Monday, September 13, 2010

The Last Airbender

I'll preface this review by admitting that I've never seen a single frame of animation from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

The Last Airbender wasn't the worst movie I've ever seen (That honour goes to Peeping Tom. Only reason I didn't walk out was that I was of the opinion that it has GOT to get better... but it never did). That said, it's still a long way from good.

The good stuff: The effects were really good. It was obviously CGI, but it wasn't bad CGI. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous. Cut out all of the scenery shots and you'll have a beautiful 10 minute scenery montage. I liked the music. I just didn't like the plot or the actors.

I've heard all of the controversy about casting Caucasians in the Asian roles. This didn't mean much to me, as I wasn't aware of which characters should have been Asian and which shouldn't. My biggest gripes about The Last Airbender are around the fights and the plot.

The fight scenes probably would have been pretty good if they weren't all happening in slow motion. If they were played at normal speed, the movie would have been half an hour shorter and contained almost no martial arts. Warriors who can control the elements should have led to some absolutely epic battles; instead, they were short and just not that exciting. (One scene in particular features a bad guy who can "bend" fire. He faces off against four water benders, who simply dump four water spouts on him and knock him out, effectively ending the fight with one punch.)

The plot has a major problem; It doesn't end. It's hinted at right at the start, when the title card reads "Book 1: Water", and then for the next hour and a half I was looking for the next "Book" which never came. We find out that Aang, to embrace his heritage as the Avatar, needs to learn how to bend water, earth and fire in addition to his native air (Aang is the titular "Last Airbender"). He learns to bend water, takes part in a non-epic battle, and the movie ends. Wait a minute - what about the other elements? Nobody told me that this was going to be a trilogy.

I truly feel sorry for any die-hard Avatar: The Last Airbender fans. I can sympathise; I'm an X-Men fan from long ago, and when X-men came out, I was a little unimpressed, but at least it was a complete story in its own right. The Last Airbender doesn't even have an ending, and if the rest of the trilogy gets made, I'll be amazed.

Save yourself from disappointment, and grab the original animated series on DVD.

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