Try and imagine the worst movie you can possibly conjure. You’ve likely seen enough films in your life to know what constitutes a really bad movie. Whatever you have imagined, I can assure you that The Last Airbender is much much worse. It is so bad that I have actually gained a newfound respect for M. Night Shyamalan, the director of this thermonuclear shit bomb that has landed upon the American public. On my best day, I cannot conceive anything worse than The Last Airbender and for that, I am wholeheartedly convinced that Shyamalan possesses superhuman powers. He has attained a level of ineptitude that no man or woman to this day has been able to achieve and for that Shyamalan deserves to be commended. In short, to call Shyamalan a fucking moron would be an insult to the morons of the world so I will simply say that he has fantastically failed on EVERY SINGLE LEVEL to give us ANYTHING REMOTELY TOLERABLE with The Last Airbender.

With this level of vitriol, I’m not sure whether its worth even summarizing the plot of this movie. However, you’ve skimmed this far and I may have at least piqued your interest as to what this cinematic abomination is about. The Last Airbender is based on the insanely popular Nickelodeon animated show, which is called Avatar: The Last Airbender, but for obvious reasons the ‘Avatar’ was dropped from the live-action screen adaptation. I have never seen the TV series so my understanding of the premise is based on what I was able to decipher from the confusing, senseless manner that Shyamalan presented the story. From what I gathered, the world is divided into 4 kingdoms with each kingdom corresponding with the elements of fire, water, earth, and air. These kingdoms are protected by spirits and the Avatar is like the world’s ultimate protector and he can control all 4 elements. At the beginning of the movie, it seems like the Avatar has not been seen for many years and the Fire Nation has gone on a warpath against the other nations. The Fire Nation is trying to kill all the spirits so that it can ultimately control the world. A little boy then shows up and its discovered that he’s the Avatar. However, because he never completed his Avatar training, he only knows how to control air. In order to defeat the Fire Nation, he must control the remaining elements and he sets forth to learn these other elements.

My friend informed me that The Last Airbender is supposed to cover 18 episodes of the animated show, which appears to be a difficult feat to pull off in a 1 hour and 45 minute movie. Not that this isn’t impossible. The Lord of the Rings adapted three epic novels into a very successful film trilogy that nicely complements the source material. I would also argue that the Harry Potter novels have mostly been successfully adapted as well despite the scope of the books. Here, you have no idea what the fuck is going on. The film begins with a simple scrawl narrated by a girl that’s supposed to establish the story’s background. I had read somewhere beforehand that the story was confusing so I was prepared for this and focused as hard as I could on what was being said. Although I think I got the basic gist of the story, it was not explained clearly nor effectively. With a premise like The Last Airbender, Shyamalan should have opted for a stronger opening that better conveys the back story. Again, the Lord of the Rings did a superb job in establishing J.R.R. Tolkien’s world at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. Instead of lettering on the screen, Peter Jackson gave us a short montage of events that had occurred before to establish the storyline’s foundation. Shyamalan should have done the same, but he lacked the ingenuity to think of this even though I’m pretty fucking sure he’s seen The Lord of the Rings.

The rest of the story isn’t too difficult to follow, but that’s not the problem. The real issue is how the story is told. It’s a strangely edited and paced movie that jumps from one scene to another without any rhythm or flow. Not only does Shyamalan do a piss poor job in placing the audience in the Avatar’s world, we are never given a chance to connect with any character, appreciate the stakes at hand, or invest in just about anything in the movie. Shyamalan wanted to fit so much story into his running time that we’re not afforded any downtime to take anything in. I never felt the awesome power of the Fire Nation over the rest of the kingdoms. There are a few scenes in which Fire Nation soldiers attack villages, but that’s not nearly enough to demonstrate the magnitude of the threat it poses. I also never got a sense of place during the movie. Shyamalan jumps the audience around from one part of the world to another without really explaining why. One minute we’re in Earth Nation and another we’re in the Air Temples. I soon last track of where the characters were and stopped caring altogether.

Shyamalan attempts to build up the story toward an explosive climax where the Avatar faces off against Fire Nation in the land of the Water Nation (I know, I know…this all sounds very lame, but that’s what they’re called). If there is one nice thing to say about this movie its that the very last 3-5 minutes of the movie are pretty cool. Now I don’t know if that’s because the rest of the film is so bad that anything coming close to entertaining ends up feeling awesome or that it really is a well put-together scene. Nevertheless, despite Shyamalan’s utter failure to create any buildup toward the climax, the climax is pretty cool and it made me wish so badly the rest of the film was even half as good as this last part.

Much has been said about the acting and dialogue of the characters. I’m sure the majority of you who read my blog have seen Star Wars Episode I and remember the horrendous wooden dialogue in that movie. To put things in perspective, George Lucas’ movie comes off as fucking Shakespeare compared to Shyamalan’s atrocity. I literally cringed at every line of dialogue and that’s saying nothing about the acting, which was short of being abysmal. Shyamalan has the same problem that Lucas has. They are both bad screenwriters and they would be much better served if they swallowed their arrogance and collaborated with talented screenwriters. The dialogue and the acting is laughable. The actors’ performances lack any subtlety and I don’t know if Shyamalan intended for the characters to be naïve and innocent in some way, but they instead come off as being retarded. The dialogue and the performances are straight-up high school level caliber and I say this without any exaggeration. It is seriously that bad.

Finally, I was a bit surprised by the poor effects given the The Last Airbender’s budget and the fact that it was mostly done by VFX powerhouse, ILM. The effects are not horrible by any means and I wasn’t expecting them to be groundbreaking either. However, the CG-ness of the effects was very obvious to me and that may be more attributable to Shyamalan’s inability to blend the CG into the story rather than show it off for the sake of impressing the audience. Regardless, I have seen much better work from ILM and the work in this movie looked rushed.

The Last Airbender is an illustration of what happens when you give gobs of cash to an out-of-control talentless filmmaker. At one time, I used to regard Shyamalan as the next big talent in Hollywood. In fact, in 2002 Newsweek even called him the next Steven Spielberg. Oh how times change. After The Last Airbender, I am beginning to think that those early successes he had (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs) was a fluke and M. Night Shyamalan is really nothing more than a talentless hack.

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