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The Last Airbender(2010)
Air, Water, Earth, Fire. Four nations tied by destiny when the Fire Nation launches a brutal war against the others. A century has passed with no hope in sight to change the path of this destruction. Caught between combat and courage, Aang discovers he is the lone Avatar with the power to manipulate all four elements. Aang teams with Katara, a Waterbender, and her brother Sokka to restore balance to their war-torn world.
For more about The Last Airbender and the The Last Airbender Blu-ray release, see the The Last Airbender Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 18, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Dev Patel, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
» See full cast & crew
The Last Airbender Blu-ray Review
Bend bend bend, bend bend the air.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 18, 2010
It is in the heart that all wars are won.
Where have you gone, M. Night Shyamalan? A waning fan base turns its lonely eyes to you, wondering what happened to the once-remarkable director who captivated audiences with The Sixth Sense, put a fresh new spin on the superhero in Unbreakable, and dazzled with the extraordinarily well-crafted Signs. It's been almost a decade since Shyamalan's alien invasion movie seemed to settle the director into the "can't miss" category and ascend him to the heights reserved for the best of filmmakers: the Spielbergs, the Kubricks, the Hitchcocks. Then, disaster struck. The Village, Lady in the Water, and The Happening confused, disappointed, and alienated fans, respectively. Shyamalan had followed up three great-to-classic pictures with a trio of mediocre-to-bad outings, changing his fortunes from universally praised can't-miss filmmaker to, sadly, the butt of many movie fans' jokes, effectively relegating him to has-been irrelevancy. Even with his lackluster string of failures, his careful approach to filmmaking, breathtaking steadiness behind thd camera, and that unique style still shined through even in his lesser pictures. There remained a glimmer of hope, a knowledge that behind the bad scripts was still a brilliant filmmaker, maybe even on the verge of breaking out of his slump; after all, where else was there to go but up after The Happening? Shyamalan fans prayed for a miracle with The Last Airbender while cynics balked and wondered why the disgraced filmmaker would even bother trying to revitalize his career. With his talent still evident but the results simply not maturing to fruition, the aptly-titled The Last Airbender seemed like the last chance the director had to win back his fans and prove that he still had within him the ability to make a great movie. Alas, it simply wasn't to be. The Last Airbender is a disjointed and disappointing outing that's just another generic special effects extravaganza with little heart, bad acting, subpar editing, and no real purpose.
It's been 100 years since the four nations -- Earth, Air, Water, and Fire -- lived in harmony within a world defined by peace and prosperity. It's also been 100 years since the disappearance of the Avatar, the only living being who could control, or "bend" all four elements, and through his unique powers maintain balance throughout the elemental world. Now, with the nations of Earth, Air, and Water under threat of the powerful Fire Nation that wishes to gain control over all the lands, the world is on the brink of catastrophe. As fate would have it, two young people -- the water bender Katara (Nicola Peltz) and her hunter/warrior brother Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) -- one day stumble upon an awesome discovery deep within the frozen landscape of the South Pole: the boy Aang (Noah Ringer), a mysterious child younger even than Katara and Sokka who claims to be a runaway but bears unique tattoos on his shaved head. It doesn't take long for the village elders to identify him as, potentially, the long-lost Avatar, but the armies of the Fire Nation, under the command Fire Lord Ozai (Cliff Curtis) and his disgraced son Zuko (Dev Patel), locate the Avatar and take him prisoner where he proves beyond doubt that he is indeed the powerful being that can control all four elements. Aang manages an escape, but when he discovers that a century has past since he ran away from fate and his fellow Air Benders have been wiped out by the Fire Nation, he trains in the art of bending the other three elements, beginning with water, in hopes of honing his skills and fulfilling his destiny as the one who can restore balance to the previously harmonious world.
