M. Night Shyamalan.
Some love him. Some despise him with an unholy passion and wish him dead.
I however am achieving a progressively greater sense of ambivalence about him with every movie he does.
After watching The Shamhammers latest contribution to cinema last night, I can’t help but be reminded of Mel Brooks. This hilarious Hebrew hit it out of the park with Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles, two of his earliest movies. Ever since then he’s been dabbling in various forms of mediocrity. From the mildly amusing (Men In Tights, which I do own) to the relatively unknown for good reason (History of the Word: Part I) to the “WHY THE HELL ISN’T THIS FUNNY?!?” (Spaceballs).
Just as Brooks hit his stride early on and never quite caught up with himself, Shyamalan has been on a steady decline ever since The Sixth Sense. Personally I liked Unbreakable, Signs and The Village, but Lady in the Water was lousy and The Happening had worse acting and dialogue than low-budget porn.
So what about The Last Airbender? I thought it looked promising, and held out hope that Shyamalan still knew how to make a good movie.
Swing and a miss.
I guess I’ll start with the things the movie does well. The special effects are solid, courtesy of ILM. I actually found the mythology of this world to be engrossing and somewhat interesting. The soundtrack is also very good (as one would expect from James Newton Howard). I also appreciated the film’s attempt to cast a villain in a more sympathetic light to bring the film more depth. In theory.
Because the negatives far outweigh the positives.
The acting is atrocious. The adults look like they don’t want to be there and the kids are pretty lousy even by lowered standards.
I don’t want to wax esoteric, but the dialogue is so bad that it makes George Lucas look like Oscar Wilde.
This film is a kids movie. Not a movie that is both friendly to kids and adults (such as Toy Story). It is starring kids (who are inexplicably white when everyone else in the movie is Asian) and it is for kids.
And it also thinks that the audience has recently undergone a lobotomy.
Shyamalan presumes the audience incompetent, because EVERY SINGLE LITTLE THING IS NARRATED. Excessively.
I don’t care if it’s a kids movie, kids aren’t dumb.
There are about three or four plot points that are explained four times.
The main characters will discuss what they are going to do. They will then narrate it as they do it. The bad guys will find out, and talk to each other about what the main characters are doing. And then once it’s done, THEY NARRATE IT AGAIN!
And furthermore, there are more plot holes than I could keep track of (I stopped counting at 5). I’m sure much of that had to do with the fact that The Shamhammer was trying to cram the entire first season of the show into one movie, but that doesn’t excuse it. The movie has to stand on its own two feet. And given how many times the movie narrates everything, I am a bit mystified that Shyamalan didn’t employ at least a bit more plot spackle.
The sheer unadulterated stupidity that is this film cannot be excused for the fact that it’s a kids movie.
I could almost forgive how bad The Last Airbender is if Shyamalan didn’t assume the audience to be mentally deficient.
Because the soundtrack is stellar, I’ll give it 17/100.
For Attebiz Movie Reviews, I’m the J-man.