Much like lying down on the job, following the crowd gets a bad rap.
If you're down in the subway waiting for a train and suddenly everyonestarts running for the stairs, you should probably start running, too.At best you'll avoid getting devoured by the hordes of were-snakesreleased when the MTA dug too greedily and too deep. At worst you'llfind yourself in a crowd around Justin Bieber.
Following the crowd is a basic survival strategy, which also explainswhy it's so damn boring. Much more exciting to blaze new trails, torisk humiliation by stopping short and yelling "Hey, dummies! You'regoing the wrong way!" Well, I'm not going to do that here. I'm goingto stick with the masses. Why? Because The Last Airbender justplain sucks.
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Noah Ringer, the boy born to maintain balance between the wielders ofthe four elements, has been trapped inside the ice for years. The FireNation has taken advantage of his hundred-year absence to consolidatepower and oppress the peoples of the other elements.
Released by young Nicola Peltz and her brother, Ringer begins arebellion while he learns to harness the powers that could restorepeace. But he's hunted by Dev Patel--prince of Fire Nation, exileduntil he can capture Ringer for his father.
Really though, that doesn't begin to account for the plethora ofbetrayals, machinations, shoehorned love interests, trainingsequences, and abbreviated battles. The Last Airbender performsthe impressively crappy feat of cramming a whole season of the cartooninto 100 minutes of film.
The result: so much naked exposition and summary you may as well bereading a Wikipedia entry. Instead of, like, seeing Ringer leada grassroots rebellion against the Fire Nation, we get an inspiringspeech that's brief even by Hollywood action standards, a poorlychoreographed skirmish, and then a boatload of narration telling usjust how much ass they all went on to kick.
As for the prodigious backstory, it's exposed with all the subtlety ofa gorilla masturbating under the table where you're trying to do yourcrossword. Characters are constantly reminding each other of thingsthey already know, be it the circumstances of Patel's exile or theirown history. "Your son died in that battle last year, didn't he?" theybasically say. "That must suck!"
All this is made even worse by writer/director M. Night Shyamalan'sridiculous insistence that his actors turn in performances like deadtrees. I don't know why he always wants his actors to delivertheir lines as flatly as a steamrolled flounder. All I know is it'sdistracting and awful. It's like watching a Samuel Beckett play that'san epic fantasy and also that I hate.
Honestly, Shyamalan's whole style is at odds with The LastAirbender. His static, formal framing is interesting in horrormovies, but is rather less appropriate in an action-adventure moviewhere kung fu wizards punch each other with bricks of ice. Like, allthe way less appropriate. There are some fights where people areliterally just standing there. I'm sure the precise point wherethey're standing is compositionally significant, but it's hard for myintellect to appreciate that when my gut is bellowing "Hey, jackass,you know what your friend is fighting for right now? His life.Maybe you should help."
Not that it even matters, because every plot point is eithercompressed into a dramaless explanation or comes out of nowhere(and/or makes no sense). Who then gives a damn whether any of thesepeople live or die? It's too bad, because now and then you catchflashes of an imaginative, moving story, the same way you might catchflashes of value after your kid's done digesting a jar of change.
Once all the characters stop running around explaining to each otherwhat just happened, what happened a 100 years ago, or what's aboutto happen, things finally come to a head for the requisite Big Battle.At long last, The Last Airbender holds still for long enough toapproach coherency. If 10 percent of a good movie is all you're looking for,attend away!