Tuesday, August 03, 2010

LAST AIRBENDER - Time To Call It A Night

THE LAST AIRBENDER (fantasy actioner, reposted for Malaysia)
Cast: Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Dev Patel, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi, Cliff Curtis, Seychelle Gabriel and Katharine Houghton
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Screenplay: M. Night Shyamalan
Time: 103 mins
Rating: * 1/2 (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: After watching this movie, many Shyamalan fans would wish it was the Last Shyamalan Film. After the promising trilogy of Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, the once Hollywood maverick has gradually fallen from grace with his audiences. The Village, Lady In The Water and The Happening were all 'not happening' to both critics and the public. The Last Airbender 'sucks' so much it may earn him the label "the most childish writer-director".

I caught the movie in 3D in the States last month. However, watching it again in 2D in Malaysia, I find it easier to digest without the distraction of 3D. Shyamalan's weaknesses, as mentioned below, are still evident.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT: Based on the Nickelodeon TV series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, the action is set in the mythical world of four tribes named after the elements: Air, Water, Earth and Fire. When the Fire nation launches a brutal war against the others, all hope falls on the missing boy, Aang (Noah Ringer, pictured left), an avatar who can presumably control (or 'bend') all four elements.

When the movie opens, Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), members of the Water tribe, discover the boy buried under the ice while on an expedition. Not knowing that he is the Avatar, they bring him home. However, before they can arrange to return him to his people, they are attacked by Fire tribe led by the rebel Prince Zuko (Dev Patel). Aang is captured but being the Avatar, he breaks free and...

HITS & MISSES: The visuals and special effects are commendable. The action reminds me of the classic tales of the Monkey God and should please juvenile fantasy fans. However, the narrative and dialogue are so badly written that we wonder if Shyamalan has targeted the movie for morons. The explanations are lame and long-winded and the 3D effects seem to have been included at the last minute.

Shyamalan tends to go for the shallow-focus techniques, with a figure in the foreground presented with sharp clarity against a blurred background. This looks totally weird in the deep-focus world of 3D. A romance seems to develop out of nowhere for characters we don't care about. Among the cast, there is no one that has any emotional resonance with the audience and the whole movie is just a blur of mindless action and ridiculous stunts that get tedious after a while.

THE LOWDOWN: With the Last Airbender, Shyamalan seems to have sink so low that the only way is up. Or at least that's what we hope for his sake.


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