The Last Airbender gives off a vibe that's sort of like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon meets The Karate Kid meets Star Wars or something along those lines, except it's not nearly as good as any of those films, or most any big-budget favorites, for that matter. Problems abound in what is arguably Shyamalan's worst movie to date (take out the cringe-tastic scene featuring Mark Wahlberg talking to a plant in The Happening and that movie hurdles over this clunker). Indeed, The Last Airbender sinks in every critical area: story, structure, pacing, acting, directing, and so on. No doubt there's a good idea behind The Last Airbender; based on the Nickelodeon TV series "Avatar: The Last Airbender," Shyamalan's film plays with some pretty nifty ideas that see certain people with the power to control one of four elements with the world split down elemental lines as four tribes -- Fire, Water, Earth, and Air -- live separately but peacefully, save for the armies of Fire who wish to rule the entire world (note the obvious thematic overtones that parallel classic lines of good and evil and Heaven and Hell). Of course, it's not very well realized in the filmed adaptation; other than providing audiences with the gist of the idea and then delving headfirst into minimal characterization and a barrage of admittedly impressive CGI work, there's simply little-to-nothing of substance through which the greater ideas of the story may be realized. Worse, the weak script is lessened even further by some of the most uninspired acting this side of the latest Friedberg/Seltzer Parody movie. That aforementioned plant from The Happening shows more spunk and urgency than do any of these actors, but it's probably not that easy of a task to deliver a line like "I am the Avatar. I ran away from home, but I am back now!" with any kind of real feeling or energy.
Oddly, The Last Airbender doesn't feel like an M. Night Shyamalan movie. This is his first major directorial effort that's not based on his own source material and original ideas, and it might be that detachment from part of the process that has in some way affected his visual style. On the other hand, The Last Airbender may be Shyamaln's attempt to re-enter the mainstream by reinventing himself and taking on a movie that's more family-friendly, effects-heavy spectacle than his usual lower-key and dramatically chilling sort of films. Either way, it's not likely that even viewers who were intimately familiar with Shyamalan's other films would be able to identify this as one of his projects without the benefit of his credit in the movie or his name on the various advertisements. Still, that doesn't make The Last Airbender a particularly poor movie from a purely technical perspective. Quite the opposite, in fact, the film enjoys excellent production values, a quality score courtesy of James Newton Howard (King Kong), and a general competency that meets the high standards of big-studio and large-budget productions. Nevertheless, the film clearly lacks behind its peers in the editing room; The Last Airbender is, to be kind, a sloppy and choppy bore that, even considering a runtime that extends only a few minutes beyond 90 sans the requisite 10 or so minutes for credits, drags the movie down considerably further than most anything else other than the bland acting and lame script. The editing hurts the action scenes the most; most every one of them are terribly uninspired, beginning with Aang's first escape from the Fire Nation vessel and on through to a climax that looks good but lacks in vigor. All said, The Last Airbender is a disappointingly superficial film that is but skin-deep; there's little of value here beyond the gloss, but it seems that's all it takes to make a movie these days.
The Last Airbender Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Last Airbender earns a strong 1080p high definition Blu-ray transfer from Paramount. Grain is subtle but intact, lending a handsome film-like texture to the transfer. Colors are nicely balanced, even if the film does take on a predominantly earthy palette. Early Arctic scenes that are awash in white and shades of blue are particularly stunning, as are the more intensive red- and orange-heavy flashback scenes to Aang's life 100 years prior to running away from home. Black levels are solid all around, and flesh tones, while occasionally capturing a noticeable but not overpowering red/orange tint, more often than not appear naturally balanced. Detailing is good to exceptional, with fur-lined winter coats, rocky and sandy terrains, the braided strands of Katara's hair, and the incredibly specific and lifelike textures seen on faces that reveal every bump and pore in close-up shots all impressing a great deal. Better still, the print is immaculately clean and befitting a brand-new release; no speckles or scratches are present, and there are no signs of artificial smoothing, aliasing, blocking, or haloing, but banding is plainly visible in one scene. The Last Airbender looks great all around; this isn't a transfer that's going to blow longtime Blu-ray fans out of the water, but it will earn the respect of videophiles who demand upper-tier presentations of new release films.
