Saturday, July 10, 2010

Movie Review - Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar:  The Last Airbender - *

Directed by:  M. Night Shyamalan

Starring:  Noah Ringer, Dev Petal, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Aasif Mandvi

Review:  What happened the M. Night Shyamalan?  If you didn't know better you would think "The Happening" was in reference to what "happened" to his promising career.  After the sensation that was "The Sixth Sense" and the brilliance that followed with "Unbreakable" it seemed he had a bright career ahead of him.  However, after the dreck that was "Lady in the Water" and now this, it is clear that his career is on life support if not flatlined completely.

The movie is based on the excellent Nickelodeon TV series.  The series is very well done and provides a storyline and mythology that is very entertaining.  However, none of that is faithfully recreated here in this movie.  The storyline centers on a world where all four elements (air, water, earth, fire) are mastered different individuals and the only thing that keeps peace between all the nations is the Avatar, who has mastered the control of all four elements.  However, the Avatar disappeared 100 years ago and since then the fire nation has attacked most of the world and is wreaking havoc.  All hope seems to be lost until two young teenagers find a 12 year old boy hidden in a block of ice.  They believe, and are correct, that this boy is the Avatar who has been gone for 100 years.  Now it is the responsibility of the two who found him to take him around the world and to make sure he learns all four elements so he can become the Avatar and restore peace.

The series captures this story arc in an amazing way.  The beauty of the series is that it is not the characters that draw you in but the mythology and storyline, but after a while you find yourself starting to care about these characters in relation to the story.  It takes a really good story to do this and takes characters that are done very well in order to make it work as well.  This movie has neither.

The series is allowed slack in certain areas because it is a cartoon, somewhat aimed at kids, and has a limited time frame in each episode.  It is understandable that some of this would be tough to translate to the screen, but it is the filmmakers job to find out what will translate well and what won't and use all of that to make the best movie possible.  This film does not do that, it's as if they made the movie to please the fans, but then went back and tried to make it accessible to non-fans as well.  All this ends up doing is making the movie a hodgepodge muddled mess.

The actors move through the movie without caring and acting as if they only reason they act is because the director told them to.  They have no stock in their characters and it's doubtful any of them watched the series to try to familiarize themselves with the material or character.  What happend to M. Night Shyamalan?  I guess it's simpler than you would think.  He is just an average director whose reach exceeds his grasp and makes crappy movies.  This movie is not worth your time, even if you're a fan of the series.

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