ON THE SILVER SCREEN: "THE LAST AIRBENDER" RUNS OUT OF AIR

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By Brian Lafferty

 

July 1, 2010 (San Diego's East County)--The Last Airbender is a movie that begs to be remade by a different director. It had the potential for an entertaining cinematic experience but it ends up as a vigorously underwhelming film. I didn’t hate this picture as much as I felt really disappointed.

 

The plot, unlike a lot of movies these days, is at least coherent, if barely. We are introduced to four nations, whose people have the ability to bend their own respective natural elements, which are earth, water, air, or fire. With a little slow-motion martial art moves, the Earth Benders can deflect fire with a blockade of dirt. Water benders can take water, engulf a person in it, and convert it to ice. One person, however, has the ability to bend all four elements. His name is Aang and the evil Fire Nation wants him.

 

This picture is not only underwhelming but boring a majority of the time. The acting is subpar and the characters are fed such inane dialogue as, “Do not hit that sphere.” The actors deliver their lines in such an awkward, stilted manner that it made me wonder if they knew who their characters are and why they act the way they do. The narration, when it pops up, is pointless and superfluous, either describing everything we see on screen or signaling to us what will happen next.

 

The movie does come alive at times when the Industrial Light and Magic special effects turn up but it quickly gets tiresome. Each action scene is the same thing: characters take their respective natural element, bend it, and inflict it on the opposition. The first few times are perhaps a little fun to watch but when it becomes so repetitive, it quickly loses its impact. This considerably dampens the climactic showdown, rendering the third act nearly inconsequential.

 

I saw this picture in 3D and I can tell you it is the worst quality I’ve seen in a while. The 3D was tacked on afterwards and it shows; the backgrounds are very two-dimensional and the movie does nothing to fully take advantage of the form. But then it was originally shot in 2D. Not only that, but the colors are washed out and the image is murkier than most other 3D movies I’ve seen. I was at one point tempted to watch without the glasses and endure the blurry image but I didn’t. In retrospect, I wish I did.

 

But I should stress that even if I saw The Last Airbender in 2D, my reaction would still be the same. It didn’t “wow” me, didn’t do anything for my imagination, and it just plain didn’t do anything for me. There was a lot of potential but that’s all it was. Seeing it everywhere only to be squandered makes this movie all the more a huge disappointment.