March 3, 2013

The Last Airbender - Movie Review

M. Night Shyamalan doesn't only have a long name, but his most acclaimed movie "The Sixth Sense" was made a long time ago, only followed by minor and big  disasters like "Lady in the Water" and "Unbreakable". He may isn't the best director out there and not all of his endings were unexpected, but he is a man who tries to make a difference in Hollywood. None of his movies were industry standards and even though many of them are bad were created with a love for details. This time he didn't wrote the story by himself and used instead the loved animation series avatar. The movie was a flop and won't get a sequel, but was it really that bad?
The movie stays true to its source material, which doesn’t work well. The pacing is all of the place and there are drastical cuts to shorten the length to fit the format. We have a long introduction, which is necessary. We learn more about the avatar, the hero of the movie and that there are people after him. From then on it gets worse. We get to glimpses of the world in short introductions of badly created sets that last for only 3 minutes each time. He chooses that mechanic instead of focusing on one of the side stories. This way we don’t fully understand what's happening and we just don’t care. There is no tension to see a small village, some random dudes attacking it and being saved in a merely of 5 minutes? That goes on for some while so really each part of the original series gets used, without its necessary to the overall story. It would have been better to capture the meaning behind the story, instead of trying to fit it 1:1 into a full length movie.

Finally after the mess of the middle part we come to the epic conclusion of the first season and see the mighty city of water benders getting attacked by the fire nation. It could be a historic moment like it was in The Lord of the Rings – The Tow Towers, as the Uruk-Hai forced their way over the wall of Helms Depp, but it isn’t like that. The Water Bender can’t defend themselves, the walls are taken in some minutes and overall the epicness is not there. Some People standing right and left but it doesn’t feel big, more like two small villages clashing each other. The same goes for the choreography of the fights. They are slow and look more like a dance, with no tension building up at all. In the series the bending was much faster and spectacular, but probably cuts due the expensive effects they needed. If that was really the cash then less would be more. Two or three interesting bending fights would be better than these many meaningless ones. Another point which wasn’t good are the actors themselves. Some of them are simply bad, others struggles with their bad one liners and the rest doesn’t fit. In a cartoon about Asian culture we don’t see anyone of that race, just a lot of Caucasians pretending to be Buddha priest and a lot of Indians, which both don’t fit well together. Another compromise to bring it to Hollywood I guess. The only good thing in this movie are the effects, which look stunning. Be it the floating elements, animals or scenery was made with great detail and fitting for the movie. It’s the only jewel in the mud you will find and means this try wasn’t successful for Shyamalan either. The bad thing is that the movie had a lot of potential and cuts the chance of ever getting a successor, which was hinted at all the time. If you want to see the story, then I can only recommend the original series. You can skip some of the filler episodes and have a better movie than this adaption wanted to be.

What did you think of the movie? Was it good to stay true to the original material?

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