M . Night Shyamalan, who started out with so much promise in The Sixth Sense seemed to be a permanent resident in La La Land going by his later releases, Village, The Lady in the Water and Happening. The promos of The Last Airbender did not seem particularly impressive and going by Shyamalan's track record, I was ready for another pretentious, portentous, gloomy, gloopy movie.
Sitting in the theatre with zero expectations meant being pleasantly surprised with an imaginatively-shot movie that moved briskly. The sets were magnificent and locations (Greenland) exotic.
Based on the animated television series “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” which aired between 2005 and 2008, the movie follows Aang, the last Avatar who can keep the balance between the four nations of Air, Water, Earth and Fire.
Aang is helped in his quest by Katara, a waterbender, and her brother Sokka. The evil fire lord, Ozai, like all good megalomaniacs, wants to rule the world and gnashes his teeth to show his evil intent. Ozai has banished his son, Zuko, after burning his face; upping his dastardly villain quotient in the process.
Zuko travels the world with jolly uncle Iroh, who is all avuncular, looking for the avatar and fighting sundry ambitious generals. The dialogue is necessarily clunky and the acting hideously bad. Dev Patel in his first outing after Slumdog Millionaire is hilariously wooden as Zuko, while all the children act terribly. Given that this is the first of a planned trilogy, there is a lot of solemn, explanatory dialogue which we are willing to forgive for the action and the lovely sets — the ships especially look lovely (must have something to do with reading China Meiville's extraordinary “Scar”). The 3D is totally unnecessary and has been slapped on quite lackadaisically — all thanks to James Cameron's Avatar. Incidentally, the title was in dispute with Cameron's Avatar and was changed. This is a pretty film, with enough bang and preposterous dialogue to keep everyone amused. Shyamalan definitely did not deserve the toasting he got for The Last Airbender. The flying bison, Appa, with its fringe and lovely eyes was particularly cute. I wouldn't mind one of those to fly over the city's traffic snarls.
The Last Airbender Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy Director: M. Night Shyamalan Cast: Dev Patel, Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi and Cliff Curtis. Story: A young boy is the reluctant hero chosen to save the world. He goes ahead and does it with impressive CGI Bottomline: Fairly engaging; tweens will love it