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See: The Last Airbender

2010/07/16

M. Night Shyamalan only blesses us with a new film every three years or so, and whenever he does I make the pilgrimage to my local cinema to enjoy his latest offering. I can sincerely say that n is not only my favorite director, but simply the best director of films ever. Thus, I consider it my duty to tell you to rush as fast as possible to go see The Last Airbender. Pure gold.

I am not a fan of the medium of film. For whatever reason, cinema generally not only does nothing for me, but actively bores me. So when a terrible movie comes along – like almost everything by Shyamalan –  I get to feel justified. Shyamalan’s movies are so terrible that they render null and void all previous cinematic accomplishments. My friends and I have a theory that Shyamalan is making progressively worse movies so that his first movie, The Sixth Sense, will look like a masterpiece in comparison.

And with The Last Airbender, he is well along on his way is making that dream come true. The dialogue is terrible, the actors are given almost no opportunity to act, and the story telling is pitiable. The last third of the 1 hour 45 minute long movie is all foreshadowing for the “epic” last ten minutes. Problem is, instead of mounting suspense, the last forty minutes merely repeat the same “clue” over and over again. Even people like myself who have never seen a second of the anime Avatar: The Last Airbender could predict exactly how the film was going to end making most of the film an excruciating ordeal to sit through. The 3D effects were poorly done and didn’t add anything. Enormous 3D ships drove straight toward the audience and didn’t stop until they were conceptually passing through their faces. All the shots were extremely tight, meaning that the screen was filled with extreme close-ups of character’s noses. The “bending”, the magical hoohaa stuff that is what supposed to be cool about the Anime series is taken too literally in the live-action revamp and just ends up looking silly; the battles in the film look more like modern dance battles than sprawling wars. Shyamalan falls into the same trap many directors do when transforming an animated concept into a live-action form: when taken too literally it looks ridiculous. Worst of all, Shyamalan breaks the cardinal rule of visual story telling, opting to tell the viewer what is happening rather than showing us. The Last Airbender is essentially all narration, with the lead female sidekick’s voiceover explaining what sort of cool stuff had happened in the movie we unfortunately didn’t get to see. 

In short, I loved it. 

I‘m not going to go into the whole racial politics side of The Last Airbender (in case you haven’t heard yet, all the Asians from the original series have been replaced with white actors who can kind of pass). Except I would like to point out that in the village of Inuits there just happens to be the world’s whitest women cast as a village elder. Don’t worry though! The bad guys are still dark-skinned – it’s nice to see that Shyamalan is being equally racially offensive to every minority. in case you were wondering, in the original series the heroes from the Inuit tribe actually had darker skin and the villains from the fire Nation were pale skinned… soooo… basically Shyamalan strayed from the original source as often as he could as long as it was offensive. Maybe he isn’t all to blame, there is a chance he didn’t personally select each actor by himself. Oops, I guess that I did go into the whole race thing, my bad. Some random searching online for funny pictures of the cast directed me to http://abagond.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/the-casting-of-the-last-airbender/, so why don’t you click that link to read a more in-depth examination of the casting?

 If I may step onto my personal soap box for just a few words, I would like to point out that The Last Airbender demonstrates exactly why I am against the advent of 3D movies. Aside from the fact that they make the non-3D object blurry and hurt my eyes, 3D movies remind me a bit of product placement. Directors have begun to put things into movies simply in order to have them be in 3D. Rather than augmenting the message of the film, 3D becomes a spectacle. Space documentaries in 3D? Awesome and they have a reason to be that way. The fact 3D looks “cool” doesn’t justify, for me, inserting useless doodads into movies. Maybe that’s why I’m generally anti-movie, because too often the point is to awe us with spectacle rather than speak to something larger than surface appeal. 

Which is part of why I believe every one should go see The Last Airbender. Or any M. Night Shyamalan movie. Movies, particularly hollywood blockbusters, are far too self-congratualatory. It’s almost as bad as the indie-music hipsters scene. M. Night Shyamalan movies are like Brittany Spears songs, they are a humbling reminder of how much we truly suck, which is important for tempering our tendency toward hubris. Just when we start thinking too highly of ourselves (I’m looking at you James Cameron) someone like Shyamalan comes along and earns millions of dollars by producing crap. Essentially, if MacBeth had only watched some Shyamalan films, perhaps things would have ended better for him. So go do yourself a favor and see The Last Airbender and feel terrible about the state of humanity. You’ll thank me between sobs of disgust.

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