There is a pretty good movie hiding within M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender – really, there is. It’s not the disaster you’ve probably heard it to be at least. It has affecting little moments, wonderful moments. At those times, it’s nearly great.
One does have to overlook – or endure – some sizable problems though. This is one of those movies that calls for a set of scales. Place the good stuff on one side and the laughable on the other and see which way the thing tilts.
For those who don’t know, The Last Airbender is based on the Nickelodeon television series Avatar: The Last Airbender about a boy named Aang, the reluctant One. He’s “The Avatar,” one capable of controlling all of the elements — air, water, earth, and fire — and bringing peace to the planet.
Not desiring a monkish life, he fled before his training got beyond air bending. He now, with the help of a band of companions, must overcome his reluctance and complete his training before the evil Fire Nation reduces the world to cinder.
The series spreads leisurely over three seasons totaling about 24 hours with each centering on a different phase of Aang’s training. This movie encompasses only the first season, Water. Only time will tell if we’ll ever see Earth and Fire. It looks unlikely.
“What about those scales?” Here goes. Bad stuff first.
Every time a character, any character, opens his or her mouth, your mouth will drop open as well, in disbelief. This must be the worst, most exposition-laden dialog I’ve ever heard. It tumbles from tongues and lands with a thud.
The actors literally look embarrassed to be speaking these lines. They appear to be seeing them for the first time ever, reading them from a seemingly endless teleprompter. I haven’t seen actors appear so uncomfortable since Dune.