Movie #254 2020: The Last Airbender (2010)

One word for this movie? Fuck. Fuck this movie. Fuck M. Night Shyamalan. Fuck live action reboots. Fuck completely tearing one of the most brilliant animated TV shows of all time to shreds. Fuck it all. I mean it. Fuck it.

Sigh. Time for a quick recap of what this shit show is about.

The Last Airbender is (you may have guessed) the live action remake of Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender; the animated series that is extremely highly regarded amongst children and adult critics alike. To put things as concisely as possible, there are four different types of ‘bender’ in this mystical, fictional world: Earth Benders, Fire Benders, Water Benders, and Air Benders. In every generation, one bender becomes ‘the avatar’; someone who can master all elements of bending. We follow current avatar, Aang, who is learning to hone in each of the elements when the movie begins. Along the way, he makes friends with Sokka and Katara; a brother and sister from a nearby water tribe. It becomes apparent before long that it is up to the three of them to stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the other nations and taking over all bending realms.

Sound confusing? Yeah, I’m not surprised. What this movie needed – other than not being made at all – is a good script. The entire world is so well-developed and explained within the cartoon TV series that trying to pack just as much into a 103 minute feature film is beyond foolish. As a result, where Avatar thrived in its deep backstories into its ancient lore, The Last Airbender completely fucks it all up by simplifying everything to the point where nothing makes sense.

Would you even understand what was going on if you’d not watched the original Nickelodeon series? I highly doubt it. Not only is the majority of the story rushed, but Shyamalan fails to include so much basic lore and necessary context, and omits so many good pieces of narrative that they simply needed to include. Just an entirely appalling script as a whole. 

On top of everything just being one big blur, the cast is hit and miss too. Dev Patel deserved so much better than this, so it’s reassuring to know at least that better opportunities came his way afterwards. Other than that, Noah Ringer who plays Aang is okay (although not cheeky enough) but fuck me I’d be very surprised if Jackson Rathbone ever watched a even single episode of Avatar. He captures absolutely none of Sokka’s essence, which is a huge shame because he was one of the most loved characters in the animated series. And why is everyone (minus Patel) so white? Again, that just was not the case on Nickelodeon. As for Uncle Iroh… don’t even get me started. Whilst Shaun Toub is a pretty talented guy, he is not Uncle Iroh material. It’s surprising, then, to find out that the casting director here is the same guy who cast movies such as Ad Astra, Manchester By The Sea, and Frances Ha. Seems he just couldn’t be arsed on this occasion, I guess.

Don’t be fooled, it only gets worse from there. Namely, what an embarrassing display of special effects. This was released in 2010 yet looks like it was made pre-Star Wars. It’s almost as if they put bending scenes into slow motion in the editing room and then forgot to speed them back up. Don’t even talk to be about all of the green screen, which was clunkier than anything I’ve ever seen. Ever. And there’s some pretty bad green screen out there.

What’s good about this movie? Uhhh… the costuming is pretty good? I’ll also admit that from time to time the animation of the elements shows promise, but unfortunately only in the sequences that don’t matter. It’s not at all surprising that the follow-ups to this complete mess never went ahead.

The verdict? I’d rather watch 2 hours of Apa flying through the air than ever watch this again. At least that would be calming. And I won’t lie, I stopped paying attention half way through and played Sim City instead.

The Last Airbender is (sadly) available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

Costume & Set Design: 
Overall Enjoyability Rating:  ………..I’d give it zero if at all possible.

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