Let’s start with the basics. The Last Airbender has absolutely no redeeming qualities. None! And believe me, I searched. This is coming from someone who loves G.I. Joe—I don’t really need quality drama in movies, but I do need something. Even hot girls and explosions are usually enough to entertain my rather muddled brain, but nooo, Shyamalan wouldn’t even give me those.
First, there’s no comprehensible plot. Somewhere, mired in the murky depths of this disaster is a tale about a young child, Aang, who, after being trapped in a ball of ice for a century, is both the last airbender and the Avatar, a chosen one who maintains peace. Through an uninteresting series of events, he befriends Katara, a waterbender, and her brother Sokka. They go around and do some stuff, and Aang tries to display some emotions. There’s some evil firebenders, including a banished prince with mercurial motivations, but Aang eventually defeats a small portion of them.
In all honesty though, the characters mostly just wander from location to location simply announcing their intentions. For example, here’s a painfully close to direct quote: Sokka: “Aang, should we go from town to town freeing people and therefore starting a rebellion?” Aang: “Yes, we should.” The characters proceed to do this so-called freeing, but we don’t really get to see it, and it never comes into play ever again. Ever! There’s not really much of an overarching goal for our heroes, so it’s hard to determine why they’re doing what they’re doing, and we can’t really foresee the repercussions of their actions, so every scene is pretty much tension free. The only real objective they have is to defeat those evil firebenders, and our merry crew comes painfully short of achieving even that.
Rather than show us scenes that either explain what’s happening, develop characters, or even just look cool, Shyamalan chooses to include a narrator who simply skips over important bits. “We arrived at the city and soon the princess and my brother became close friends.” Then again, maybe this was Shyamalan’s best choice. He probably realized the acting was so atrocious that there’d be no way Sokka and Princess Yue could possibly have any chemistry. Their only scene together before (there’s really nothing to spoil so I won’t put a spoiler alert—just don’t see this movie) her death is really just a way to get across more exposition. Sokka: “My grandma would say your hair is odd.” Princess Yue: “I would tell her that it is odd because THREE MINUTES OF EXPOSITION.” I have to commend Seychelle Gabriel though. Her death scene is somehow touching, or at least, I was impressed at how close to touching she was able to make it. It feels sort of silly to have her tell Sokka that she’ll miss him more than he’ll ever know when we’ve never even seen them speak, especially when we’d only met her ten minutes before and our meeting was just some narration, but then again I guess Katara did tell us that they became “friends” and we all know what that means. Somehow, I still wasn’t buying it. Anyway, after the movie, we all agreed that her 1 minute in the limelight was the best part of the whole thing.
Plot and acting aside, the movie still could have been great. Sure I’d rather have those two things, but if Michael Bay has taught us anything, it’s that if you throw in gorgeous special effects, giant explosions, and hot girls, you have a recipe for success. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, this sad excuse for cinema lacked all three. The effects were lousy and, more importantly, relatively rare. Maybe the princess was hot, but these kids are all, well, kids (at least they’re supposed to be), so I can’t really talk about it without wanting to cleanse myself. Or at least pretending that I want to cleanse myself so that society will accept me. This movie advertised itself as an awesome fantasy epic filled with special-effects-driven action. Cool action that was a battle of the elements, something we don’t see too often. Instead, there were under two minutes of action in the entire film, give or take. TWO MINUTES!!! If they just cut most of the horrible exposition away and turned it into action, this would be a fun, albeit non-oscar-worthy movie. Did the bad guy have a cool death? Psh, no way. Four random waterbenders we’ve never seen before lift him into the air and drop him. Cooool. Did Aang do something awesome and unexpected at the end? Psh. He’d just learned to bend water, and a dragon spirit told him to use his new bending power and show the firebenders water, so it came as very little surprise when Aang made a giant wave to
destroy scare away the enemies. That’s right. They simply flee when they see the wave. Ahhh, scary! Side note: I know it’s part of the show, but I don’t understand how the firebenders are so powerful when wind dissipates fire, earth blocks fire, and water douses fire. I mean, it’s clearly the worst element.
On another side note, the teaser trailer where Aang is blowing out candles when faced with an oncoming army of thousands of ships was what made me want to see this movie in the first place. “Wow!” I thought. “However will he get out of this situation? I can’t wait to see.” Too bad I’ll never get to see because it never comes up. They fooled me!
Finally, one last example to, err, exemplify what makes this movie so bad: At the very beginning, the words “Book One: Water” flash on the screen, and it wasn’t until about ¾ of the way through the movie that anyone I went with finally decided that we weren’t going to see all the books in one movie. The plot was so beyond us, or maybe below us, that we still thought they might wrap up books 2 and 3 in about 15 minutes, you know, montage style, or, more likely, in a beautiful piece of narration: “And so Aang mastered both earth and fire, thus defeating everyone. The end.” If this makes enough money to spawn sequels that I have to go watch, I’m going to cry myself to sleep. It made it into my bottom 10 movies list.
So please, if for some god-forsaken reason you have to watch The Last Airbender, do yourself a favor and go on a good old fashioned regular bender before you submit yourself to this.
Alignment: Unbearable CrapFollow @russnickel