\”The Last Airbender\” Review – save your money

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SPOILER ALERT

Before I launch on “The Last Airbender” first let me say that I’m not familiar with the movie’s source material.  I’ve purposely been avoiding the series so I could approach M. Night Shymalan’s latest film without any preconceived notions.

I’ve loved M. Night Shymalan since “The Sixth Sense.”  “Lady in the Water” is a beautiful movie – scary, moving, funny and tragic.  I dug “Unbreakable,” “The Village,” even “Signs” great despite it’s huge plot hole.  I imagine a scene where the aliens (the aliens who’s physiology is utterly compromised by water) are sitting around a table and discussing planets they might invade.

One of them pipes up, “Hey you guys I got an idea.  We should invade Earth.”

“Earth?  Never heard of it.”

“Oh, Earth rocks.  It’s like 70% water – there is so much water in the atmosphere, water vapor condenses into liquid and falls from the sky.”

The others look at their comrade in disgust, “You want us to go to a place that is covered in 70% acid and that same stuffs falls right out of the sky?”

“Well, they have chocodiles.”

I could roll with all that because ultimately “Signs” was not about an alien invasion.  It was a compelling story about a man dealing with the loss of his wife and a crisis of faith.  I could roll with it because the characters were living their own stories and that is what made those movies so great to watch.

“The Last Airbender” has none of the strengths of Shyamalan’s other movies and all of the flaws.  There is so much plot to plow through there is really no time at all the learn about, empathize with, or care about any of the characters.  The characters in “The Last Airbender” only have time to deliver exposition.  They are shallow, stiff, cardboard representations of characters.  As a result, when the actors have an opportunity to act, there was no drama because I didn’t care about any of the characters on screen.

The movie closes on a note that reeks of sequel.  Maybe subsequent efforts will be more enjoyable.  I have my doubts.

As a sidebar, I dig the nature of an adaptation.  From book to film, or television to film, or whatever to whatever, the narrative experience has to change to meet the constraints and strengths of the medium the story is being adapted to.  I can’t imagine that fans of the series will enjoy this movie.  There was just too much plot to get through and the only way to get there is to sacrifice the characters.

Joss Whedon’s Shepard Book said, “How we get there is the worthier part.”  I’d add that who we travel with is as important – I want to care about the folks with me on the journey.  Its that feeling of empathy that gives the victories and defeats meaning.  “The Last Airbender” seemed like it had a great story – I’ll get a hold of the DVDs and check it out in it’s original form.