Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Last Airbender (2010) - Underrated

Viewing context:
Movies For Juniors screening (£1 a film) on a Saturday morning at Cineworld with Corey. Benefited from the direct opposite to Hurt Locker in that it was so undervalued and underrated that I went in there with very low expectations. Although, it should be acknowledged that I was looking forward to the possibility of it bucking this horrid reputation.

Written and directed by the controversial M Night Shyamalan. Only controversial because of his meteoric rise with the likes of 6th Sense and - the fantastic - Unbreakable, but has been on a pretty steady downward trajectory, particularly in the eyes of the critics.
Obviously it's worth pointing out that the film is an adaptation of the much celebrated (and deservedly so) children's animation Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Shyamalan wrote but did not direct Devil earlier this year, which is yet another film that I really rated but nobody else seems to like.

What Happened:
Set in some sort of fantasy, otherworld realm, which in many ways resembles earth, but just not quite. The world is separated into four regions, each region with only a very narrow ethnic group. There is the Middle East/Sub Continent based Fire Nation, the Far Eastern based Earth Nation, the Tibetan monk-looking Air Nation and the seemingly Anglo-American mixed with a sort of Inuit looking Water Nation. Certain individuals from each of these nations can ‘bend’ their nation’s element, yet once in a generation one is born who can bend all the elements, he is known as the Avatar. The Fire Nation pretty much rules the world and is determined to stop this Avatar from fulfilling his prophecy of destroying their empire.

What it did particularly well:
The dialogue was enjoyably terrible as far as I was concerned, and it was obviously a non issue for Corey. The simplistic, yet epic setup made for a great kids' adventure. These four different nations, all containing masters of different elements and abilities along with the idea of this unprepared child being sent as their protector, their saviour and their leader is quite charming and a lot of childlike fun.
The action was tremendously dazzling; particularly the martial arts, which is often done so wrong in Hollywood, who cut too frequently and make the whole thing really choppy. This for most of the time let the action flow with extended shots of action, increasing appreciation of the technical ability and heightening the spectacle.
I only wish that I could be a child again to appreciate what an impact such a film-world would have had on me. It definitely worked on Corey, as for the rest of the day he was dancing round the street doing martial arts gestures in an attempt to bend the air and the water around him.

What unimpressed or didn't quite reach potential:
Despite how much I loved its cheesy nature, I do think that there is a missed opportunity to make the same thing, but just a bit better. Keep some of the cheesiness but just make it a bit cooler; even a bit more over the top may have done it - as crazy as that may sound.

I thought the film dealt with the Avatar's problems of accepting such a fate at such a young age, whilst not getting too into it. There was also really obvious commentary on what it's like for an empirical nation keeping the rest of the world in a state of fear, and how that leads to inevitable revolution.

Performance of the film:
It is quickly becoming apparent how much I love villains in films, as I thought that Dev Patel playing the outcasted son of the Fire emperer, Prince Zuko was the performance of the film, albeit in a film where a certain type of over the top performance (as opposed to real acting) is needed. There was a lot said about him coming off the back of Slumdog Millionaire and doing something pulp-trashy like this, but he was nowhere near what made that film good; he was wooden and lifeless, well he used that in this, but just ramped up the villain-cheese style.

Scene of the film:
When the Earth benders stood up and joined the revolution was uplifting for naive child-minded individuals like myself.

Final Word:
Have to remember that this is a kids' film, and as such it was a great adventurous narrative, with some of the best martial arts I have seen outside of Hong-Kong or Luc Besson films. It created a an big, big world and Unapologetically (and possibly prematurely) set up the sequel.

1 comment:

  1. It is completely underrated but though the acting is awful the spwcial effects are great - especially the water hovering and some of those epic shots.