Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Last Airbender: Movie Review

The Last Airbender: Movie Review

The Last Airbender
Rating: See below
Cast: Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Dev Patel, Jackson Rathbone, Cliff Curtis
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Based on the phenomenally popular cartoon series of the (relatively) same name, The Last Airbender is the tale of Aang (Ringer), a mystical spiritual child who, in a far off land, holds the magical ability to use the elements and keep the balance of the world together.
But Aang has been missing for years and consequently the Fire Lord nation (who use Fire to subjugate all) has taken over the world - and driven out those who could use the elements such as air, water and earth against them.
However, Aang is found by Katara (Peltz) a teen who has water bending abilities - and when her grandmother tells her that Aang holds the key to the safety of the entire world, she pledges to protect him against the wrath of the Fire Lords who would destroy him and disgraced Fire Lord Prince Zuko (Patel) who has to return to his kingdom with the last airbender to restore his honour and regain his rightful place in the nation and his father's (Cliff Curtis) heart.
I'm not particularly au fait with the source material here - so I grabbed a couple of rabid fans of the series (and their long-suffering mum) to get their take on it.
Jackson, who's 11 gave it 8/10 but said it was "nowhere near as good at the series but still really good". He felt there was "too much mucking around when the air and fire bending is going on" - there are copious scenes of the main characters doing Tai Chi to help bend the elements and use their powers. Overall, he felt it was "worth seeing and the acting was good - even if it went through the episodes (of the Avatar series) too fast."
Connor, who's 17, gave it 5/10, because he felt the "film tried to condense an entire season into one single movie and it wasn't a very good fit. It also included dozens of plot points into the one movie and people who hadn't seen Avatar may be confused about that." He also found the film a little dry and stuffy, saying "It had none of the humour of the series, and some of the acting was not particularly good. The Aang character is way more fun in the cartoon, he's more of a boy with a wayward personality. Because Avatar is in cartoon form the characters are able to be more fluid and the film missed that with the moves." However, he felt "it did pick up around the end."
To this critic's eye, there's some awful dialogue and wooden acting here and there - but genre fans will know this kind of thing comes with these films (Star Wars clunkers anyone?). There's some stunning scenery, but the 3D element of this film adds very little to it, and is wasted in some places. I'm inclined to agree with Connor that some of the main performances are a little off-key - coupled with some clunking dialogue - eg "It is in the heart that all wars are won" particularly from Noah Ringer. The lead isn't quite strong enough to pull it off - maybe he'll improve as, and indeed if, the series continues.
The bottom line here is that with school holidays bashing on the door, this will be a firm crowd favourite to the multitude of fans of the series - but it's questionable whether it'll have the wider appeal it needs to be a major success.

Final rating - based on the kids - 6/10

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