2010 was, in many ways, a less than stellar year for movies. While there were enough great films to save it from being a train wreck, there was enough garbage on the tracks to make it a close call.
I don’t go to movies as much as I use to because of how badly burned I’ve been in the past. It’s not so much a “once bitten, twice shy” as a “1,000,000 times bitten, 1,000,001 times shy” thing. But I do catch up with them on video, and thanks to the guys at Rifftrax I have actually sought out some that I may not have in the past.
So, is there one that stands out? Yes, yes there is. Sadly I am not writing anything original when I say that M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender” is the worst thing I’ve seen in many years. I really wanted to put something else here. But in the end, this movie was so bad that I just couldn’t. It is next to impossible to catalog the things that don’t work in this film. But I am going to try.
The acting is uninspired to the point that I could describe as being akin to a series of line readings. Everything is played at the exact same low energy, monotonous level throughout the film. Scenes that were supposed to inspire, evoke tragedy, or infer a sense of moral conflict are all delivered with the gusto of someone ordering a chicken sandwich at a drive through. However, I cannot fault the actors here. The direction was so uninspired it felt like everything was done in one take.
Not only that, but the action scenes were… well, he somehow found a way to make a battle between a group of guys who can control fire and a guy who can control the wind (aided by some guys who can control the EARTH ITSELF) boring. Very boring. He tries to create the illusion of long takes, but hides cuts so ham handedly that they are impossible to miss and, as a result, fails to create the tension of a long shot while maintaining the limited point of view of one. This is just one of many potentially great action scenes rendered unwatchable dull by uninspired camera work and dismal special effects.
The script is a mess as well. The first rule of any form of story telling is “show, don’t tell.” Apparently, M. Night was absent the day that was taught. There are more scenes wherein one character tells another character about something amazing that happened off screen. I’m talking major battles conveyed in a single line of dialogue. I know that he was trying to put the entire first season of a TV show into one movie, but honestly? The amount of expository dialogue in this film is mind-boggling. I can’t believe that nobody, at any point in production said, “You know Night, maybe we could let the audience see that? I mean, it’s an action movie, right?”
So you have dull acting, unexciting action scenes, laughable dialogue, and ridiculously slow pacing all while trying to cram as much information into the film as humanly possible. All of these elements combine to make an exceptionally bad film.
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