My friend Justin thinks the Nickelodeon show Avatar is the best show aside from Twin Peaks. I’ve never seen Avatar but I’ve heard of it. Justin wanted me to go with him to see M. Night Shyamalan live action version, The Last Airbender, and I did – a decision I partially regret now. I feel like I watched the 2010 version of David Lynch’s Dune. The Last Airbender was moronic, a two hour example of bad character development and extraneous exposition, and filled with Tai Chi.
The basic premise for the film isn’t bad and makes me believe Justin’s assertion that the cartoon is good. I just can’t get past how horrible this movie was. For the first 30 minutes I tried to get into the mindset of a five year old child, the same way I felt when I saw Dune when in elementary school. Most people hated Dune and found it hard to follow. I understand this sentiment. Aside from basic tropes (good, evil, etc.) and cool visual effects and art direction, I didn’t understand most of Dune but I still liked it. The Last Airbender works in the same way. There’s a basic struggle between good and evil, using the four elements (water, air, fire, and land) to demonstrate a battle between both. The four lands representing the elements are in a war, with fire pursuing hegemonic ends and oppressing the other element nations. A small group of each population has the ability to control these elements and these people are called Benders. The main character is the last of the airbenders, hence the film’s title.
In order to Bend, these people need to do elaborate Tai Chi moves and look like they’re constipated sometimes. It’s ridiculous and reminds me of the Wierding Modules from Dune: basically something that makes no sense and hurts a film. I can’t image why anybody would choreograph this dribble but somebody was paid a good amount of money for it. During the film I kept thinking what I would think if I was a studio executive and how long it would take to realize I had a flop on my hands. The dailies must’ve been atrocious, with each person responsible wondering if their career was Tai Chi dancing its way down the tubes. I’m sure they all knew they were fucked.
What kills me is that all the bad guys are brown, looking either Indian or Middle Eastern. What was M. Night Dingaling saying? Are all bad people brown? Isn’t he of Indian origin? I haven’t seen the Avatar cartoon so I can’t say whether or not the fire benders were either Middle Eastern or Indian on the show. Yet it’s interesting that the main characters in the film are all white, for I am to understand they aren’t on the series. Some are also supposed to be vegetarians but that would hurt the tie-in with McDonalds.
A few action scenes contain viable direction, especially the one at the fire stronghold. Even though it is derivative of The Matrix, watching it was entertaining. This amusement was short lived; the film continues afterwards into nonsensical dribble where nothing or nobody had any depth. When characters died I didn’t care. When populations were threatened I didn’t care. All the exposition left me uninvolved with the primary characters. They give you nothing to invest in and therefore their struggles are meaningless. Is this a characteristic common to all Dingaling’s films?
I saw on Box Office Mojo the film has earned over $107 million but cost $150 million to make. I’m sure it will make up the difference overseas. The film was left open for a sequel but I’m not interested. There was no payoff and I’m not going to devote another two hours to find out what happened. The film didn’t drag me in and I honestly hope there isn’t a sequel. The film is so bad that closing if off before it even has a chance to begin is a gratifying prospect. Below is the trailer. Good luck.