Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Last Airbender by M. Night Shyamalan

Both the film critics and the general public went over the top with the comments on how bad The Last Airbender seemed to be. I managed to watch it tonight and I disagree absolutely with all the fuss people have been making.
The Last Airbender is based on the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, specifically on its first season, Book One: Water. Aang, destined to become the Avatar, a being that can control all elements and talk to the spirits, ran away from his fate and accidentally got himself locked under the ice. Katara and Sokka find him by chance and release him, a hundred years later. His people are all dead, killed in the beginning of the Fire Nation's invasions on their bid for world dominance, and Aang is yet untrained in all elements but his tribe's one, Air. He travels to a northern stronghold where a tribe still practices Waterbending to resume his training. This provides the basic plot and I won't reveal more to avoid spoiling the film for those that have never seen the animated series.
The two main problems I had with the film were the pace and the 3D. The Last Airbender has a plot with a lot of drama that was to quickly told to the viewer without having him feel it, without actually connecting to the public. Also, for the same reason, most of the characters' part was so hasty I didn't even get to know them or understand them and they were already yelling, jumping, fighting, dying or disappearing. The Book of Water season could have been done as two movies, but then again I don't know if the money-bearing people would support it. The 3D was almost completely useless. For a good part of the film there was no 3D image whatsoever, and when there was the experience wasn't as noticeable as in Avatar or even Alice in Wonderland. I wish I had the chance to pay rather less to watch a classic version but it just wasn't available here. Another point I should make is that Sokka's character was much different and worse than the original. I felt that Jackson Rathbone didn't connect with it, or he was badly directed, because Sokka should have been much more funny, even goofy, not only standing out from other characters but also providing the direly needed comic relief to the film. Other than this, the plot is quite interesting, with the necessary adaptations for a transformation into a small film that is short of two-hour long, the fights and dancing sequences were very well done, and the digital parts were nice and well blended. The bending was very believable and the spirit world's environment was well thought of.
This is by no means a fantastic film, but I'd still recommend watching it to fans of fantasy and of course, to fans of the animated series, just be reasonable and don't expect it to be the same as a 20 episode-wide season.

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