Tag: The Last Airbender
The Last Airbender
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Seychelle Gabriel and Cliff Curtis
How the mighty have fallen. There was a time when a new release by M. Night Shyamalan would be cause for celebration, with the industry all a flutter wondering how he could possibly outdo The Sixth Sense and the supremely underrated Unbreakable. But those days are long gone. After Lady in the Water and The Happening, his stock has plummeted, and The Last Airbender does little to stop the descent.
On paper, it’s intriguing to say the least. A loved animated classic given a big budget Hollywood makeover with a darker edgier director in the driver’s seat, and in some aspects it does succeed, but for the most part it fails dismally. Before production even began, it was going to be a hard journey. Based on the cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender, the title had to be modified after James Cameron bought the rights to the word “Avatar” announcing it was “unobtainium” to any who wished to use it. Not the best start.
The Last Airbender is similar in concept to The Fifth Element. There are four nations that populate the earth, each aligning themselves with a specific element, the Earth Kingdom, Water Tribes, Air Nomads and the Fire Nation. Each has members who can control these elements, known as “Benders”, with a lone perpetually reincarnated avatar to unite and maintain control of all elements, ensuring peace and prosperity.
With the avatar missing for over 100 hundred years, the Fire Nation has taken the opportunity to attack its neighbours, using their war machines to seize control. When a water bender and her brother unwittingly uncover the boy avatar, Aang, hope springs and a rebellion begins to take shape as Benders and their tribes unite against the Fire Nation. But Aang is untrained and has his own burdens to bear. Can he master his emotions and realise his destiny, or will the Fire nation, lead by the evil Lord Ozai emerge victorious?
Shot in both New Zealand and Vietnam, the locations are absolutely stunning, with some astounding backgrounds capturing and magnificently setting the tone. Bolstered by a particularly sharp eye to detail with costumes and set design makes The Last Airbender a visual treat, but it’s almost every other aspect that lets the film down. This is clearly a case of style over substance. Casting director Douglas Aibel has helped craft an experience with some of the worst performances and most lacklustre acting, peppered with only the briefest moments of chemistry.
The usually dependable Cliff Curtis (Die Hard 4.0) appears to be sleepwalking through the role of Fire Lord Ozai. The lead Aang, played by Noah Ringer is out of his depth, and his companions Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jason Rathbone – Twilight) are even worse. The pacing is completely off and the editing is sloppy at best. It really feels like Shyamalan simply phoned it in for a paycheck. The only glimmer of hope is the particularly strong bond between Fire Prince Zuko (Dev Patel) and his uncle Iroh (the rock steady Shaun Toub – Iron Man), which only helps illustrate the deficiencies of the rest of the cast.
The concept of war machines and industry set against nature are timeless, and The Last Airbender had the potential to be something beyond the sum of its parts, along the lines of Hayao Miyazaki’s heralded Princess Mononoke, but it fails in spectacular fashion across the board. Even the vaulted 3D is less than useless here, with the only application visible the lettering when introducing a new location, no joke.
After initial excitement and anticipation for this release, all I feel is overwhelming disappointment across the board. There are a plethora of amazing, thought provoking and moving family movie experiences to be had. This simply isn’t one of them.
The Last Airbender opens nationally September 16
Review: Dave Kozicki