Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Last Airbender (2010) Dir M. Night Shamalayan

  1. I have to preface this review by saying that while I know quite a few fans of the animated series, I have only seen part of one episode out of context and had no idea of what was going on.  I was basically flying blind on this movie.
  2. I haven't seen a movie in 3-D since Jaws 3-D and am opposed to the whole schtick but I wanted to hang out with friends and try this new fangled moving pictures folderol on for size.
  3. I only like one M. Night movie, Unbreakable.  The rest of his movies I pretty much sneer at.
The Last Airbender is currently the lowest rated movie in release on metacritic with a 20/100 score.  Now I don't completely cotton to metacritic scores (I loved Hitman) but let's just say I wasn't expecting much.  For my nine bucks I didn't get much except eyestrain and vague feeling that I would have been pissing blood angry if I had been a fan of the series.  I also got radioactive yellow popcorn salt in a cat scratch and it still hurts but that's besides the point.

The movie doesn't completely suck and if it hadn't been in 3-D would have been pretty cool to watch.  Sections of the movie were pretty kick ass (so few though I was surprised when something kicked ass, then by the time I had gotten over my surprise the movie went back to being crappy).  I enjoyed it more than "A bunch of spoiled English brats hanging out with anthropomorphic Jesus" and a good many other movies I've had the misfortune to watch (cough Phantom Menace cough Transformers cough Nick Cage movies).  There are a few problems that rendered The Last Airbender nearly painful at times to watch:
  1. 3-D sucks.  I'm sure the slack-jawed mouth breathers who are in awe electric can openers think 3-D is real darn neat (as well as the movie going audiences who will blithely pay nine dollars to sit in a theater and text).  I will never see another movie in 3-D again because: the film was too damned dark to really take in the effects and scenery (I could have been wearing my sunglasses for chrissakes), I was forced to watch through 3D glasses awkwardly placed over my own, and 3-D is just another rehash of the old 50s ploy to get asses in the seats.  It also completely buggers the artistry in cinema, the illusion, the craft, and the talent.  You want to see 3-Dwatch Blade Runner in the theater - that shit'll give you vertigo.
  2. The Last Airbender supplants The Phantom Menace in my list of big budget movies with the worst dialogue and acting.  Combined with exposition and repetition to put the Underworld series to shame The Last Airbender is terrible.  The little kids in the school production of Scarface were better actors.  Fuck, any elementary school play would garnish better actors.  An elementary school adaptation of Twelve Angry Men put on by short bus and shop kids would have better actors.  At one point I think I actually laughed out loud (even as I slowly stewed about the couple giggling behind us throughout the entire movie, though some of their jokes were funny).
Those major issues aside, I have a few positives:
  1. I am giving Mr. Shamalayan props for making a movie for his kids, for being shackled by trying to fit the entire first season of the series into a 120 minute movie, and I imagine he wasn't very happy about his movie being shoehorned into a 3-D format.  I actually will give his next movie a shot (if he stays away from his penchant for crappy twists and the Airbender series).  I think he might have a decent eye for large scale action and if (ever given a red-cent again) he could make a pretty kick ass chop-socky movie. 
  2. Ben Cooke did an excellent job as fight coordinator.  He's primarily a stunt double (in really impressive action roles - he was Daniel Craig's stunt double in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace for chrissakes) and part of the Raimi factory (Hercules, Xena, & Jack of All Trades).  One of the main fight sequences that used a minimal amount of elemental chicanery was a really slick fight between two guys fighting in tandem against a whole bunch of baddies.  Nice work Mr. Cooke.
  3. James Newton Howard's score was pretty solid and a far sight better than many scores I've heard recently in fantasy/action movies.  I wouldn't say I'm gonna run out and buy it but someone made me a copy I wouldn't say no to it.
Don't waste your money seeing this in the theater, it's a 2-D rental, but it's not any worse than some of the cockamamie chop-socky movies I've seen where people wire work around chuck elemental blasts at one another and march of the wooden soldiers through their dialogue.

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