Everyone Loves The Last Airbender

By Rob Bricken in Cartoons, Movies
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 3:33 pm
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...by which I mean the Nickelodeon cartoon. Unfortunately, M. Night Shyamalan's Airbender movie isn't quite so lucky, with a massive 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Sure, there are only 12 reviews when I'm writing this, but when the reviews include lines like:

The picture drags along the ground like a fresh corpse, treating its own myth as homework and the participants as burdens, while feeling around a fantastically wasted world of weathered environments and ornate set design.

Does the number really matter? Roger Ebert -- and by no means do I agree with everything Ebert says in reviews, but I do find them thoughtful and informative even if I may disagree -- well, let me just give you a few highlights:
• "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.
• Let's start with the 3D, which was added as an afterthought to a 2D movie. Not only is it unexploited and unnecessary, but it's a disaster even if you like 3D.
• The dialogue is couched in unspeakable quasi-medieval formalities; the characters are so portentous they seem to have been trained for grade school historical pageants. ... All of the benders in the movie appear only in terms of their attributes and functions, and contain no personality.
• His first inexplicable mistake was to change the races of the leading characters; on television Aang was clearly Asian, and so were Katara and Sokka, with perhaps Mongolian and Inuit genes. Here they're all whites. This casting makes no sense because (1) It's a distraction for fans of the hugely popular TV series, and (2) all three actors are pretty bad.
• Try sampling a Nickelodeon clip from the original show to glimpse the look that might have been.
The fact that Ebert is also irked by the "racebending," and he also thinks the original cartoon is swell is fascinating by itself, but since so many of you feel the same way, I would hope that you don't dismiss his criticisms out of hand. I think I'm most upset by the confirmation that the dialogue sucks, and contains none of the humor of the cartoon, although frankly, I never suspected Shyamalan of doing otherwise. He's a terrible screenwriter and director. And unless something weird happens with the box office this weekend, he's managed to kill the live-action Avatar movie franchise all by his lonesome.

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