Tuesday, 7 September 2010


Paramount Pictures
Now Showing

Despite being based on a popular animated series, I suspect The Last Airbender must have come into possession of director M. Night Shyamalan (of The Sixth Sense fame) not as a personal project but as a studio ultimatum: “If you want to keep making your one-trick movies-with-a-twist, you'd better make us a blockbuster first.”

And despite the almost universal panning the film has received, Shyamalan has delivered; the film to date grossing $130 million in the US alone, and the director already has a new film (Devil) releasing in October.

Of course, box office receipts very rarely match up with film quality and as it is, many will come away from The Last Airbender hoping that the title is also a promise. For in spite of the visual effects and the 3D (applied retroactively so the film takes on that distinctly murky look), there's very little in this fantasy film that will have anyone coming back for seconds.

The basics of the story involve warring tribes but since almost all of the dialogue in The Last Airbender is exposition, informing us of the history if this world, its various tribes and the prophecy of the Avatar, a Dalai Lama-like being continually reborn throughout the centuries and the one who will bring peace to this world, there's very little chance you'll be lost. Bored, on the other hand. All dialogue is delivered with varying degrees of stiffness which only adds to the growing sense of unrest.

The Avatar, a bald kid, is a master of 'bending', an elaborate from of tai chi requiring high levels of concentration and an even higher embarrassment threshold. There's a lot of gesticulating involved with bending, whether it be of fire, water, earth or air (the Avatar being feted for his ability to master all four elements). It makes you think someone in this parallel world could get a hell of a lot done if they simply invented the gun. I know I certainly could have done with one at my screening.

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