I have a secret to admit. I’m a huge fan of M. Night Shyamalan. Granted, I prefer his earlier, edgier work like “Sixth Sense”, “Unbreakable” and “Signs,” but I will watch anything he produces at least once. I like the way his mind works. It twists and turns a lot like mine.
Unfortunately, Hollywood has pretty much written off Shyamalan. That is partially understandable. He has experienced more than a few bad choices recently. I, on the other hand, am not quite ready to do that, despite the fact he is obviously struggling with his latter work. I’m convinced he’ll make a comeback when we least expect it.
One movie it seemed everyone panned even before it hit the theaters was “The Last Airbender.” Usually, I don’t let the opinion of critics influence me when it comes to film. I often like some of the movies they hate because I go into a film expecting entertainment; not a lesson in social issues. I can research that on my own, thank you very much.
I did; however, allow all the negative hype about “The Last Airbender” influence me for some reason. It wasn’t until my grandson begged for the movie for Christmas that I wondered if I’d made a mistake. It turns out that I had.
A lot of negative things were said about Airbender because it was changed to 3D at the last minute and apparently that was pretty bad. I had no problem there. I am not a fan of 3D anyway.
I decided to go into the film looking at it as a way to escape for awhile and not trying to pick it apart the way the critics did. It was the right way to view it because I thoroughly enjoyed it. Gasp! How could I enjoy such a horrendous film?
First of all, the story, also written by Shyamalan was unique. I look for that in a movie. I get tired of seeing the same old thing over and over again.
While at its heart it is about a little boy with too much pressure forced upon him at an early age, which caused him to rebel and do something very foolish. Who can’t identify with that? But it takes place in a land where benders of the four elements – – air, fire, earth and water – – once ruled but do so no more because of the loss of the Avatar. He was the only one who could bend all four elements and ensure balance in their world.
With the Avatar gone, one faction – – the firebenders – – have taken over and slaughtered many of their fellow benders. The rest they have imprisoned while they keep a vigilant eye out for the Avatar’s return.
Many younger benders haven’t been properly schooled in their talents, making it difficult for them to fight back. Such is the case of Katara (played by Nicola Peltz), an emerging waterbender. It is during one of her self-practices that she and her brother, Sokka (played by Jackson Rathbone) accidentally discover a young boy trapped in the ice.
When they finally free the boy, a light shoots into the air, which can be seen for many miles. It is viewed by Prince Zuko (played by Dev Patel), the banished heir to the firebending throne. He suspects what it is and follows the light all the way back to the children’s village. There, he uncovers the boy and takes him away by force.
Katara and Sokka follow, in hopes of saving Aang (played by Noah Ringer), who they suspect might be the long lost Avatar. Unfortunately, the prince knows this too and arranges a test that proves his theory.
Aang escapes and joins Katara and Sokka on a quest to hone his other bending powers so he can release his brothers and sisters from exile and imprisonment. They head to the land of the waterbenders to find Princess Yue (played by Seychelle Gabriel) because she can help them.
In the meantime, the prince’s father, the Fire Lord Ozai (played by Cliff Curtis), has also caught wind that the Avatar is alive and he sends his men to dispose of him before he can once again restore balance. But his brother, Iroh (played by Shaun Toub), works against him to turn the prince to the side of the light.
The acting is mixed in this film. I admit that. Some of the characters seem more like caricatures than real people, but that is often true in this kind of movie. Overall; however, I didn’t find it anymore offensive than a lot of other films for which Hollywood gives rave reviews.
The cinematography and special effects are very good. They may not be polished, a la Cameron’s “Avatar,” but they were still pretty good.
Shyamalan did a credible job directing. While it wasn’t his best, it also wasn’t his worst. I say cut the man a break.
All of that left me wondering why this movie was so badly panned. I think it has more to do with Hollywood’s disdain of Shyamalan than the actual film itself. For some reason, he is currently on the outside looking in because of the type of films he generally makes. To me, that’s a rotten reason but it is typical Hollywood.
Okay, this isn’t great cinema. I don’t think it was meant to be. It doesn’t have the surprise of “Sixth Sense,” the anxiety of “Signs” or the bald faced audacity of “Unbreakable.” So what? Every movie doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. All it has to do is entertain and this one entertained me just fine.
Therefore, I’m going to go against the grain and give “The Last Airbender” a respectable 2.5 stars out of 5. Had the acting been more uniform, that rating might have been higher. Nonetheless, this is film I will gladly watch with my grandson anytime. Maybe it’s just my unconditional love for movies.
RATING SCALE USED:
0 = A stinker. Don’t waste the money!
1 = Bad. Rent it at your own risk.
2 = Below average. See only if you have time to kill.
2.5 = Average. A toss up.
3 = Good. Worth a looksee.
3.5 = Very Good. I recommend it.
4 = Excellent. Don’t miss it!
4.5 = Outstanding. What are you waiting for?
5 = Destined to become a classic. You will be sorry if you don’t see it.