Last time, I looked at Jack and Jill, a film that barely managed to scrape a single snort of laughter from me in its entire run time. This time, however, I’m reviewing The Last Airbender, a comedy that had me flat out bursting into uncontrollable laughter on several occasions.
But what’s that, you say? The Last Airbender isn’t a comedy? I’m afraid you’re going to have a hard time convincing me of that.
The Last Airbender is of course a movie based on the western made but anime inspired cartoon, Avatar: the Last Airbender. For the movie of course, they removed the “Avatar” for obvious reasons.
Because what kind of dumbass producer would want their movie getting confused for the most financially successful film ever made?
I should probably point out now that I have not watched the cartoon series. While I considered doing so before reviewing this movie, I decided against it, so I can judge the movie purely by it’s own merits, and not be swayed by the fact that it’s an adaption. I should form an opinion on my own, and not automatically feel it’s terrible because it’s ruining the source material.
Turns out it’s still terrible.
The Last Airbender tells the tale of Aang, a boy who lives in a world where people can control the four elements (Aang being the “avatar”, who can control all of them), and helping save people from the firebenders of the fire nations. There’s also his companions, Sokka and Katara. Their sole defining traits are that they are the only white people in a tribe full of Inuits, and so are automatically main characters (and yes, I am well aware that they were their fantasy world equivalent of Inuits in the cartoon).
I would go into more detail, but this film is trying to cram a whole season worth of stories and events into a single one and a half hour long movie, and it shows. The characters are constantly moving from location to location, with little substance in any of their scenes because the writers are clearly trying to cram as much in at once. The pacing is appalling, and the characterisation suffers.
The beginning of the movie mostly just comes across as bland and generic. We’re stuck with three mediocre young actors in a world that has potential, but is clearly just leeching off of the creativity of the cartoon series. There’s no charm to any of the footage whatsoever. Then, we get to one of the dumbest scenes I have ever watched in a movie.
Aang and co find a bunch of “earthbenders” trapped in a canyon by the evil firebenders. Now, as you may have guessed if you haven’t seen the cartoon, earth benders can control earth. The firebenders have trapped people who can control earth in a canyon. That’s full of earth. Earth they can use to-you get my point.
Aang simply gives a very halfhearted speech and the earthbenders suddenly realise they’ve been standing on earth the whole time. What follows is one of the most hilarious action sequences in the whole movie. Katara, the girl who can control water, decides to dramatically shove one of the firebenders. Then a bunch of earthbenders do a dramatic dance that summons a small rock, despite a single earthbender previously being shown as capable to summon a giant wall on his own.
It is at this point that all becomes clear. This movie is clearly supposed to be a comedy. Why else would we have to face such atrocious dialogue, worsened by the appalling delivery.
SoOoO…arE yOU the AAvatar OOng?
Jackson Rathbone’s performance as Sokka is especially laughable. Not only does the character have next to no purpose in the movie at all, but he spends the majority of the time with an expression on hi face that looks more or less like he’s in shock from the realisation that someone has glued his lips together.
And then there’s the other comedy gold character, General Zhao, of the Fire Nation. His purpose in the movie is telling us the backstory through the method of being an ass to everyone. There’s virtually no reason for him to point out Prince Zuko’s failure, nor to mention that Iroh’s son is dead, but, hell, that’s what he’s there for.
The exposition jerkass strikes again!
To be fair, however, being such a jerk means that Zhao is one of three characters that shows any kind of personality. The others being Zuko who is also a jerk (but a very determined one), and Iroh, whose defining trait is being the good guy of the firebenders.
Every other character here is completely devoid of personality, and this is for a clear reason. This film is so poorly paced that we barely spend any time with the characters at all, and gain nothing from what little meagre interactions they have. Take the scene where Sokka and the waterbender princess who probably has a name are talking about the time they’ve spent together. Rather than two young lovebirds enamoured with each other, they sound more like two introverts at a party making awkward small talk and hoping someone else comes along to take control of the conversation.
So, exactly how bad is this movie really? The movie is so poorly paced and badly acted that I think it can barely even be considered a movie. Yet at the same time, it’s so hilariously bad that in many cases, I was tempted to pause it because I was laughing too hard.
For now, I would say that its entertainingly bad factor places it lower on the awfulness ranking than Jack and Jill. But now I am planning to watch the cartoon series, and after that’s done, I might return to this movie, and review it as an adaption to see if it will enrage me rather than amuse me.