The Last Airbender: Shyamalan Without The Twist

30 Jun


M. Night Shyamalan goes anime, but with a twist.  Wait what? The Last Airbender wasn’t shot in Philadelphia or greater Pennsylvania and has nothing to do with dead people, shadowy aliens or bee’s? Well now I’m totally confused.

The Shyamalan, best known for crazy twist endings and being from Philadelphia, takes on his first big budget-action-special effects movie with this first installment of the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series; and he doesn’t disappoint. And this is a movie with a $130M production budget, and another hundred plus million in marketing, which is about eight times the size of all of his previous films.

Not to mention that this is the first film Shyamalan is making that has a built in fan base that will have nerd-spectations. That is the expectations of a nerd, which is not something you want to mess considering the sheer absurd length’s fanboys will go to from their parent’s basement.

Not to mention that this is the first film in a trilogy, meaning it will set the commercial expectations for the sequels and who wants to be the director that destroyed a popular franchise before it got off the ground? In short, Shyamalan had a lot of pressure and he delivered.

The thing to remember though is that this is a kids movie. But not in the vein of Toy Story, Pixar transcends the idea of a “kids movie” to be so much more. The Last Airbender does not, and  despite The Shamalan’s record, this film remains truest to it’s fans and because of that just doesn’t have the cross-generational appeal. But that doesn’t detract from it’s quality as a kids movie.

It’s your basic mythological/fantasy story with a returning savior being forced to deal with an evil power attempting to take over the world, just this time that savior is a 13 year old kid. But no he can’t see dead people. He does have some pretty gnarly head tattoo’s and some kung fu skills though. Noah Ringer plays the avatar, Aang , who has the ability to control the four forces of nature (earth, wind, fire and water). Ringer, also 13, caries the burden of being the main character remarkably well, especially given that he not only has to carry the emotional weight on the story, but also he has to do some pretty involved karate kid action sequences.

The supporting cast though, leave something to be desired. Jackson Rathbone (Twilight) and Nicola Peltz  play a brother-sister duo who travel with Aang as he attempts to master the elements he doesn’t possess.  But neither Rathbone or Peltz get to a level beyond the WB’s hit show Smallville. Then again Rathbone is smack in the middle of the mega-blockbuster hit Twilight and let’s just say, having seen the first installment, the vampires weren’t the only ones sucking in that movie.

The bad guys are a little better, Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) plays the villainous Prince Zuko with a fairly even mediocrity, never really delivering above the level of his questionable dialogue. The same is true for the Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi who does a pretty decent job as the central bad guy, Commander Zhao. Hes come a long way since playing Mr. Aziz, the disgruntled Pizza shop owner who fires Peter Parker in Spider Man 2.

On the whole though, it’s pretty good for a kid’s movie. The real question is whether or not it can generate enough income to become a legitimate summer franchise. The next two installments of the trilogy have already gotten the green light, but they are not being shot back to back to back, Lord of the Rings style. Instead, Shyamalan is working on them one at a time, which some fanboys worried could imperial the later installments, but after seeing the finished product I don’t think they have anything to worry about.

Written and Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring Noah Ringer (Ang), Dev Patel (Prince Zuko), Nicola Peltz (Katara), Jackson Rathbone (Sokka), Shaun Toub (Uncle Irosh), Aasif Mandvi (Commander Zhao) and Cliff Curtis (Fire Lord Ozai). A Paramount Pictures production with a runtime of 103 minutes.

Trivia: The original title of the film was Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is the title of the TV show on which the film is based. But with James Cameron’s mega-hit Avatar opening, the production team opted to change the title of the movie to avoid confusion.

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2 Responses to “The Last Airbender: Shyamalan Without The Twist”

  1. Dude March 28, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    I agree with your review. I hated every minute of that movie. You made some very bold yet very silly assumptions. From what i have read you had never seen the “cartoon” (Its not anime. It as made by westerners). You assume the show was a nerd favorite which makes me laugh. You need to watch the first 2 seasons to truly understand how bad the movie was and how good and complex the story-telling originally was. Could you imagine a 10 year old given a Jesus role yet given know idea how to go about it? The hope of a civilization and being constantly reminded of his duty while seeing people suffer. I am probably not as eloquent as i should be while describing this (its 6:00 am). You should see it before assume the fan-base is full of “nerds” there-by insulting them.

    • Pale Thunder March 28, 2011 at 9:53 am #

      You though are making the ultimate of “bold yet very silly assumption” by saying that being labeled a “nerd” is an insult. Thanks for reading!

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