Film Torments: The Last Airbender (2010)

HATE is a strong word. It’s one that I tend to overuse, and throw around far too casually, especially in regards to films that have disappointed me. As much as I try to convince myself otherwise, I did not hate Prometheus, or The Hangover: Part II, I just found them lacklustre and, despite the vitriol I give them, I don’t ever find myself occasionally regretting the four hours (thereabouts) of my life I spent watching them.

So, taking that preface into account, I would just like to say – on the record, in black-and-white writing – I didn’t hate The Last Airbender.

Oh no, not hate. That would be far too kind a word to describe the utter resentment, the bitterness and disgust that I have for this film. In order to adequately express the amount of bile I have for this cinematic atrocity, I would need to genetically engineer a fucking tree with human livers for fruit. I would need to physically break the laws of biology and nature in order to get close to the desolate loathing that I hold in my heart and in my soul.

Dev Patel and Shaun Toub contemplating the nature of deep, abiding shame.

Dev Patel and Shaun Toub contemplating the nature of deep, abiding shame.

And do you know what hurts the most? What keeps me up at night occasionally as I contemplate the nihilistic and directionless nature of this universe?

They ended it on a fucking cliffhanger.

They had the audacity to assume that this film would actually have fans. People who wanted to see more. They believed that Avatar fans would want to see more.

Let me back up a bit. I know that this film being a piece of shit is old news now, and saying bad things about it is about as relevant as agreeing that the Great War was generally an iffy time for everyone involved, but for me the wound is fresh. I refused to watch it when it first came out, as I was a teenage advocate of the “adaptations can lead only to ruin” school of pop-culture scholarship. I didn’t actually watch this film for the first time until last year.

In the middle of the seventy thousandth Tai Chi routine, Noah Ringer realised he was in a piece of shit.

In the middle of the seventy thousandth Tai Chi routine, Noah Ringer realised he was in a piece of shit.

My dear, dear girlfriend had never watched the whole original series in her youthful folly, and seeing its glorious presence on Netflix, I figured, “hey, let’s watch it together.” Instantly, she fell in love with the show and the characters, and I remembered exactly why this show is so close to my heart. It has soul, it’s flawlessly animated, it has likeable characters with some truly exceptional character arcs. It tackles dark subjects, and ethical questions. The final four part finale is an absolute masterclass in everything a narrative should be. All of this in what is ostensibly a children’s show.

Anyway, one night we decided to go out and have a few drinks. A great evening, and when we came home, a bit drunk and in high spirits, we didn’t want to go straight to bed. So, I turned to her, whispered softly and seductively in her ear:

“Would you like to watch some Netflix?” She looked back at me. “We should watch a bad film and just make fun of it. We can make it into a drinking game.” Sounded fun. We scrolled down, and there it was. The White Whale itself. Shyamalan’s abomination. We giggled and cracked open a bottle of vodka. This was going to be fun.

Appa disagrees.

Appa disagrees.

We watched it in a deathly, solemn silence. I could feel her eyes occasionally flitting away from the screen to gauge my reaction. I didn’t say a word. I couldn’t look away. How could they have done this?

I could list everything that is bad with this piece of shit, but I won’t. It would be easier to list everything that is right with it, and that is as follows:

  1. Like everything else, it has an end.

However, I’ll still give the bad parts a go:

The entire thing is criminally miscast. The characters are unrecognisable husks with no motivation, and the actors exhibit a sort of perennial bored indifference to their own story that I have scarcely seen outside of poor first read-throughs of an amateur script. There are some moments of brightness in the dross as Dev Patel and Shaun Toub attempt to drag something up out of the mire, but it all drowns in shit like the horse in The Neverending Story.

The CGI is hilariously lazy for a 2010 release, and the flame/water effects are laughable. They couldn’t even do the choreography right. For a film that is essentially about martial artists bending primal elements as extensions of their own form, the movements of the actors and the effect their movements are supposedly having on the screen never once match up, never looking like anything other than the most poorly produced B-Movie fare.

I just… I could go on forever, but all I have to say is one thing, and it’s something I swore I would never say;

I have never been more disappointed, felt more upset and betrayed by a film.

It was worse than The Golden Compass. That is all.

Oh, and one more thing…

Penis hair.

Penis hair.

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