Netflix review: The Last Airbender (2010)
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Cast: Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Dev Patel, Noah Ringer, Aasif Mandvi
“I knew from the first moment we discovered you were a bender that this day would come.” In the mystical world of the spirits, life is guided by the four elements: earth, fire, water, and air. Those whose possess the power can control them. They are Benders. But after disappearing a hundred years ago, one man has the power and skill to control a fifth element: crap.
Yes, M Night Shyamalan has returned.
Based on Nickolodeon’s TV series, The Last Airbender deals in the mythology of “Bending”. As the evil Fire Nation extend their destructive flame across the land (their plan – to “suppress all Bending”), the people turn to their only hope: the Avatar, The Last Airbender, a boy with an arrow tattooed on his face, who can save them all.
He’s discovered under the ice by Katara (Peltz) and Sokka (Rathbone), two Water People who have no parents left. It turns out the Avatar ran away because he was upset. Probably because of all the other kids calling him “Bender”. Luckily, his two moist companions agree to travel with him on his magic flying mammal, leading the uprising against the nasty Commander Zhao (Madvi). This is the point where Airbender falls down: any scene that requires acting.
Leading the way is Aasif Mandvi’s villain. He frowns, stares and occasionally raises his voice when he talks. Bending his eyebrows with brain-numbing prowess, the closest the film comes to characterisation is that his skin is darker than people from the other Nations. Dark being symbolic of evil and all.
Everyone’s favourite Slumdog, Dev Patel, turns up as the exiled Fire Lord’s son, Prince Zuko. Zuko wants to get his father’s love back and rescue his dishonoured name. He also wants to rule the world.
Mashing all these conflicted emotions with constant CGI, Shyamalan takes on someone else’s idea for the first time in his career. He gives us wooden dialogue and terrible exposition, jumbled up with cod philosophy. In between it all are lots of kids pulling over-dramatic poses. None of this would be a problem if it was fun, but Shyamalan strives to keep things serious. Boring monologues eclipse any impressive icy landscapes, and epic battles are lost in his dull quest for heavy-handed depth.
A missed opportunity.
Originally published on i-Flicks.net.