Friday, July 09, 2010

Movie Review : The Last Airbender

I knew going in that The Last Airbender was going to have to stand on its own as a movie. I suspect that it is probably harder to translate an animated series to live action than it is take a novel to the big screen. In people's minds, common visuals and voices are already set. In addition, there are facial gags and meanings that can be conveyed in drawings which can never be duplicated in live action.

With that in mind, I was prepared to give Airbender a lot of latitude. However, it fell into the same trap that many modern movies have fallen into, which is this: They try to use the story to move you along to the next visual effect, rather using visual effects to buttress a good story. Let's face it - visual effects are getting old. We get it Hollywood... there is nothing that, visually speaking, you cannot do.

With that in mind, can we go back to telling a good story?

I am usually not one to watch Nickelodeon cartoons. What got me into The Last Airbender on TV was over-hearing the dialog as my son was watching it. I started to notice that it was often truly witty; that the writers were attentive to the interaction between the characters. Every line was effectively used. Pretty soon I was sitting next to my son watching the next episode.

So, though I was hoping that the movie would stand on its own, that it would take the premise of the TV show and give us a re-imagining of sorts ... instead we got a story that lacked imagination.

My advice is: be content to catch it on DVD.

P.S.  I have to add this.  There was a lot of hub-bub amongst fans about M. Night choosing non-Asian actors for this movie.  In a racial sense, I have to say I didn't care one way or the other.  I have to confess though, from an artistic standpoint, I did find it distracting.  This movie is obviously set in the context of Eastern/Asian culture and religion.  Having all of the leads being played by "white" people was somehow distracting.  Again, morally no problem, but artistically I admit I found it to be a hinderance.


Eruesso said...

I never got around to watching it on Nick but it peaked my interest when I found out it was being made into a film. The visual effects looked great but I wanted to go see it for the story. At least I have the Dawn Treader and Deathly Hallows to look forward to later this year.

Redlefty said...

I saw it had an 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and decided to skip it now and skip it on DVD, heh!

Whiskypriest said...

Same process for myself. My kids became avid fans and, if Tolkien has taught us anything, good writing transcends age. The Nick cartoon is a great example of rich story telling, sophisticated relational dynamics, and insightful character development. We haven't yet had the opportunity to 'flame' the film in Aust; we get to do that in Sept. It certainly boggles the mind, why the film industry can get it so wrong when the source material is so right.

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