The Last Airbender

To say that M. Night Shyamalan has failed with The Last Airbender is a gross understatement.

To say that M. Night Shyamalan has failed with The Last Airbender is a gross understatement. This once great director has completely lost his craft; this latest movie by Shyamalan looks like a bad work of an amateur filmmaker. The incoherent high-budget mess he makes out of The Last Airbenderdoes not even contain the short bursts of brilliance that his last dud The Happening had.

Based on a beloved animated series, The Last Airbender starts with the subtitle “Book One: Water”. The movie follows the first-third of the journey of Aang (Noah Ringer), an incarnation of a powerful being who has the ability to control, or bend, all four elements: Air, Water, Earth & Fire. Left frozen as a child for a hundred years, he is rescued by Katara (Nicola Peltz), a 14-year old girl from the Southern Water Tribe who has the ability to bend water. Together with her brother, Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), the three travel on Aang’s flying bison to the Northern Water Tribe so Aang, born to Air Nomads and learned in the art of Air Bending, may learn the art of Water-bending. Being the Avatar, Aang must become master of all four elements so he may bring peace to the world. The imperialistic Fire Nation stands in his way, attacking and conquering most of the world, and out to capture Aang so their reign may continue without threat. Exiled Prince Zuko (Dev Patel), former heir to the Fire Nation throne, wants to capture Aang himself so that he may return home and regain his lost honour.

The story is complex enough to warrant a fair understanding of the mythology of the world created in the animated series. While adapting it for the screen, Shyamalan the writer is unable to simplify the plot enough for his audience. He leaves out many details that become conspicuous because of the plot-holes they cause. Those not familiar with the series will be lost in the garbled course of events or zone-out and wait for the next set of special-effects, if they do not walk out mid-way. It takes a certain level of aptitude in the art of story-telling to be able to pull off fantasy of this level, and it is here that Shyamalan primarily fails. This extends to the bland lines that the actors speak, and the performance of the actors, who mostly look lost without direction.

Also, consider this: The Last Airbender was shot by Andrew Lisnie, who has been the cinematographer for, among many other films, all of The Lord of the Rings movies. James Newton Howard has scored this movie, like all of Shyamalan’s other movies to date. He had even composed for The Dark Knight. The work of both these artists in this film is ordinary. With the kind of talent at his disposal, Shyamalan has nonetheless managed to make a movie that has no redeeming values. Indeed, ILM does a splendid job with the visual effects of the movie and Dev Patel puts in some worthy effort towards his conflicted antagonist, but these are minor nuggets in an otherwise painful movie experience. In fact, The Last Airbender remains consistent with Shyamalan’s falling career graph. If a sequel is made, considering the movie ends with the intention to continue the saga, the hope to salvage the well-known brilliance of the show should be in a different and a more competent director.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

About Shariq Madani

Shariq is a social, talkative, fun-loving guy who enjoys books, food and a long drive. But his real joy is in the comfortable darkness of a cinema, watching a good movie, and later spending hours discussing it.