Upon release, M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender received extremely negative reviews, with critics panning the bad acting, numerous plot holes, screenplay, poor special effects (despite its reported $150 million budget) and especially M. Night Shyamalan's directing. It was also ridiculed for the poor quality of its post-converted 3-D, which was described as barely noticeable.
The fantasy/adventure film based on the Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender received further criticism from fans of the original cartoon series, who said the film differed tremendously from its critically acclaimed source material. The reason for that was, as well as directing, Shyamalan wrote the new story for the film, yet it was his daughters love of the original series that made him want to bring the show to the big screen in the first place.
Still with me? Good. There's more. After release The Last Airbender garnered nine nominations at the 31st Golden Raspberry Awards, and won five: Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Supporting Actor, and a special award, "Worst Eye-Gouging Mis-Use of 3D." The film currently holds a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 183 reviews, with legendary movie critic Roger Ebert going as far as saying,
"The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here. It puts a nail in the coffin of low-rent 3D, but it will need a lot more coffins than that."Mike Ryan of Vanity Fair called The Last Airbender the worst movie he had ever seen. It appeared high on just about every notable list of Worst Films of 2010, Rifftrax went so far as to place it at number 5 of their Top 10 Worst Movies of All Time, saying
"We CAN state for the record that it is quite easy to detest this movie even if you've never seen a frame of the TV show."And what about the original TV show creators? Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the creators of the animated series, officially said that they would like to pretend the film doesn't exist. As we all do.
But wait! There's even more.
The casting of white and Indian actors to portray characters who were East Asian or Native Inuit in the source material triggered negative reactions from some fans marked by accusations of racism, a letter-writing campaign, and various protests. Of course, that all took place before anyone had seen a single frame of the film. Afterwards Richard Corliss of Time, speaking of the controversy, wrote
"The actors who didn't get to be in The Last Airbender are like the passengers who arrived too late to catch the final flight of the Hindenburg."Ouch! Corliss also stated that this was the worst movie epic in 32 years.
BUT, is The Last Airbender really all that bad?
Yes! Yes, a thousand times YES. It is f*cking awful.
(I was very tempted to just finish the article there, but I guess I should give some personal reaction too)
For all of the reasons mentioned above and many more, The Last Airbender is an absolute disaster of a movie. It opens with a dull and lifeless blast of orchestral music, like a death knell ringing out the failure that is to follow. We then get some gimmicky flashy red-tinted shots of the four element benders bending the elements (that might be my favourite seven words I've ever written), before an opening expository crawl and an annoying, ever present narrator joining in to ruin any suspense about what's to come.
The converted 3D is really dreadful (and yes, I did pay to see this film in 3D - more fool me). Some 3D conversions have been stunning but the work put in to this one is the absolute pits. It must've been done the evening before release when some canny studio executive said 'hang on, if we say this is 3D then we can charge an extra few quid per ticket and maybe make some money back on this piece of shite'. But it isn't actually 3D at all, it's just a blurry moving image which requires a pair of tinted glasses to unblur. Once unblurred there is no depth to the picture, so no point to the supposed 3D. The only difference between watching the film in 2D or 3D is the glasses wearing headache which came with the more expensive ticket.
The acting is awful. It truly, truly is. The two leads are so laughably bad. So very wooden, you could carve a novelty rocking chair out of them. As Aang, Noah Ringer looks and sounds like he's reading the lines off of a teleprompter, and Dev Patel's performance as Prince Zuko consists of him basically shouting and over-emphasising every word, like a young Indian Nicolas Cage. His accent keeps slipping too, and he keeps making this weird facial expression as he reacts to people/events, but it just looks like someone stood next to him has farted, it's just got to Dev's nostrils and he's trying hard not to break character.
I can't blame the actors for the dialogue, oh no! That is 100% Shyamalan's fault. If you've ever had beef with George Lucas for his clumpy dialogue then watch The Last Airbender and you'll soon be screaming for the bearded one's beautiful wordsmanship. Some choice examples for you, and they are best read in a wooden flat tone,
"Is there a spiritual place where I can meditate?"That last one did get a laugh from the audience, which may have been the highlight of the whole film.
"There is a very spiritual place. The city was built around it, ya know."
"I'm scared. Please don't make me more scared."
"Let's spar! I don't think we've sparred in quite a while."
"I could tell at once that you were a bender."
It's possible that in the hands of another writer The Last Airbender might've at least had a decent story among the drawn out, boring action sequences and overly drab sets, but Shyamalan approached his screenplay like a drunken 4yr old going crazy with a word fridge magnet set.
Worryingly, Shyamalan has written a treatment for a sequel. More worryingly, just last year he was still talking about making it!
And on that bombshell, goodnight!
Geek. Lover. Fighter. Dwarf. Follow Wil on Twitter.