, Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer, Kathleen Kennedy and M. Night Shyamalan
Rating: PG for fantasy action violence
Running time: 103 min
Release Date: July 1, 2010
The Last Airbender Video Review