Movie Review: The Last Airbender (F)

By ANDY MORGAN

There are very few movies I completely and utterly abhor. Generally, I can usually find something positive or likeable in a film, even if said cinema is receiving disgust and scorn en masse from most fall-in-line movie critics. I relish the truth that I don’t always see eye-to-eye with most critics and can find some thread of hope in Hollywood’s efforts. Such is not the case with M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender. I literally hated every cringe-inducing minute I spent at the Cineplex with the useless 3D glasses stuck to my face. And I’m even angrier because Shyamalan duped me back in 2008 with The Happening, another dreadful catastrophe from the guy behind Signs, one of my favorite movies of all-time. He’s been on the Tour of Suck since The Village and given every opportunity to succeed, he falls flat. Shame on Shyamalan.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about the story, because, frankly, I didn’t know what the hell was going on most of the time. The movie opens in some arctic, Igloo-infested area that is home to the Southern Water Tribe, whatever that is. We meet two of the main protagonists, Katara (Nicola Peltz) and her older brother Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), who, while having a frozen water-fight and hunting for food, stumble across some midget monk named Aang (Noah Ringer) frozen in the ice with some creature that looks like a Star Wars tauntaun and Falkor from The Neverending Story had a drunken, intimate night in the Hollywood Crazy Creature Stable. Apparently this 12 year-old Aang kid is the so-called Avatar, a being able to bend all of the four elements – fire, water, earth and air. Aang is perky after being frozen for 100 years, so the kids take him back to their village full of white people and, by my count, two actual Inuit persons.

Oddly enough, the banished Prince of the Fire Nation, Zuko (Dev Patel), is cruising in his steampunk yacht nearby and goes to investigate, whereby he realizes Aang is definitely the Avatar and he knows if he takes him back to his father his honor will be restored. Of course, this isn’t going to happen – pouty Katara and stone-faced Sokka hop on Mr. Snuffleupagus and rescue Aang from the Fire Nation, who, ironically, all look like terrorists. Apparently if you are a person of color in this movie, you are an evildoer.

The last third of Shyamalan’s disaster is basically spent at the Fortress of Solitude where the Northern Water Tribe holds court. These folks have serious skills when it comes to water bending and Katara and Aang go there to rally the troops and hone their abilities. The Fire Nation comes calling and, with the help of Industrial Light and Magic (damn you George Lucas!), Aang sends them home with a giant spanking from a humongous tidal wave. The movie wraps and we’re left to believe Shyamalan has more in store for fans in forthcoming movies. I’m not a psychic, but it’s a safe bet to assume that’s not going to happen, and let’s all breath a deep sigh of relief for that.

So why does The Last Airbender suck? Well, it seems to me The Last Airbender universe is massive, with an expansive backstory, and Shyamalan rolls that into a plodding, poorly acted 103 minute runtime iced with terrible dialogue and third-rate CGI. It is nothing short of excruciating. Fans of the Nickelodeon animated series will be pissed off Shyamalan butchered their big screen joy and non-fans will be furious for having wasted hard-earned cash on a full-price ticket.

10 comments On Movie Review: The Last Airbender (F)

  • Hated this movie. Genuinely. I thought it might be a chance for M. Night Shit to restore his own tarnished reputation, but as per usual with him I was sorely and heart-breakingly disappointed. I was looking foreword to this movie for a whole year and the good Lord knows I was patient, and on opening night I sat in relentless torment as M. Night destroyed a perfectly good story, belittling every facet of it’s inner details, and soiling the very nature of The Avatar series and it’s writers. I’m never one to bombard directors for their “creative ingenuity in cinema” but for goodness sake, how on Earth could he think anything he modified would generate a good movie or a positive response in the aisles of the movieplex? What is wrong with him?!? The acting was awful, the cast was awful, the action was sparse and childish, and where the hell was the love story? Why, is all I can think of. Why did he do this to us?

  • What amazes me even more is not a single move critic in the world realizes that the director changed the pronunciation of Aang for a reason. In this case, Aang is pronounced as “Ang” in Chinese for a common boy name. The director chose Aang to be pronounced not “Ang but “Ung” is not that fact that he is ignorant about the hero’s name pronunciation . On the contrary, he wants the hero to be called “Ung” because he’s wants Aang to represent a Hindu boy and not Chinese. The director afterall speaks Hindi himself. Even all the Chinese movie critics failed to understand this. If my 11 years old questioned me if Aang pronounced “Ung” a Chinese name, why is there not a single movie critic realize this?

