"Airbender" blows its hype

July 7, 2010, 12:39 p.m. | By Myla Sapp | 11 years, 4 months ago

Due to inadequate direction and acting, "The Last Airbender" falls flat

The highly anticipated production of fantasy director M. Night Shyamalan's "Avatar: The Last Airbender" is a huge disappointment on several different levels, from the subpar acting displayed by the majority of the cast to the unappealing action sequences. As Shyamalan miserably fails to adapt the popular Nickelodeon cartoon into an enjoyable feature film, "The Last Airbender" lacks any sign of quality cinema.

The movie follows the adventures of Aang (Noah Ringer), a twelve-year-old Air Nomad who is the final Airbender of his time. After learning that he is the Avatar, the only person capable of bending all four elements, Aang runs away from his village and disappears from society for 100 years. The earth is divided into four separate kingdoms, each represented by one of the elements. During Aang's absence, the Fire Nation implements a plan to gain absolute control of the other three kingdoms. With the help of waterbender Katara (Nicola Peltz) and her older brother Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), Aang is found and soon realizes that it is his duty to protect the other kingdoms from the Fire Nation's attempt to conquer.

Young actor Ringer leads the disappointing cast of stiff actors, as equally awkward newcomer Peltz as well as Rathbone of the Twilight Saga play Aang's helpful water tribe companions. Throughout the movie, an emotional connection among the three lead roles seems to be missing, and the majority of the lines are delivered in monotone voices and lack any kind of inspiration or excitement.

The same dull expression is on the faces of the other cast members during the entire film. "Slumdog Millionaire" star Dev Patel brings hope to the otherwise poor acting of his castmates through his portrayal of Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation; Patel's representation of a distraught young man attempting to gain back his pride in the eyes of his kingdom is the only commendable acting display in the entire movie.

The cast cannot be completely blamed for the absence of any sort of character relationships or connections, however. Minimal character development and back story make the movie seem as though it is being rushed, and character relationships and introductions are also absent from the film, which makes each character seem one-dimensional. The movie also misses pivotal transitions and therefore adds confusion to the central story. It is often a mystery as to why the characters are in a particular environment and how they got there, for example.

Bad editing is also constantly evident throughout the production. The story moves at an extremely fast pace and gives viewers no time to truly understand what is taking place. An extra thirty minutes could have easily been added to make the film more coherent.

Along with the disorganized plot and emotionless cast, the action sequences of "The Last Airbender" are all over the place and are shot with poor camera angles. At several points during the fights, the camera is moving so fast that the screen is painful and disorienting to watch. The constant movement of the camera makes it difficult to enjoy many of the climaxing action scenes. Additionally, battles between the air and water benders are quite boring altogether and lack any entertainment value toward the end of the movie. During battles, the slow movements of the characters cause the fights to seem unbelievable and tedious.

Unfortunately, positive aspects of "The Last Airbender" are minimal. The costumes and scenery of the film are top-notch and effectively represent the diverse appearance of the clothing and environment of each tribe. Several special effects are also extremely visually stimulating and add an extra element of beauty to the movie. From the snow-covered mountains of the Water nation to the elaborate stone structures of the Air temple, "The Last Airbender" is visually breathtaking.

The movie overall, however, is a huge letdown in terms of quality and appeal. The film continues to get worse as the story progresses and shows no sign of getting any better. As the initial installment in a possible trilogy, "The Last Airbender" makes a horrible first impression. Hopefully, this is truly the last "Airbender" film ever made.

"The Last Airbender" is rated PG for fantasy action violence. The movie runs for 103 minutes and is now playing in area theaters.

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