Monday, July 5, 2010
WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT: THE LAST AIRBENDER
THE LAST AIRBENDER (C-)
First off, I did not go and see this movie in 3D. It was converted to the third dimension by the controversial and horrid looking post production process and I was not about to give three more dollars to a movie studio. I will not support this price gouging via the post production conversion that lacks the quality of films shot in 3D, but cost the same. I was looking forward to this movie because it had potential to be a good film with a intriguing story set in a wonderfully creative world. Unfortunately, it was not a good movie and probably marks the end of M. Night Shyamalan's big budget movie career.
Personally, I blame Paramount Pictures for funding this project and green-lighting this script. How they read the screenplay and thought it was worthy of production baffles me. Of course, the script was written by Shyamalan himself who has plagued his own movies by doing just that. He is not a great writer. His inability to get help composing scripts almost destroys his movies before they begin. What I do not understand is how a studio that reads thousands of scripts a year could read The Last Airbender and not see the many flaws ingrained in the pages. The story had decent flow, but the characters were all flat and much of the dialogue was funnier that a Nick Swardson stand up bit (not good mind you).
One thing that particularly bothered me was the story being told from the point of view of a girl named Katara. I have never seen the cartoon series, but I am informed this is the perspective in which the original cartoon is told. For a movie, especially this movie, it did not work one bit. I think the narrative needs to be told from Aang's point of view so the audience knows whose story is being told. This is the tale of The Last Airbender, the title of the damn movie, and yet he isn't even the main character? It isn't like Shyamalan is a purist either as I am told the pronunciation of Aang in the movie is different from the cartoon. Aang needs to be the focal point of the narrative but this is sidetracked by the one dimensional supporting characters.
On top of the piss pour script, the acting was absolutely atrocious; even worse than the work from the cast in the Twilight Saga. I had such difficultly fully paying attention because I was shaking my head and even laughing at how bad the acting was. Bottom line, the casting director should be tarred, feathered, and never allowed to work in the business again. The project essentially cast unknown actors to play many of the main roles, but for some reason actors with almost no talent were chosen.
Again, I will reiterate my lack of understanding for how the production team could watch casting calls or screen tests and hire the actors who played Aang, Katara, Sokka, Princess Yue, and Prince Zuko. All these main roles were bombed by the actors which caused me pain to watch as opposed to the feeling of being lost in a fictional world created by the filmmakers. Zuko is played by Dev Patel, another mistake from the casting crew as Patel does not fit the bill as a slighted Fire Nation Prince who also possess elite martial arts skills. This role requires someone who looks threatening, not the happy go lucky dork from Slumdog Millionaire.
The only quality execution of their roles comes from the elders in the cast. Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi, and Cliff Curtis all do well in their supporting roles. The boy cast to play Aang is an unknown actor named Noah Ringer who won the part in an open casting call. So essentially, he displayed his "acting talent" in front of the filmmakers and won the role. How this can be, it truly is baffling. My guess is bribery was a part of the equation. He has to be towards the top of my list as worst actors I have ever seen. WORST. How he was chosen for this role, I will never fully understand. One thing is for sure, his career will be very very short.
The one thing that blew me away from The Last Airbender was the fight scenes and the visuals. The way the benders controlled the elements was some of the coolest on-screen visuals I have ever seen. I not only love the concept of someone being able to control the elements in this manner, but the way it was executed was also top notch. The methodical movements used to unlock the power of the environment looked awesome and seemed to fit with what the benders were manipulating the elements to do.
Watching Aang dissect through the enemy defenses was something to marvel at. While I was blown away by the execution of this facet of the movie, it suffered greatly from the PG rating. This movie definitely needed some hardcore violence; but the movie was geared for wider audiences. Yeah, I know, the source material is a children's program on Nickelodeon. All I am saying is with some actual violence, this movie would have been much better. Heck, minus Shyamalan this movie would have soared!
Overall, The Last Airbender had so much potential to succeed but does not possess the necessary essential elements to make it good. Bad writing and directing from the now Hollywood joke Shyamalan, some of the worst acting from most of the main characters, and a lack of feeling for what is really important all hurt this project. AangShyamalan wrote the script so he missed all those angles. Strangely enough, I would watch this movie again just to see the amazing visuals and exciting fight scenes; even though it entails having to cringe through the duration of the movie to do so. I cannot believe I am saying this, but Eclipse is actually a better movie than The Last Airbender.
If you like action movies, you will appreciate pieces of this project. The movie is not as bad as the reviews will lead you to believe, but Shyamalan proves once again his ineptitude as a filmmaker. Don't even think about wasting money on 3D.
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