M. Night Shyamalan has done it again, but not quite. He has pulled the wool over the eyes of his audiences and given us a surprise ending that is a little on the simple side, but with less than pleasing results.
Shyamalan struck gold with his first few films, like The Sixth Sense and Signs. These films both pulled the wool over his audiences’ eyes and gave us simple surprise endings, but in a good way. Not so, for The Last Airbender. The wool being brought down over our eyes this time is that the film, which is produced by Nickelodeon Movies, seems like it’s going to be this great 3D adventure, when it’s not.
The surprise ending is that when the film is over, the audience is not happy. You know it’s a bad sign if when the film is over, everyone gets up to leave the theater and no one is talking. Dead silence at the end of a film usually means one of two things: that the movie was so good that it left the audience speechless; or the moviegoers’ disappointment is so deep that it rendered them silent.
The Last Airbender is based on the popular Nickelodeon series, “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” that is beloved by many kids and teens. In The Last Airbender, the film, Aang (played by baby faced Noah Ringer) is the Avatar and has been missing for two centuries, encased in an ice dome. Aang’s dome is found by teens of the Southern Water Tribe, Katara (Nicola Peltz) and her brother Sokka (Jackson Rathbone). They release him from the bubble and subsequently go on a quest to free the people of earth from the tyranny of the Fire Nation.
Shyamalan wrote, directed, and produced this film. I’ve never seen the television series, but it has to be better than the film. Airbender is chock full of children speaking as if they are living in the 21st Century; which they clearly aren’t.
What got to me about Airbender was that extra money was spent to see this film in 3D, even though there were no 3D effects. If there were any effects, they were miniscule. Not to mention the movie’s overall weakness. The plot is weak. The characters are weak. The dialogue is weak. It’s almost as if Shyamalan was counting on the 3D effects to carry the film.
The last bad 3D movie I saw was Clash of the Titans. I have to say that at least with Clash, the 3D effects were effects. With Airbender, my 3D glasses seemed pointless.
Ringer with his cuddly, cherubic face and cheeks that I wanted to pinch for days, is kind of wooden and a little uninteresting. Rathbone and Peltz do the brother/sister thing with a decent amount of craft, but with room for improvement.
Dev Patel is good as the exiled Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation. Shaun Toub as Zuko’s Uncle Iroh is refreshing. His character is so Zen and brings an interesting calmness to an otherwise boring film.
Aasif Mandvi as Commander Zhao is a real jerk; which he’s always been good at playing. Airbender is no exception. Even though he’s a bad guy, he’s even more likable than the Avatar. Likewise, Cliff Curtis as Fire Lord Ozai usually plays a terrorist in films. His evil Fire Lord is played calmly, with a hint of calculation. He actually does the Fire Lord well.
I was so rooting for Shyamalan to get this film right because he is clearly capable of producing quality films. He’s proven that with Sixth Sense and Signs. Also, Shyamalan said Airbender would not be like anything he had done before. Plus my friend Nigel threatened our friendship should I hate this film.
Alas, I will have to suffer the silent treatment from Nigel for a little while because this film is awful. I just hope that the next time Shyamalan attempts a film he will consider his tried and true formula and expound on that to make it better, not worse.