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Oct 03

The Last Airbender: Disaster or Misunderstood Masterpiece?

Throughout the ages there has been many misunderstood prophets. Socrates was laugh at and mocked, Einstein was thought a fool and even Led Zeppelin were called crazy for their attempts to revolutionize music. Led Zeppelin and M. Night in the same sentence? Sacrilege you cry? Well, read on and let me better explain.

When going to this film I believed that I was fully prepared for anything I was going to see. Rotten Tomatoes had an exceptional 6% score for the film, every written review was incredibly damning and friends would begin to twitch just by thinking about it. This actually got me excited, but what I got far surpassed my expectations.

Some people will tell you this film is a travesty to the series, an abortion of cinema and the final nail in M. Night’s coffin. However, I’ve set out to prove it’s the perfection of his craft.

If you are at all a fan of either eastern culture or manga and you have not already seen the Avatar series (yes the kid’s show) then go watch it. It is beautifully written, full of deep incites into human nature and a brilliant journey. It is also one of my first reasons for my praising M. Night. It takes a great amount of effort and skill to not only miss the entire meaning of a series, but remove all humour and character building from it. Most writers would crumble under a task this complicated, some would pause and ask themselves if what they were writing made any sense at all. But not M. Night, he pushed on, struggled and agonized over it till he had removed all heart, style and comedic value. This is a sign of true skill.

Dialogue is also difficult to translate from cartoon to film, often jokes made in manga are very visual and are often accompanied by hyper stylised animation. This can be problematic for even the most skilled writers. Plus, to make an audience feel and connect with your characters in a quarter of the time is a hugely difficult task. However M. Night has the solution. Don’t try. It so simple and yet so effective! By doing this you can confuse an entire audience of people who will spend so much time trying to piece together what each person’s motivation or goal is that they won’t even care that characters may as well be reading from a piece of cardboard slightly off camera. This removes any need for jokes or emotion. Also, story is hard to weave into film, you can save a lot of time by using exposition…so just do this for everything. Hollywood should take a note of this.

Lastly, actor direction is really the lynch pin of a film. An audience can actually forgive both dialog and writing if you can believe an actor’s conviction, if their presence sells the character. With such a high budget and a cast of thousands even after a casting crew has done their work, it is the director that will pull the performances out of his cast and M. Night is in fine form with all sorts of tricks to do this. Special techniques for actors like “try to look confused”, “really phone in your performance” or “do it again but this time without the emotion”. This way no one really has to get invested and actors will save energy for scenes with physical exertion. This also really saves time wasted on retakes.

The Level of effort that Mr Shamalayn has put into this movie is staggering, every scene is as engaging as the last and when I mean engaging I mean engaging like a train wreck. Closing your eyes would save you the horror, but seeing it crash is something you find yourself drawn to see. In a world where Twilight is a box office smash, though you mock now, this may be looked upon as classic cinema in the not to distant future.

– Josh