Movie Review: The Last Airbender – An Outsider’s View

I took my son to a birthday party this weekend, and as part of that, he got to see The Last Airbender.  I waffled and hemmed and hawed, but figured I’d ride shotgun with him in case it got too scary (he’s a sensitive soul).  Now, I’ve probably only seen about 10 minutes total of the cartoon, though it is highly recommended by my friends to I always meant to revisit it when I could.  I always went in with knowledge of the concerns and bad reviews the movie was getting.

To be honest, my son and I both enjoyed it for what it was, an adaptation of a cartoon, aimed at kids.  There are flaws, oh definitely there are flaws, some of which I will detail, but the biggest flaw with the movie is not its fault – expectations.  For some reason, people seem to think M. Night Shymalan’s name being attached to a movie means it might be good.  I don’t know why that is, considering he hasn’t been involved in a good movie since, what, 2002?  His dialog is trite, there is talking during scenes when there shouldn’t be any, and not enough when there is something that needs more description.  Best example is the scene with Sokka and Princess Yue meeting.  The voiceover is completely unnecessary.  The heavy eye contact, followed by scenes showing them together, would’ve been more effective.

The effects are cool, but I had to laugh when someone referred to the fighting as ‘turn-based’.  The combatants do seem to stand around for a few seconds to let the other guy get his bending going.  A more fluid mix of martial arts and bending (with 125% less slomo), though harder to choreograph and film, would’ve been a massive improvement to watchability.  Seriously, I’m imagining it right now, and it’s awesome.

I think I have an advantage in not having seen any of the source material.  The story is new and cool, even if it is poorly told in this movie.  I want to see more.  The problem the moviemakers will have is if I go ahead and watch the cartoon instead of any future live action movie (assuming this even does well enough to get the next chapter made).