The Last Airbender?

M Night Shyamalan has crafted an Airbender story in The Last Airbender that for many fans will not be the last journey into this magical, mysterious and magnanimous world. In fact, Shyamalan ends his first epic on a cliffhanger that is devilishly delightful.

An epic story

The Last Airbender had the unfortunate distinction of coming out during the same 12-month period as that James Cameron film that everyone fawned over.

Nicola Pratz in The Last Airbender

Will that fact hurt the film upon its release? Will fans of the TV series line up in droves to see the big screen adaptation of the story that they adore?

Judging by the line around the theater for the few open seats that were available after the press took their seats at the screening SheKnows attended in Studio City, California, the answer to the latter is a most definite yes. The answer to the first question is still yet to be determined and largely will be decided by reviews such as this one and word-of-mouth.

All the right elements

To quote a viewer leaving the screening SheKnows attended, "That is everything you want from a movie."

In fact, it is with The Last Airbender's combination of action, humor, moral, romance and eye-popping special effects, that it truly pleases -- slightly.

Special effects are top notch

Industrial Light and Magic has always paved new ground. The special effects house founded by George Lucas is all over some of Hollywood history's most renowned films. In The Last Airbender, ILM takes and triumphs in the challenge of giving the effects their own distinct characterization to reflect the peoples they represent.

The Last Airbender

Water moved at will, fire tossed from afar, the earth culled to protect and defend -- these are three-fourths of the elements and peoples at the heart of The Last Airbender. The final piece to the peace puzzle is the mover of the air, of which the Avatar of the TV title comes into play. The Avatar is the source of what connects the world in harmony. At the beginning of The Last Airbender, Nicola Peltz's Katara discovers a little boy in an ice shield who may hold the secret to restoring order to the planet.

3D not needed

Caught in the tsunami of 3D films that are banging box office bank, The Last Airbender is honestly enhanced enough to warrant the conversion. Speaking of James Cameron and his Avatar, we will give him this: There is a distinct difference in the visual quality of a film shot with a 3D camera versus the conversion method.

Character development suffers

Some things are missing. As is the case with stories that come from extended television series or books, the ability to fully capture the character essences is minimalized in a screen adaptation. The Last Airbender suffers from this problem. We wanted more from characters tossed into life-changing events than was achieved. The hints of an epic are all over The Last Airbender.

Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel is stale as The Last Airbender's nemesis.

Acting misses mark sometimes

Directing child actors is a difficult task. Steven Spielberg has made an art of it. M Night Shyamalan has always excelled in this arena. Who could forget The Sixth Sense or Signs' children and their roles in moving the suspense and thrills of an M Night Shyamalan film?

The Last Airbender is now in theaters

In the first moments of the film's first act, it is not only the child actors, but the entire cast who seems to slowly warm to their characterizations.

Night moves

M Night Shyamalan, to this reviewer, is a wizard of cinema for two of his first three films. The fact that he sought to write and direct something so beloved as Avatar: The Last Airbender, is a tribute to his belief in his abilities as a filmmaker. But, that is perhaps where he went ajar.

The Last Airbender review

Out of five stars:


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Comments on "The Last Airbender review"

Mike August 17, 2010 | 11:12 AM

I am a little tired from hearing from M. Night and his army of apologists that Night makes films that the critics hate, but audiences love. Sadly, that just has not been the case in recent years. I have been going over the numbers since reading some dubious movie sites that have been saying M. Night's latest films were "successes", yes I know, despite 98% of the critics in the US have said otherwise. Please feel free to research the validity since I took them off MovieMojo. Lady in the Water earned a pedestrian $42 million at the domestic box-office. It was the 73rd highest grossing film of 2006. Considering Night is a very well-known director with has a track record of success and a big studio marketing budget behind every movie he makes, which is a terrible showing. 2 years later, The Happening earned just $64 million from US moviegoers. It was the 49th highest grossing film of the year, again a poor showing considering Night's name and the studio muscle behind the film. Especially troubling was the fact that it made $30 million its opening weekend in theaters and then just tanked to earn a total of only $64 million. Most wide releases earn about a quarter of their box-office the opening weekend. For a film to do half of its total take its opening weekend it is a sign that the people who did see it the first weekend went out and told all their friends how horrible it was. It is a sign of massive negative word-of-mouth. The notion that these films were successes with audiences is a fallacy and a disservice to the readers of this article. Finally, the latest of Box office abortions The Last Airbender is another great success story. The production budget for the film was 150 million (Marketing costs were another 130 million, but that’s another story) and so far it has made domestically $129,344,805 and since HALF goes to the theaters that show it, that amount is less than 65 million. Now if you add the the foreign gross (54 million) and we have about 188 million worldwide. However since half has to go to the theaters, the movie has only made less that 95 million so far after a month and a half. Still a failure in both counts. I wonder if the authors of these articles had an agenda and wanted to preserve their relationships with Night so they wrote a puff piece that ignores the facts. I will admit that Air bender has been a decent “success” at the box-office, especially when compared to Night's recent films. However, when you consider that the film had a $150 million budget and a marketing budget of more than $130 million, there seems to be little chance it will be a money-maker for Paramount. I find it amusing that Night says Paramount is waiting to decide on making sequels. The odds of a sequel to a film that lost money are slim and none. Most astute Hollywood observers know that Air bender is going to lose tens of millions.