The Last Airbender Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Besting the video presentation is Paramount's reference-quality DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The Last Airbender sounds fantastic on Blu-ray, and from the opening seconds that feature the Paramount stars shooting across the screen and onward it delivers a nonstop barrage of quality sound effects, music, and dialogue that allow it to settle in as one of the year's finest audio presentations. The opening shot that features the distinct sounds of earth, air, water, and fire hurtling towards the audience sets a great tone for what's to come. Indeed, distinctive and spacious effects rule the day, as crackling ice, popping flames, gushy air, and crunchy dirt are all key sonic elements throughout the film that spring to life with amazing clarity in every instance. The sounds spread across the listening area with unmatched ease, often supported by potent and pleasantly tight bass that's aggressive but not overwhelming. Atmospherics are nicely handled by the 5.1 configuration, too; whether the constant chugging of the Fire Nation's hulking vessels or the slightest of breezes blowing across the back channels, listeners will enjoy the steady and satisfying immersion into the worlds of The Last Airbender that this track provides. Supported by a pitch-perfect presentation of James Newton Howard's incredible score and smooth and satisfying center-focused dialogue reproduction, The Last Airbender delivers an amazing sonic experience that has few equals.
The Last Airbender Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Last Airbender arrives on Blu-ray with several key extras. Discovering 'The Last Airbender' (1080p, 58:15) is a nine-part documentary that explores all of the key ingredients that make up the story and the finished film. This extensive piece offers a quality behind-the-scenes glimpse not only into the making of the movie, but the people behind it. The story and themes of The Last Airbender actually work better as told here than they do in the final film, and the additional background information that covers shooting locales, special effects, music, and more are all well-realized. Fans will love this piece, and curious filmgoers, too, might want to give this a watch to find a little more appreciation for the movie. Segments include Inspirations (5:49), Spirituality (4:46), Heroes (5:54), Greenland (8:06), World (5:33), Action (7:01), Effects (9:53), Music (5:34), and Finale (5:41).
Following the documentary is Siege of the North (1080p, 18:32), a detailed look at the physical and digital processes of creating the massive location seen in the film's climax. Origins of the Avatar (1080p, 7:18) introduces viewers to the original series on which this film is based. The piece features "Avatar: The Last Airbender" Executive Producers and Creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Katara for a Day (1080p, 5:37) looks at what life is like on the set for a young actress in a major motion picture. Also included is a collection of four deleted scenes (1080p, 11:24), a gag reel (1080p, 4:29), and Avatar Annotations (1080p), a picture-in-picture feature that offers interview clips and behind-the-scenes footage alongside select scenes from the movie as it plays. Disc two houses DVD and digital copies of The Last Airbender. The latter, sampled on an iPhone 4, offers a fair picture quality that's nicely detailed and wonderfully colored for a portable device viewing while offering only minimal compression artifacts in even the darkest scenes. The sound quality, too, is well-balanced, offering crisp music, clear dialogue, and a fair sense of spacing in both quieter scenes and more action-packed sequences, particularly at film's end.
The Last Airbender Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
M. Night Shyamalan demonstrated a once-in-a-generation talent with his trio of terrific films, but the last four -- including The Last Airbender -- seem so far removed from those glory days that one can only wonder from which galaxy did aliens come down and replace the once-brilliant director with a replica that just can't get those filmmaking instincts down pat. The Last Airbender is the latest debacle from the once universally beloved filmmaker; it's a smorgasbord of missed opportunities saddled with bad acting, a haphazard plot, a boring pace, a scattershot structure, and dull action scenes. The end result is so bad that it's almost implausible that this was made by the same director who crafted Signs; that's the real story here. Slap "Alan Smithee" into the credits and remove "M. Night Shyamalan" and The Last Airbender would just be another miss of a big budget movie. Unfortunately, it seems to have sealed the fate of Hollywood's one-time can't-miss prospect; even that trademark Shyamalan style is absent in this one, and the movie seems to have been made on cruise control with half the crew half asleep at the switch. There are some fans (ahem) who will always hold out hope that the M. Night of old will make a triumphant return, but it's not looking too good. Paramount Pictures has graced The Last Airbender's Blu-ray release with an amazing 1080p transfer; a splendid lossless soundtrack; and a strong assortment of valuable, entertaining, and informative extras. Well done on that front, but the movie doesn't warrant a purchase. Best to give this one a rent instead.
The Last Airbender: Other Editions
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The Last Airbender Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Last Airbender Blu-ray Announced - September 14, 2010
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced the action/adventure movie The Last Airbender, directed by M. Night Shyamalan, for Blu-ray release on November 16, in two editions: a two-disc BD/DVD Digital Copy combo pack and a single-disc Blu-ray. It will feature ...
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