Friday, July 2, 2010

Movie Review: The Last Airbender

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This was the week that the new Twilight movie, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse came out. I purchased my ticket and was planning on writing a review. There is something about the Bella character that just totally turns me off so I decided to try The Last Airbender and enjoyed it so much more that I decided to give the latter a review. I saw both movies in regular 2D format.

At one point in time the four elementals: air, earth, water and fire lived in harmony. There were respected people called benders that could control individual elements except one who could control all four. This special individual was called the Avatar who bridged between their world and the world of the spirits. The Avatar kept harmony in the world. But, the Avatar disappeared. With the Avatar not present, the Fire nation made its move to control all the nations.

So there's the set up for the movie. So far, so good. A century has passed and the Fire nation has expanded its control and this is where we pick up the story. A brother and sister from the southern Water nation find an ice sphere and inside is a boy and some large furry creature thingy. They take the boy back to their village where he is promptly kidnapped by the Fire nation. Just his luck, out of the ice sphere and into the fire! Aang (Noah Ringer) is now under the watchful eye of Prince Zuko (Dev Patel) and his uncle Iroh (Shawn Toub). Zuko needs to bring Aang back to his father, Fire Lord Ozai (Cliff Curtis), to redeem himself for disobedience to dad. Katara (Nicola Peltz) who is the last water bender in her nation and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) set out to rescue Aang. Rathbone has an interesting weekend for himself as he is also playing the vampire Jasper over in Eclipse.

I sat in my seat thinking that I had seen some of this before. Finally it hit me, I was seeing part of The Never Ending Story! Here is a child with a destiny to fulfill with the help of a flying furry creature. Airbender's Appa kinda looked like a cross of one of the creatures from Where the Wild Things Are and a beaver then splice in some genetics of a insect so that you have this fuzzy round faced, six legged, long flat wide tailed creature that's broad enough to carry an open air howdah configured with a front section for a driver and wide enough to carry two or three passengers sitting side by side. Appa didn't have the dialog that Falkor had, but he, if it was a he, was cute in a weird pet sense of cute.

The fantasy aspect of the film kept my attention as well as the locations. Starting off in a glacial arctic area where Katara and Sokka call home, we then head to areas that look like jungles with buildings from Angkor Wat. Something that made me go "huh?" was the home of the water benders. Why would water benders live where the water is frozen instead of a nice lush tropical area like say Bora Bora or the Cooke islands. You know, some place where they could have created nice water action to lull themselves to sleep on sounds of waves crashing gently into a white sand beach instead of an area where they could freeze to death in a white out?

Another location that made me go "hmmm?" was the North Water nation. Here it was like Helm's Deep from The Lord of the Rings met the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz and had an offspring together. This massive city tucked away from the onslaught of the Fire nation was a fortress of protection that had the colorings in both architecture and the citizen's finery comprised of whites with blue tints and various shades of medium to dark blues. It was here that the large climatic battle takes place and where the sound in my theater went out. We're all sitting there in a perfectly quiet theater as we see what should be causing loud explosions and instead hearing someone slurp down their soda. So for several minutes I had to leave the theater to try to find theater staff to get the sound back on. Luckily they managed to get the sound pumping again just at the right moment within the battle.

One major flaw that I had with the movie was when people were being hit with dirt or water or fire, they didn't seem to really have the physics of the item being bended. Case in point, if you had a huge column of flame pass by you and then hit say a wall you would expect to see items react to heat like singes or burn marks and maybe steam when fire and water interact. That didn't happen. Then again, this is another world and fantasy so maybe our physics don't work there the same way.

The end of the movie left it set up for a sequel as the Avatar needs to move forward on his journey to once again bring balance to the world of the four elements. My theater did it again. As the credits were running they overlapped it with the preshow slides. But the manager did take care of me when I complained and now have a free readmission ticket sitting in my wallet. Based on some other reviews that I've read, any sequel might not happen. When I started this review, the Rotten Tomatoes meter was at a 9% and now as I finish, it's down to 8% and it's been compared to Battlefield Earth which won the Razzie this year for Worst Movie of the Decade. Ouch, that's really harsh! All in all, I still enjoyed The Last Airbender more than Eclipse.

The movie has a PG rating for fantasy violence and runs 103 minutes.

The Movie Monkey

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