Capone says M. Night Shyamalan's THE LAST AIRBENDER is a hate crime against those who love movies!!!!
Published at: June 30, 2010, 11:46 p.m. CST by Capone
Hey, everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
I'm going to speak plainly in a language everyone can understand. M. Night Shyamalan's THE LAST AIRBENDER is a hate crime against film lovers. No one should ever have to endure what I was unexpectedly put through yesterday afternoon watching this murky 3-D shitstorm of a movie that appears to have been shot through unflushed toilet bowl water, which, upon reflection, seems 100 percent appropriate.
Before I launch into why this film is so abysmal, let me make a plea to all studios across the land. Please stop the unwatchable practice of converting movies into 3-D. I have no issues with shooting in 3-D or the array of lovely animated films made in 3-D, but you sons of bitches have not perfected the process of 3-D conversion to the point where it is safe for human viewing. And if you are going to convert these poor, helpless movies, don't choose ones in which 75 percent or more of the action takes place at night or in dimly lit settings. Stop cloaking your films in darkness on top of darkness. And I know this wasn't a projection issue here in Chicago, because I sat through two 3-D movies back-to-back on this particular day in the exact same theater, and the second one (an animated film) looked awesome and fairly bright. There are huge section of THE LAST AIRBENDER that simply don't even appear to be in 3-D, and when I removed my glasses, guess what? I could actually make out faces and action and decently rendered special effects. With the glasses? Everything looked like pond scum. Fuck everyone whose job it is to convert movies to 3-D and the people who hired you. It doesn't work, so just fucking stop ruining my experience going to the movies.
That said, nothing on heaven or earth could have saved THE LAST AIRBENDER from spiraling out of control and making it certainly the worst film I've seen all year so far, and an early candidate for the worst film of the decade. There isn't a single element to this movie that works, and I say that knowing nothing about the TV series on which it is based and as someone who went into this film thinking there was a strong chance I might enjoy my experience.
It's difficult to explain just how far Shyamalan strayed as a filmmaker, but he seems to have entered into this story with a tell-not-show attitude. Huge chunks of this movie are just people talking about action that has already happened or is going to happen. It's as if the production ran out of money to shoot certain action sequences, so the powers that be simply said, "Okay, let's describe the action instead." Who does that? But I know that's not what happened because this movie looks like it cost a metric shit ton of money. All of those wasted funds are right there on the screen in the form of elaborate landscape backgrounds, mythical creatures (like a dragon and a giant beaver-like creature), elements being tossed around by "benders," who I think are people who can manipulate either air, fire, earth or water.
The writing here goes beyond just lame description of action. I could almost see the exclamation points at the end of every sentence in Shyamalan's screenplay. And the words are acted in kind by the lead child actors, who deliver each word with eyebrows raised and voices in full announcer mode, almost as if they thought they were recording dialogue for an animated movie (which would have looking a helluva lot better in 3-D--zing!). I'm sure the tens of thousands of kids who see this movie are going to respond really well to all that…3-D talking.
And I don't mean to cap on these poor kids, but they are across-the-board terrible, especially the two white kids who follow the title character (white kid playing non-white) around. They are played by Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathbone, who plays Jasper Hale in the TWILIGHT films and does so in a far more interesting manner than in THE LAST AIRBENDER. Poor guy has had a rough week. And don't even get me started on the Airbender himself, Noah Ringer as Aang, a young monk who is the reincarnation of the "Avatar," a bender who can control all four elements (with proper training), as opposed to regular benders who can only control one…I guess. Fuck, I don't know. Ringer has decent delivery, but all of his lines sound so clear, they seem dubbed. And while he does get a chance to fight in the film, he mostly just rattles on and on about his history, his destiny, his abilities, blah, blah, blah.
There are a few familiar faces, but they don't really do anything to remove the stink from this production. Cliff Curtis plays Fire Lord Ozai, the leader of the Firemen, or whatever the hell they're called. His disappointing son is portrayed by Dev Patel from SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, while the usually reliable Aasif Mandvi plays Ozai's top military leader Commander Zhao. For all of their yelling and posturing, you would think a little spark might be lit under the ass of this movie, but you'd be wrong. They just talk, talk, talk about fighting, fight a little, then talk some more.
And then there are plot points in THE LAST AIRBENDER that are just plain dumb. See if my logic makes sense. Leading up to the big battle scene between the firebender warriors and the water bender monk-like people, a water dude makes a point to say that everyone in their camp should put out every fire so the fire people won't have anything to…bend, I guess. Fair enough: fire people need fire to do their tricks, water people need water, etc. But it's made very clear that the world in which this story takes place is somewhat industrialized. We see these machines that look like a cross between a tank and a bulldozer driving on their own steam, plus there are these giant metal battle ships that the fire people travel upon that clearly are operating on something other than air. Now I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing that a race of people that possess and operate such devices might also have invented and carry around with them, I don't know, matches maybe. Perhaps even something as sophisticated as a flint-based lighter? Call me crazy. No really, call me crazy. It doesn't take long for the story to inform us that some firebenders can actually create fire out of thin air anyway, so why waste our time? Because they can, dummy.
As a critic, I always try to find one or two positive things to write about every film, even for the most trying movies I see in a given year. But for THE LAST AIRBENDER, I got nothing. No the 3-D doesn't help the film in any way; it actually makes is a whole lot worse. But even without the 3-D, this movie would have been an endurance test. There was a 14- or 15-year-old girl sitting behind me during this screening, and when the end credits began rolling, she turned to the person next to her and said, "Look at your watch. That movie was only 90-some minutes long; it felt like three hours." Truer words have never been spoken. If you still want to see this movie, you're either too dumb to understand why you shouldn't or too young to care. Fair enough. Enjoy spending the rest of your life with the memory of THE LAST AIRBENDER fouling your brain. This summer is beginning to feel like the End of Movie Days. God save us.
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