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July 3, 2010

Airbender Has Wind In Its Sails, But No Pulse

by Jonn Holland

I have watched many a film written, produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and have greatly enjoyed each of the ones I have seen. Some, more than once. While The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and The Village will always remain favorites of mine, Shyamalan’s formula has worn thin.

My hope with The Last Airbender;  was that having to remain true to an already existing storyline, Shyamalan would have to abandon his penchant for making the film all about the visuals and the subtleties in the story and really drive it home. Nail it to the wall so to speak. What we get instead is a movie that lacks an identifiable pulse, but a lot of wind in its sails.

The wind; as it were, is the fact that The Last Airbender already has a strong fan base thanks to the hit Nickelodeon cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Also, there are the special effects and stunning visuals. The latter being something that Shyamalan excels at.

For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the film just for its visuals, effects and fight choreography, a pretty strong wind if you ask me, but knowing what I know about the process of interpreting a story into script form and then bringing it to life, the wind is just not enough to carry all that weight.

It is the filmmaker’s task to give the story life. A pulse if you will and I found The Last Airbender lacking. I get that the intention of the storyline is to show us how Aang comes to accept his role as The Avatar, but this film doesn’t show me why it is so important to the nations of water, air, fire and earth that there even be an Avatar. Sure, the boy can do some awesome moves and is powerful in his control of the elements, but I wanted to know what it is about Aang as a person that makes him the candidate for being the Avatar. Unfortunately, Shyamalan does not make it clear.

Despite my misgivings, the film is not a complete loss. There are a few entertaining scenes and it is worth just seeing the visuals. At the very least, the film is a great introduction to the world of Avatar: The Last Airbender  and may serve to gain more audience for the cartoon series.

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