Friday, December 31, 2010

Review: The Last Airbender (2010)

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz

This review was co-written by my friend Tony Collazo, who hated this movie with a passion, as he is a huge fan of the Avatar cartoon series. Hope you enjoy.

I was going to come up with something big to celebrate the end of the year, but I don’t really have anything. So we’re just going to review The Last Airbender instead!

Man, and I mean man, did this film cause a stink. Everybody hated this one! Me, I never cared much for the original Nickelodeon series it was based on, and I never liked director M. Night Shyamalan one wink, but apparently a lot of people missed the memo on that and were actually surprised when Shyamalan botched this film up. Here’s some news for you, people. He has always sucked. He has sucked in copious amounts ever since he started out. This is not the first time he has released a film that falls below expectations – that should be old news to everyone. But since it isn’t, I figured I might as well give this film a piece of my mind.

Our first scene starts with two pasty white kids walking around aimlessly in the middle of the snowy wastelands when the brother, Sokka (pronounced Soak-a, like a water gun made for three year olds or something), hears something in the ice. Logically he decides to start bludgeoning the ice right under their feet with his tool, because THAT’S not dumb, right? Then his sister Katara breaks this big ball of ice that comes up through the ground like a big old pimple, releasing…a tiny Asian kid with tattoos on his head! Uh, well…at least you can’t call them unoriginal, right?

"The arrow on my head points where my career is going after this..."

They take him back to their ice village where they establish no character development before the Asian kid is stolen by a bunch of guys who say that if he doesn’t go with them, they’ll destroy the whole village. Their leader is Zuko, played by that kid from Slumdog Millionaire because I guess he really was out of cash after the Indian government didn’t let him have any of the proceeds from that film. His character is basically angry all the time, with little other emotions at all. It’s revealed that he’s the son of the Fire Lord and that he’s been looking for a mythical figure called the Avatar all along.

Meanwhile, our two ice zombies, since they have about as much personality really, have a vapid talk about responsibility, saying that the kid was their responsibility all along even though they knew him for less than 5 minutes. Their grandmother comes in and seems to have been created solely for the purpose of spouting exposition. We get a lot of backstory here about spirits and the different tribes and legends and all sorts of meaningless mumbo jumbo that would probably water-bend the kids’ brains into mush by the time it was over if this film was at all realistic. I mean seriously, lay off the exposition! It’s not a college course!

While that’s going on, the Asian kid escapes the Fire tribe so quickly that I wonder why they even had that plot in the movie to begin with, and finds Katara and Sokka riding his giant flying pet water buffalo – hey, don’t look at me, I didn’t write this movie. Apparently this monstrosity of nature is called a Sky Bison in this world, and although it’s never really explained how it exists or anything, I guess it’s the Asian kid’s companion or something. They go to this other place that is apparently an Air Temple, where the kid reveals that his name is Aang, and that he was an Airbender. Apparently Aang used to live here, and thinks that he’s only been gone a little while, and that his monk friends are all still there waiting for him…cue tragic pay off in 3, 2, 1…

Yup, he’s actually been in the ice for centuries, whodathunkit? He goes through the usual tragic stuff and all, although you’d be hard pressed to tell, as his acting is so wooden that I think the actual trees do a better job. Also, while we’re on him, what the hell is up with the pronunciation of his name? It’s very clear in the cartoon version that his name is pronounced Aang, with a long A. But here it’s like Ung, with a U. How do you mix that up? Did these people even watch the original version at all?

But it’s OK, we’re interrupted by a random gender ambiguous Asian child running onto the set! He’s being chased by some Firebenders, but since this movie is allergic to character development – like, even the most simple, basic version of it like telling us a character’s name – we just learn that he is being arrested because he threw rocks at them. Oh no.

They then go to a village full of Earthbenders held captive, who for some reason do not fight back…and the stupidity of this is even noted by Aang himself; isn’t it lovely when even the characters don’t buy your shitty writing? He reveals he’s the Avatar, but this one dude doesn’t believe him and asks him if he can do other kinds of Bending and use other special powers. This prompts Katara to go push him down and shout at him about being rude to poor Aang. This scene is just ridiculous because…well, it’s actually a legit question! Why should anyone believe he’s the Avatar anyway? It’s not like there’s been any real proof yet and…oh, wait, I don’t really care. We then go through a very tepid, confusing fight scene in which we see wondrous special effects that I’ve seen done better in several early 1980s movies.

