By William Johnson
M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense) attempts to translate the entire first season of a popular animated series in his newest film, The Last Airbender.
In a world where the four elements ( Air, Water, Earth, Fire) can be controlled by special beings known as benders, there is one person who can wield them all. The Avatar is a bender who reincarnates in a cycle among the nations through each generation. For example, if he or she were born in the earth nation one century, they would reappear in the fire nation the next century. This person serves as a medium to the spirit world to who keeps the balance of power between the nations. Siblings Katara and Sokka find the avatar in a dormant state and race around the world with him to help him learn all of the elements so he may overthrow the tyrannical fire nation and it’s leader, The Fire Lord.
Fans of the series will make sure notice of the differences between the film and the series immediately. While no film is ever just like the creative entity it’s based on, M. Night Shyamalan makes sure to remove any comedic value from this film. This was something the series relied heavily upon in the character of Sokka, who is represented by Jackson Hale (Twilight). Instead, he opts for a more serious version of the character whose bland love story isn’t presented with the slightest bit of interest.
It doesn’t, however, take a fan of the series to notice the evident flaws in this film. The credit for this underperforming movie doesn’t all belong to Mr. Shyamalan. This film is anchored down by a weak script, unbelievably bad child acting, and poor cinematic presentation. At times, the movie felt unfinished and rough. The acting from newcomer Noah Ringer, as Avatar Aang, felt as pretentious and cheesy as the rest of the film. The movie didn’t involve anyone of the audience who hadn’t seen the original series, thusly alienating anyone who had the misfortune of trying out what they expected to be a coherent movie.
Of all the things this film does wrong, it still has the gimmick of bending the elements. Even in this, the production value felt low like a made for TV film or straight to DVD release. When the movie crawls within the last ten minutes, and the climax is happening, the cinematic quality shoots up as if to reward the audience for having to sit through the first hour and a half.
The one thing done right in this movie are the fight scenes. Choreographed sequences in the film show where all of the effort from the crew was placed, by both the actors and the post production team. The final battle scenes are intense and flashy. They do not, however, eliminate the rest of the movie from my memory.
The Last Airbender proved to be a movie that I could hardly sit through, and much less recommend to anyone besides the most diehard of fans.