Remember how in the animated show Katara was, like, a person?
I’ll preface the following statement with the disclaimer that while I know some people thought it was a great film, I sat through Signs and laughed my ass off, but M. Night Shyamalan should not write scripts. Not ever. The dialogue in The Last Airbender is stilted, and often poorly-acted. The film also suffers from poor pacing in the first half, and these two things alone are enough to be the final nail in the coffin for most viewers. And at a stunted hour and forty-something minutes, the film could easily have fixed at least the pacing issue by adding another half hour to forty minutes. Yeah, it would have made the film a bit long, but let’s not kid ourselves: The Last Airbender was always going to be a geek film. Sure, it’s based on kids’ material, but geeks will sit still for stuff like this–even little geeks. Maybe not the tiniest of them, but it’s still a lot shorter than today’s standard fantasy epic.
I didn’t hate the film, though. It definitely has its good points. Visually, it’s stunning. This is the sort of project in which they could have gone crazy with the special effects budget, but the effects are used minimally and to good ends. I’m often bored to death by action scenes in movies, but I loved the action scenes in this film. The elemental effects were well-animated and the martial arts well-filmed. There were a couple of Matrix-y slowdowns, but nothing too extreme.
I’m writing this review from the perspective of a fan of the show, for others who’d like to read a review from that perspective. If you haven’t watched the animated series, do. It far surpasses what you’d expect from a Nickelodeon cartoon. This does contain some spoilers.