Film Review: "The Last Airbender"

The world has been divided into four nations, each corresponding with an element. When the Fire Nation tries to take over, it's up to Aang (Ringer), a young boy gifted with the ability to control all four elements, to save the world. A woefully disappointing adaptation of a popular animated series.

There has been much controversy online around the casting choices for this film, which I don't feel qualified to tackle. Frankly, if you're going to dislike this movie, don't dislike it due to racism; dislike it because it isn't very good. While the TV series is a sweeping, multi-layered epic touching on politics, religion, sacrifice, war and so on, the film adaptation is a jumbled and frustrating mess. The main content of this movie is exposition. Characters are constantly explaining happenstances and motivations to the audience or each other, none of which is helped by the clunky, ham-fisted dialogue. The sheer weight of the plot forces out almost all of the charm and wit that made the series endearing, and we never really meet the characters. We see a few glimpses of personality (especially in Shaun Toub's Iroh). A longer running time (and a better writer) might've helped. Of course, all of these complaints are coming from someone familiar with the series, but I bet newcomers will feel even more alienated. I will say, to the film's credit, the art direction is awesome, the special effects are pretty nice and Newton Howard's score complements the action well. The series gets really good during the second installment, but I would be surprised if the films last that long.

One last thing: skip the 3D. Much like Clash of the Titans and Alice in Wonderland, the 3D aspect of Airbender was added after the fact, and it shows. Nothing in the film makes use of it, and all it does is darken the picture and muddy up the action. Save yourself a few bucks and stick to the 2D.

 

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