    Eddie

    • I read an article that also quoted him saying something of the like, that his intentions weren’t unfounded. But in doing so, he comes off more stubborn and egotistical for having taken a story and set of characters people became attached to, and warped it into something he “preferred.” It’s a baseless tactic that was better left undone.

  • M. Night Shyamalan had to screw everything up. Why was he even allowed to direct the movie. Avatar, The Last Airbender (TV series) was sooo fantastic and he had to do this to us. He needs to stop making movies for good.

    Why is Zuko, Azula, and the entire fire nation INDIAN???? GOD!! Wake up stupid director………They clearly look Chinese/Japanese/Korean…UGHHHHHHHH…….

    JUST STOP, M Night. STOP

  • Eddie,

    I think most fans of the show just can’t swallow the change. If you loved the show, how can you not realize how jarring the name change is? Who cares if it’s the “proper” way to pronounce the name, or if he wants Ung to be indian? Although I’m not sure that’s true, it’s just a symptom of a director so arrogant as to believe all his ideas can only improve an already outstanding story. One that was heavily researched and lovingly crafted.

    I think it’s more “the straw that broke the camel’s back” syndrome. None of the beloved characters were rendered faithfully and those that were so looking forward to it are disappointed. There were so many other problems that this is the drop in the bucket. But people feel like they know Ang, Katara , and Sokka, like they are real friends. And to hear a friend’s name changed, even if it is the “right” way to pronounce it, is very irritating. Maybe if Shyamalan did a better job the fans would have swallowed these smaller problems.

    I want to see 2 more movies, but not with this director. I don’t want to see him ruin Toph and Azula.

  • One last thing.

    Most of us are still watching the show in re-runs, and new people are getting introduced to it all the time. It’s one of if not the highest rated shows on Nickelodeon. Their best IP in my opinion. There’s no doubt with a superior product being exposed to us on a regular basis on TV, most people have/will accept the show as canon and not the movie. The name change will live on as a source of debate or irriation. It definitely won’t stick.

  • Eddie, I have heard from many fans of Nickelodeon series that Shyamalan did change the pronunciation of the Avatar’s name and this, amongst other items, doesn’t sit well. As far as movie critics go, I’m going to suppose most aren’t fans of the series so they don’t know it’s being mispronounced, and to Avatarfan’s comment, the name issue is small compared to everything else that is wrong with the movie.

  • I’m like everyone else here. I couldn’t believe what M. Night Shalamalama did. I couldn’t get to know any of the characters on the screen. I love the animation series, and as others have said. I felt like I knew them in a way. Watching this movie though just annoyed me like crazy. I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie and kept thinking in my head “where are those dang credits”.
    And the Ung vs. Ang thing. ANNOYED LIKE HELL. How dare this fail director change the pronunciation. It may just be a name of a fictional character, but by god that’s his damn name. And what the hell with Nickelodeon. Did they seriously never once go down to the set and hear it pronounced differently than the name used for the loved character in the animation series. His name is Ang (Like Angus) not Ung (like.. you have bad gag reflex). Imagine if instead of of Optimus Prime they said Opteemus Prime, or Lau Kang instead of Lou Kang (Mortal Kombat), or Prince Airthas instead of Prince Arthas (WoW). Never have I seen a director so stupid as to take a great show and try to change key parts of it to his retarded idea of how it should be.

    “I never made a movie as good as your created animation series. I will change their names. WHAT A TWIST!!!!”

  • Kinda funny that almost anyone commenting on Shyamalan incorrectly spells his name, intentional or not. I bet he hates it when people get his name wrong too. LOL

  • I’m not surprised to see fans of the cartoon hate some aspects of the movie– that’s fairly typical. What’s not typical are fans hating ALL of the movie. That, coupled with poor “non-fan” reception has to have Shyamalan riding the self-hate scooter into Broken Ego Town.

    Or maybe not:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_C76QBg2p78&feature=player_embedded

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