I had never watched the show on Nickelodeon until my girlfriend started watching it and even then we only made it through a few episodes and I could already tell it was a little much for me. And when I say “much” I mean that it was a little too childish, but it wasn’t terrible. I saw through a handful of episodes and actually once Aang stopped acting like an annoying little kid and started kicking people’s asses, it wasn’t terrible… but we’re not here to talk about the TV show so let’s get to the movie.

M. Night Shyamalan has written and directed such classics as “The Sixth Sense”. . . and that’s about it. I’ll admit I did like “Unbreakable” when a lot of people didn’t and I thought “Signs” was decent. “The Village” was a little boring and the twist was predictable and “Lady in the Water” and “The Happening” were just terrible, but even with the last 2 not being that great, the trailers for “The Last Airbender” seemed decent in the special effects department so I was kind of looking forward to it.

Before I even went into the theater I kind of knew what to expect. I had read a few of the test screening reviews and all of them said that the acting was horrendous. I had also heard that the kid playing Aang wasn’t even Asian and that he had never acted before and was only cast because of his martial arts skills. So going into the movie I was expecting terrible acting and decent special effects and all in all that’s what I got.

Noah Ringer, who plays Aang, is definitely not 100% Asian, but he did have some Asian type qualities to him and I didn’t find it too distracting. What I did find distracting was his acting, and actually all of the acting. Even the acting of Dev Patel, who I thought did a fine job in “Slumdog Millionaire” seemed bad. Even Cliff Curtis, who is a pretty solid actor, seemed way out of his element here, not to mention the main cast of younger actors. So it seems as though the test screening reviews that I read were pretty spot on with the acting, but I’m not sure if it was the acting so much as the writing…

M. Night wrote the script, as he normally does, but the dialogue and exchanges between characters just seemed very unnatural throughout the film. There were some parts where the dialogue was even laughable when it was supposed to be a serious moment. I don’t know if Night is just slipping as he’s becoming more comfortable in Hollywood, but I don’t recall the dialogue in “The Happening” to be good either. I mean Mark Wahlberg talks to plants for god sake. So yes, the acting is pretty terrible and it is quite a distraction from the rest of the movie.

As for the plot itself, it seemed as though there was way too much jammed into an hour and 40 or so minutes. The movie covers the first season of the TV show and a good amount happens, so to cut that down to the length of a feature film doesn’t do the show justice. The story also seemed to jump around a lot and made use of a narrator to catch us up on things that had happened in the time that had passed, which I didn’t like.  I understand that it’s not easy to stay true to the source material and appease the fans while trying to condense a seasons worth of material into 2 hours of film, but there had to have been a better way. The movie definitely left itself open to a sequel, but I’m just not sure that we’ll ever see the conclusion of the story. The movie is going up against “Eclipse” this weekend, do you really think it stands any sort of chance? If I were the studio, I would have at least pushed the movie back a week or up a week. There’s no way I would want to open a movie geared towards a younger audience when I know that “Eclipse” is coming out that same weekend.

So that’s what I didn’t like about the movie, but that’s not to say that I hated the movie. The special effects and visuals were actually pretty good. We didn’t see it in 3D because, like most movies these days, it’s a 3D conversion meaning that the movie was not shot in 3D or developed to be in 3D. After “Avatar” came out, studios started converting all their movies to 3D because they think that’s what the audience wants. Well guess what Hollywood, IT’S NOT WHAT WE WANT! If a movie is conceived and shot using 3D technology then fine, I’ll bite, but when a movie is shot conventionally and then converted to 3D you end up giving us a giant pile of shit that we have to watch through glasses. This is why 3D is going to fail. If the camera technology isn’t out there being used then why even bother. So with that in mind, we saw it in 2D and visually it was great. There were a few scenes where the camera movement was too fast or something and there was a ridiculous amount of ghosting that was very distracting. The element effects were absolutely stunning, especially the water effects, so it made the movie watchable.

I would say that if you had a choice between “Eclipse” and “The Last Airbender” this weekend, I would just go outside and hang out with friends. It’s 4th of July weekend [in the US] there’s no reason to spend it sitting inside a movie theater with the choices available. If you’re a fan of the TV show you’ll probably enjoy most of the movie, but don’t expect to be blown away. Personally I’d wait until Blu-Ray to check it out. So overall not the worst movie I’ve seen, but between the bad acting, bad writing and convoluted storyline I would say skip this one for now. If you want to go for just the special effects, by all means do, but it’s not as epic as the trailers would make you believe, but it’s still pretty cool and fun to watch.

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