After months of bad press and racebending rants M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film The Last Airbender is about to hit theaters. It’s based on the popular Nickelodeon animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” that was created by Americans who were inspired by anime. The show was popular with both critics and fans alike but unfortunately the live-action adaptation doesn’t deserve such praise. Not only did Shyamalan direct but he also wrote the screenplay for the film that suffers from many problems that go beyond its questionable casting.
- Director: M. Night Shyamalan
- Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
- Cast: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Cliff Curtis, Shaun Toub, Aasif, Mandvi, Seychelle Gabriel
- Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie
- Original Music By: James Newton Howard
The Last Airbender centers on Aang, the young successor to a line of Avatars who have the ability to control the four elements (earth, fire, water, air). In the past there was peace between the four nations that represented each element, but it changed when the last Avatar disappeared and the Fire Nation attacked, forcing a war on the other three nations. Now 100 years later, the Avatar has returned and has the Fire Nation’s disgraced Prince Zuko, Fire Lord Ozai, and their Army General after him.
- The Action: The battle scenes in this film were pretty well done. The mixing of martial arts and the elements was an amazing sight to see. Whenever the Fire, Earth, or Water benders go toe to toe with each other you can’t take your eyes off of it.
- The Special Effects: The effects used for the element scenes were semi-believable and a lot sharper than you’d expect. Also, Aang’s Flying Bison surprisingly translated well from the animated series to the live action version.
- The Acting: Horrible! The acting in this film is horrendous. This is Noah Ringer’s first starring role so his lack of delivery is understandable but everyone else must be held 100% accountable. The performances were terrifying to watch because they were so stiff, uneasy, and forced.
- The Script: This screenplay had some of the blockiest dialogue I’ve ever heard. It gives Twilight and Star Wars Episode II a run for their money. If you’ve never seen the TV show, from which the movie is based, you won’t have any connection to the characters or their journey. The bad script plus the bad acting is a recipe for disaster.
- The Set-up: The animated series was broken up into three books (Book One: Water, Book Two: Earth, Book Three: Fire). The film replicates that set up (spoiler) by beginning with a chapter and ending with a major cliff-hanger that will go over into the next film. This was a bad move to make because the film might not do well enough to earn sequel money therefore leaving those who did enjoy the movie without a conclusion or pay-off.
The biggest issue people have with this film is its casting. Three of the main characters are played by White actors when on the show they’re shown significantly darker. In the movie, Ringer actually looks like his animated character and his tribe of Airbenders is filled with people from various ethnic backgrounds. The Fire Nation is mostly Middle Eastern or East Indian, and the Northern Water Tribe is predominantly White. They all shared similar features for their region and it made sense.
The issue comes in with the Southern Water Tribe where Rathbone and Peltz’ characters Sokka and Katara come from. Those two along with their grandmother seem to be the only people who aren’t of Inuit descent in their tribe. They stick out like 3 sore thumbs! They look like they belong in the Northern Water Tribe instead.
The Last Airbender has decent action but the pacing, the acting, and the screenplay are terrible. If you really want to see Aang’s story watch the TV series because this movie doesn’t do it justice.
The Last Airbender hits theaters on July 1, 2010.
Are you interested in seeing The Last Airbender this weekend?