Friday, July 2, 2010

The Last Airbender: Better than you think!

Despite nothing but negative reviews - some of the worst I have EVER read for any major film, friends and I went to see "The Last Airbender" - M. Night Shyamalan's latest film, based on the wildly successful animated Nickolodean television series. Honestly, I have read NOTHING positive about the film; from it's "awful look" to the horrific acting, the charmlessness of the storytelling, the terrible music score and I have come to the conclusion that Hollywood simply has it out for this director. The film has flaws, but I found "Airbender" to be often nothing short of sensational.

There's no denying condensing an entire season of an animated show into a 90 minute live action adventure requires re-tooling the entire way in which the story is told and that certain episodic moments - and characters - must be changed in ways that alter the original, but most of the print critics seem never to have seen more than a few minutes of the original tale and all have jumped onto a bandwagon outdoing each other in their assassinations of Mr. Shyamalan's work. I find this mind boggling.

One critic wrote: "let me try to convey a bit more of "Airbender's" awfulness . . . all of which brings us back to the question of expectations, and how Mr. Shyamalan keeps getting work. A soul-crushing disaster ... there appears to be nothing driving his efforts ... he shows no discernible passion for the material and overwrought, underwhelming, ineffective drivel like this only suggests the kind of finale that his other failures have all been building towards. " (This after heaping enough praise on the new Twilight movie to make it sound like Gone With the freakin' Wind.)

Even the special effects (which the movie is loaded with) are criticized as junk and Roger Ebert compared them (unfavorably) to a school pagent. Really? The effects of water movement and fire were dazzling to a degree that actually compares well with some of the best I've seen. Combined with the Holst Planets-like score (some fine wordless choral moments) made the cinematic effect sometimes downright breathtaking.

The line delivery by some of the unknown "white" actors could be clunky and sometimes awkward - but no more so than many action films (at several points I thought of the choppy delivery by the much better known actors in the latter Star Wars series).

Bottom line: it's hardly a masterpiece, but the story (condensed as it is) the visual aspects and the soundtrack often make for compelling storytelling and most of the audience I saw it with (including many parents with their kids) walked out beaming and talking in high anticipation of the next installment.

Labels: , , , , ,