lonnie July 27, 2010 | 10:23 PM

sumdyude: what movie were you watching? Didn't you notice the lack of continuity? The grade school acting? The script that was probably written in crayon? I'm really serious. If you truly found that movie entertaining, good for you. But know it is not good. It is a bad movie and M Knight should not be allowed close to the set for the next two installments. I actually found the concept real interesting and hope someone else gives it a try with a new cast.

Justin July 22, 2010 | 10:39 AM

There are dozens of other things that are wrong with this movie but I really don't want to type that much. If you haven't seen the tv show then please go and watch it before you start believing that this movie is anything but an atrocity.

Justin July 22, 2010 | 10:33 AM

This is a response to sumdyude. M. Night completely failed in making this movie. Quite of few of the characters names were mispronounced throughout the entire film. The fights scene were just a load of garbage considering the fact that it took like 15 different movements to unleash 1 fireball, when in the television show all it took to create a fireball was a single punch. The main character Aang is supposed to be a light hearted twelve year old boy who smiles all the time and M. Night turned him into a brooding douche bag. I sat down and watched this movie with a friend of mine who hasn't seen the tv show. So he went in with no preconceptions what so ever and even he thought the movie was a piece of garbage. The lines were incredibly cheesy, the 3d was obviously an after thought and thrown in as a gimmick, and M. Night basically took the rough outline of all the episodes of the first season and threw it together and prayed that no one would notice the lack of story and character development. I commend M. Night for attempting to make a movie based off of a ground breaking cartoon, but all copies of this movie deserve to be burned. Lets just hope that the new sequel to the show gets the green light, its bound to be better than this movie since both of the creators of the original show are on board.

sumdyude July 20, 2010 | 7:36 PM

I am surprised at so many angry comments at this movie. For the love of god, get out of your depressed minds..this is just a fun movie, nothing too serious. It definitely gives you the bang for the buck than most of the other shallow crap that has been peddled for years in Hollywood. It was not at all bad..but it wasn't great also. Heck, it's a gorgeous movie though..more power to M Night..keep it real..we need real talent like you in this shallow clientele.

Twinks July 07, 2010 | 7:52 AM

M. Night should not be allowed to make the sequels to the film. I don’t think he was truly invested in the story, rather just wanted to make a quick buck. I wanted so badly to see Aang come out of his frozen globe and ask for penguin sledding. Instead he was just depressed and dreary the entire movie. Even Sokka had no humor. I noticed that only two of the character names were pronounced properly and that was Katara and Yue. Even the one on one fighting challenge of Agnie Kai (I know I spelled it wrong) was mispronounced. There was no connection to the characters. M. Night obviously did not see the series and did not identify with the little details of the main characters that the fans fell in love with. This would include but not be limited to Aang’s sweet innocence and childlike playfulness; Katara’s huge and mesmerizing blue eyes and her adorable “hair loopies”, as well as her obvious love and nurturing nature toward Aang; Sokka’s unique way to put a smile on the viewer’s face, even when faced with the most dangerous of adversaries. I think M. Night rushed through the thing to make some money and simply had no care of how the series fans would be affected. M. Night…just hang up your hat. You don’t need to be making movies. Please allow someone who actually still has vision, talent, and respect for the fans make the next installment. I’m scared to see Toph, one of the three funniest characters in the series. With M. Night behind the wheel, she’ll probably be a monotone snore just like the rest of the cast. For those who never watched, or didn’t follow the series, it’s a cute little movie…decent visual effects. But there are serious fans out there of all ages who fell in love with not only the story, but the characters as well. M. Night brought nothing to the movie that would please the fans. As an avid fan myself, I was very excited to see this movie only to walk away saddened at how it was butchered.

