The Last Airbender - * * *
AndyO review: 3 out of 4 stars
Being one who's familiar with The Last Airbender animated series that was on Nickelodeon, I think M. Night Shyamalan has directed a fine live-action adaptation. It was a lot of fun to see the world of this cartoon come to life. And, frankly, I'm a little surprised by the critical reaction to this film; it's almost as if the critics are reviewing the film without understanding the source material -- or writing about the film they wanted to see. Or just using it as an excuse to trash M. Night.
For example, here's an excerpt from Roger Ebert:
As "The Last Airbender" bores and alienates its audiences, consider the opportunities missed here. (1) This material should have become an A-list animated film. (2) It was a blunder jumping aboard the 3D bandwagon with phony 3D retro-fitted to a 2D film. (3) If it had to be live action, better special effects artists should have been found. It's not as if films like "2012" and "Knowing" didn't contain "real life" illusions as spectacular as anything called for in "The Last Airbender."
Actually, I didn't find issues with the effects. It's also worth noting that Pablo Helman, of Industrial Light and Magic, was the Visual Effects Supervisor for this film, who also worked on films like Star Wars, Episodes I and II, Spielberg's War of the Worlds and Indiana Jones IV, and Apollo 13. This isn't to suggest that Mr. Helman isn't capable of poor work; it is to suggest that he's one of the premier effects people in the industry.
Here's another excerpt from Kenneth Turan, who at least qualifies his critique:
By specifically critical and broadly adult standards, this film is undoubtedly a disappointment, but it is disappointing in a way that its intended audience may not notice.
Finally, Rene Rodriguez, of the Orlando Sentinel:
The Last Airbender may please children, who always enjoy watching heroic kids kicking grown-up butts. But despite the originality and depth of the scenario, this feels like awfully silly, overblown nonsense (``Water teaches us acceptance. Let your emotions flow like water!''), saddled by a fuzzy 3D conversion that distracts more than it adds. The best movie fantasies are light and fast and transporting: If The Last Airbender were an element, it would be slushy, heavy mud.
The bottom line is my boys (ages 10 and 5) loved it, and my Dad and I both liked it. It was entertaining and evoked the feeling and look of the original show.
Clearly, I'm in the minority on this one.