Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Last Airbender

The Flick: M. Night Shamalan's The Last Airbender

The Cast: Dev Patel, Cliff Curtis, Noah Ringer, etc.

The Dealio: A higly mysticised riff on the Dalai Lama, if the DL could control the elements ( in case you were wondering: Earth, Air, Fire and Water). Apparently, the Fire pogues decided to sweep all the chips in the universe into their pile, and proceed to both use their fire-bending power to subjugate all the other elemental citizens to their will and forbid the employment of element-bending by all others. Punishment for backsliders? The stripping away of all the supporting references, and imprisonment/death of those who do not comply. Into this setting plops Aang, a semi-baked 'Avatar' (oh, yeah: much weeping and gnashing of teeth when Jim Cameron absconded with the obvious title for his latest little art house flick, I'll warrant). In the very best traditions of Highlander, 'There can be only one'. So, natcherly, this young fella can't help but be the fly in the Fire People's ointment, the monkey in their wrench. He has got mad skills related to air/wind management, but doesn't know jack about the other elemental realms. Seems he hookied, like, 3/4ths of his prep classes and ran off to join the circus...or whatever the culturally appropriate comparison might be, in this case.
The rest of the movie is spent alternately 'looking for a dragon' (get in line, mister...aren't we all?), flying around on the the back of a Muppet-y looking creature from The Never-Ending Stoo-or-eee, and avoiding Dev Patel's evil, disgraced Prince Zuko.
NOTE: Saw this in 2D, not the buck-stealing 3 D (now relabelled Real D 3 D' Yuh. What-Ever!)

The Grading Session: 3.998 pengies out of 5. M. Night, take note: I require more than flash-bang special effects and a comely bunch of amateur actors to persuade me to crack into 4+ pengie territory. And I really wanted to love this flick. Here's the beef- you should pardon the expression:
The lead was played by a youngster with the least convincing acting/emotive skills since that small blond kid in Epi 1 of Star Wars. He always seems to be trying desperately to grasp whatever complex combo of supernaturally slick moves he is supposed to be making, so that the actual acting has to be left to scrape by whenever Aang pulls an ever-soconstipated expression, (means he's thinking really deep thoughts, I spoze). The runner up in the 'don't I reek as an actor' prize goes to the spookily mis-coiffed Seychelle Gabriel, as Princess Yue. Instead of the look I try to impress upon parents in my Baby Care Basics class as the traditional tip-off that a diaper change is just around the corner, she merely looks as though she is channeling Paris Hilton wondering where her tan went.
The film clocked in at slightly over 1 hour 40-odd minutes (emphasis on the word 'odd'), but seems decades-long. The special FX grow increasingly tedious with constant repetition. And it really does not help at all that element-bending resembles nothing quite so much as a manic form of Tai Chi, ineptly executed.
Oh! Before I forget: Whoop, whoop, whoop! Spoiler alert!spoiler alert!spoiler alert! If this one does well, the title will be proven a lie- this is decidedly not the last airbender by any means, if there is gold in them-thar movies.

Lessons Learned: Have you got an hour? First of all- parts of this movie were filmed in Vietnam and in Greenland. Who knew each had a film-development dept? Next? Don't poke a sharp boomerang-y thaang into cracking good can come of this.
Too, never trust an ancient monk who will not meet your eye. Or a minister from a government which is trying to wipe you and your kind off the planet when he/she says, 'You have my word on this.' That just never works out to be true. Lastly: this was a pretty well-attended film, with a grab-bag of ages in the audience. The nanosecond the film ended, all but about 3 peeps -including yours truly- ran from the theater a gold-medal finalist in the last match of the Olys.

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