Maxinpains July 06, 2010 | 7:24 PM

M. Night malan .... Sorry but...YOU ARE OUT... Forever.

Christina July 01, 2010 | 3:44 AM

I was really disappointed with this movie... I'm a really big fan of the cartoon show and was really looking forward to the movie coming out. I really loved the characters in it and thought that they were a good cast, but the entire movie was like a little under 2hr recap of the actual cartoon, book 1. It never truly showed the story or the background and the passion of each of the characters. The entire movie seemed like it was rushed with the placement of the camera during fight scenes and throughout the movie, to the actual story. If I had never seen the cartoon show and saw this movie I would not only be confused as to what the heck was going on but not want to see the next movie. The special effects in my opinion were really good but I personally would have liked to see more bending. One thing that did bother me about the movie was how the fire nation had to have a source of fire around them, except for the true masters. I think that changing that, though it was a small change, it was a huge mistake. Being able to make fire from the energy of the sun was what made the fire nation so powerful and deadly, now they rely mostly on weapon fighting which can get sloppy and is not as entertaining to watch as actual fire bending; which they only did a few times in the movie. I'm just praying that the next movie not only ties everything together, gets the story straight and has a little more background on the characters but actually makes up for the recap of the first one. Personally... I would have rather waited another year so they didn't rush it, to see a 3hr movie that actually explained what was going on than a little under 2hr recap of the cartoon. The movie made one thing clear to the fans of the cartoon... the cartoon book 1 is ten times better then the movie book 1 and I'm actually skeptical about watching book 2 and for a big fan like me, I should be wanting to see the next book. Not dreading if there gonna screw up some of my favorite characters in book 2 like Azula and Toph or make it another recap of the cartoon book 2.

Tom July 01, 2010 | 3:13 AM

I just watched the premiere. I have never been MORE angry. It was a disgrace to the amazing tv show and its characters. I cringed every single time one of the character's name was mispronounced. I wanted to yell and throw something at the screen(which someone actually did). The actors were horrible from the get-go. They were awkward and did not inspire anything but pity laughter. NOT ONE of the characters were right, with maybe the exception of Zuko. I would have preferred lookalikes rather than these so called "actors" that were portraying my favorite characters. This was a slap in the face to all fans. Thanks a lot, M. Night malan!

Jake July 01, 2010 | 2:37 AM

It's ironic how bad the actors are because the producers said the reason they cast white actors instead of asian actors is because they couldn't find any asian actors who could act and fit the role. So I guess they chose to find actors who not only don't look like the comic counterparts but also can't act.

rick July 01, 2010 | 2:30 AM

It's pretty clear that this reviewer had either never seen the original show or had no appreciation for the style, humor, character development, and story telling of the original. As they mentioned, Night didn't even get the main character's name right. That's not a minor detail. There was no plot movement. The main characters were stagnant, and the minor characters were cast so poorly that they were a waste of time. Part of the charm of the Harry Potter movies was that the casting was dead on. That and the occasional bit of acting. Save your money on this clusterbomb of a cinematic experience.

JG July 01, 2010 | 2:27 AM

Why is it that people can't have an open mind?!?! Obviously the movie cannot be the exact replica of the show. It works the same way with movies based on books. As far as the acting is concerned, give them a break. I find it funny that some people think so highly of themselves so much so that they believe they can do things better than others...even when they can't even spell. Ha. What a joke!

Lawrence July 01, 2010 | 2:26 AM

the more you are a fan of the TV series, the more disappointed you will be with the movie. We saw the midnight screening and people were expressing great anger afterwards. If you have watched the 62 episodes of the animated classic you know how flat the movie is. Ang was a kid, and he had fun sometimes. no hint of that in the movie. The response to this presentation is so bad that one major question remains -- will they even get a chance to make the other two books, or will this disappointment sink the enterprise?

dan July 01, 2010 | 2:24 AM

well, for those of you who complain about the pronunciation of names- i read something about how m.night wanted to have them pronounced more ethnically correct. but aside from that point, this movie is terrible. I thought that the acting was could have been shown better on a better script. the lines in this are dreadful. by the last 30 min the theater was laughing at the movie's serious parts it was so bad. Don't see this movie- I've never been this disappointed.

Josh July 01, 2010 | 2:12 AM

They got there name wong f could you miss that and. And wost of all the acting. I think I could have found better one then the ones that you got. Have ever seen the cartoon seris ... Well I think that all of the people commeting know that that is a big fat N O!!!!

Reece July 01, 2010 | 1:48 AM

Worst acting ever. Regardless of age these actors couldn't manage their 5 word lines lacking any sense of emotion or characterization of who they were playing. Characters names were incorrect not to be nit picking. Huge huge huge parts of the main story were skipped over leaving even veteran viewers of the Nickelodeon series lost. Cast was poorly chosen as if they wanted to rewrite the entire story of the Last Airbender. No one should see this movie, fan or not. That is why rottentomatoes gave this movie a 6%(a bit generous).

Devon Savage July 01, 2010 | 1:39 AM

One question: Have you ever seen the actually show "Avatar: The Last AirBender" ? If not, you should. In the movie they did not even pronounce the characters names correctly. It was a mess, I thought. But to each it's own.

Nick July 01, 2010 | 1:28 AM

Sorry but I must agree with mitch, this movie was sub par 5/6 of the time. I actually started falling asleep. It was a good attempt but it was for naught. It isn't Night's fault, it is the lack of time they have to place the entire series into less than two hours. Give it another 45 min, change the pacing a bit, more dialoge external and internal and this could have been a decent movie. But as it stands...2/5 For the entertaining cg.

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