Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Last Airbender (M. Night Shyamalan, 2010) Review

For the last month now, I decided to watch the animated series 'Avatar: The Last Airbender'. I have heard tremendous things about it as it's often considered one of the best TV shows, period. I can no confirm that that is true. 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' is truly one of the best TV shows I have ever seen. The pace is perfect, the characters are perfect, the animation is beautiful, the tone is balanced perfectly...but I digress. This isn't a review of the show, this is a review of M. Night Shyamalan's movie adaptation of the God-like TV series. Can a shoddy film maker contain the genius of an episodic adventure in just under two hours well?.......what the hell do you think?!

Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and two teenagers from the Southern Water tribe, a waterbender named Katara (Nicola Peltz) and her brother Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang (Noah Ringer). And although his airbending skills are great, he still has a lot to learn before he's ready to save anyone. But Katara believes that Aang can save the world from the ferocious Fire Lord Ozai (Cliff Curtis). (Maybe I stole the show's opening for a synopsis but I put more effort into accuracy than this film did)

I have taken a stab at many bad films. Foodfight!, 2012, Son of the Mask and many others but what makes The Last Airbender stick out as terrible is that it's an adaptation. The Last Airbender is the biggest insult to an amazing source material that could possibly exist. Everything that made the TV show as amazing as it was is almost completely left out. The diverse and memorable characters are all turned into blank, emotionless shells of their former selves, element bending is an absolute joke (six earthbenders can...throw a rock) and all of the incredible important moments of character development and world building are completely glanced over in single sentences via voice over. Aang and his rival Prince Zuko's (Dev Patel) back stories? Single voice over. How about the relationship between Sokka and Yue (Seychelle Gabriel) that took several episodes to develop and led to a heart-wrenching climax? Barely relevant. Other elements such as Suki and her warrior clan are even left out. I understand that, because it's an adaptation, you need to make changes and leave things out but you have to leave things out that make sense. Suki is necessary for Season 3 and since they clearly set up for more films, they kind of painted themselves into a corner. Need I talk about the inaccurate character designs or the constant mispronunciation of 'Aang' or the bone-head decision regarding the earthbender prison (was anyone even thinking when they wrote that?).

So I've ranted about the complete lack of care for the source material but what about this film on it's own. It's still horrible. All of the actors are incredibly bland and they manage to convey no emotion. There are even moments of stumbling over their lines or taking breaths half way through a sentence where it clearly doesn't work. There are some good actors in here such as Dev Patel so it's clearly down to poor direction. This is apparent in M. Night Shyamalan's other films such as The Happening but even then, the rest of the cast just aren't good. At all. The CGI is passable I suppose. They at least tried to bring Appa and Momo to life and they look okay for a live action equivalent and when they finally get down to some bending, it does look quite cool...shame about the wasted potential. The writing and characters are terrible too. Everyone acts too seriously and say nothing but exposition. There is no life in this film and just comes off as the poor man's version of the show. Plus there is yet another cliffhanger added to the list of unresolved cliffhangers...thank God.

So The Last Airbender is left as a horrific and insultingly poor adaptation of one of the best TV shows I've ever seen. I feel horrible just knowing that such a terrible mess is affiliated to the show (can't believe they didn't ever pronounce Aang's name right!) and I can safely say that you should avoid this film like the plague. If you're curious, what the series instead. You won't regret it. I guess the good thing to come out of preparation of this review is that I got to watch the series so...that's something. At least they haven't done 'Legend of Korra' right?......right?
A horribly made, poorly written and performed mess of an adaptation that goes out of it's way to insult the source material.

I think the play that the characters saw in the series was more accurate than this film was.


  1. I'm glad you're not the only critic who badly critiques The Last Airbender. Way ahead of you, I prefer the original animated series too. What was M. Night Shyamalan thinking?

    1. I'm just glad we'll never see Book 2, 3 or the Legend of Korra get this treatment but...the damage is done...