So Aang goes to this other temple where he meets a monk who leads him into this open area and then betrays him. Even though he’s supposed to be the savior of this world, he gets betrayed anyway. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you! Totally ungrateful.

Aang gets kidnapped a second time, chained up, and then saved by a mysterious masked man who wants to save him. Who could it be? We get a fight scene outside with some guards where Aang bravely and heroically sets up shields around him to pick off the bad guys one by one, letting his savior fight off all the rest of the guards by himself. They escape, split up and the whole scene was completely pointless!

I really just don’t get it; was this really how these scenes were written? It’s like they just threw them in at a random order, no coherence at all. There’s no flow between these scenes. They just sort of…happen, one after another, without anything really feeling connected. Did Shyamalan’s dog just eat the script and then by the time he shat it all out, it was time to film already?

Okay, so he meets up with his buddies again and they go to this ice kingdom place where we get more special effects and Sokka hooks up with a Barbie doll. I’m sure she has a name and all, but really she’s just a giant talking Barbie doll, nothing else. As Aang is meditating, Zuko comes in again and fights with Katara, knocking her out and kidnapping Aang again. Man, this kid gets kidnapped a lot! Is he like a little Asian version of Princess Peach or something? But he escaped quickly again, making the whole thing pointless, more padding for this worthless cinematic carcass. Meanwhile, and here’s a surprise, THE FIREBENDERS ARE ATTACKING AGAIN, because I guess they got bored doing their knitting and croquet for the afternoon, and because they haven’t attacked or invaded anybody in the last five fucking minutes. They get antsy when they don’t do that!

"This is why I'm hot."

So because the Firebender general guy wants to kill the moon spirit, who is in the form of a common fish in the pond…just smile and nod your heads, audience…he goes to the cave and stabs the fish! I guess Occam’s Razor wins the day. But seriously, the all powerful spirit of the moon is in the form of a little fish? Even if I was going to sit back and assume that everyone in the known world will leave it at peace and not disrupt the space-time continuum, what if some random natural disaster happened that killed it? What if some unknowing little kid whose parents just forgot to tell him about it cooked it and ate it? This is stupid!

And check out those action scenes, man. I have never seen such pointless, gratuitous slow motion use in a film. I mean, at least 300 had them used consistently. Here we get banal sequences where it alternates between slow-mo and regular speed in the same sweep of motion, like Aang is sweeping a kick to another guy’s head, and it goes from slow-mo to regular about three times in that one kick. Am I supposed to be enthralled? It’s like riding a roller coaster and having it jerk and stop at completely random points. Does that sound fun to you?

The Barbie doll goes to the cave with Sokka and tells him she has to sacrifice herself to revive the dead moon spirit, or…something like that. This leads to some of the most contrived, passion-starved romance scenes ever. They last for all of a second and a half. Shyamalan then decides mid-scene that he’s bored already and dissolves to a shot of her already walking through the water. She lies down in the water and everything starts glowing…hey, it’s the new soup menu: girl-and-fish stew, everybody! Have some. It’s good for ulcers.

"There, there, now; even if the movie bombs, they will at least make cheap action figures of all of us. Don't worry. The future is bright."

Aang eventually gets up and summons a huge tidal wave to scare all his opponents in the water. It just kind of hangs there, not doing anything, like Shyamalan fell asleep before he could tell the special effects guys what to make it do. The movie then ends with the leader of the Firebenders telling his daughter that she is the most powerful secret weapon they have and that it’s her turn now…and that’s how the movie ends, with a fucking cliffhanger. I wasted two hours watching this shitfest and you’re telling me you don’t even have the balls to PROPERLY END IT?! That’s…asinine! You can’t be serious! All that wasted time and we don’t even get a real ending? How incompetent are you?

But it’s not like I really care too much, because I was never invested in this pile of lard to begin with. There’s no character development, a hackneyed plot, shithouse acting and no sense of direction. It’s just a shitty film from beginning to end. And the fact that they got so much from the show wrong is just unforgivable, and although I’m not a fan, many people are. I can really understand all the anguish from the fans of this show, as M. Night Shyamalan’s version is just a big slap in the face. A crap film from a crap director, it should come as no surprise that The Last Airbender is the cinematic version of a ride on the short bus to school. Purely incompetent and disgustingly worthless. Do not ever waste your time, money or energy on this slop.

Well, that was 2010, people. It's been a great year and I hope you all have a good festive end of year party and avoid movies like this one! Happy trails and I will see you in '11!