Ink Blotting - The Last Airbender

Posted on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The Last Airbender

No one likes The Last Airbender.

If you did like The Last Airbender, I would hazard you had a hand in the production, creation or distribution of the film or you're overlooking everything else to appreciate a solitary instance in the movie that you thought went decently.

Much like Roger Ebert over at his review site has said time and time again, reverse engineering a 2d movie to have 3D effects ruins the color and clarity of the 2D film, thereby rendering any 3D effect pointless for the loss of what has been sacrificed. Sight and Sound are the only two senses we have to witness film. When you filter sight through lenses that dull the palette of colors our eyes can detect for the illusion of depth you put a further impasse in front of us that inhibits our ability to be drawn into the film.

Sure there were some decent moments that were done in 3D, but to have sacrificed the color and texture of the entire film for those kitschy moments of Apa flying with kidlets hanging from his feet and ropes, what were they thinking? Oh, I know what they were thinking. They needed to make as big a bang out of the opening weekend as possible, in the face of Eclipse opening that weekend as well and therefore needed to charge all of the paying spectators an extra two bucks to make sure they pulled in as much as they could.

I would have paid 2 dollars more to see it in 2D, but as we were invited to the press screener for Airbender I was not given that choice. I am not getting up on a soapbox to say that 3D is a waste of time, I loved Avatar and was incredibly drawn into the movie, but to doctor the film after it was shot in two dimensions needs to be thrown out as something filmmakers should even consider doing.

Back to Airbender. My English 397 Science Fiction professor at the University of Calgary, Dr. Randy Schroeder told the class at one point when we were watching Blade Runner, after having read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, that it is bad storytelling to have a narrator explain the action. A good storyteller would be able to ensure the understanding of the audience without the need of a voiceover. The Last Airbender is a great example of how narration ruins a movie. There are points where Kitara's voiceover literally explains exactly what we are seeing, through sandpaper, in front of us.

So you've clouded and obscured my vision, and then subjected me to sound in the form of an annoying voiceover, perhaps I could be stimulated emotionally by the acting and story?

Not in the slightest. It could have been something to do with the sheer amount of special effects, green screen and wire work that led to the wooden nature of the children's acting, or it could very well be a mark on the director's ability to get kids to emote on screen, but the principle roles in the film were wooden and non-expressive. When they did get the chance to emote oftentimes the camera would pan back and special effects would take over. And other times where a great scene of emotional potency would loom, the story would lurch away from it.

So without strong and effective acting did we have much of a story, as really that's all that's left, isn't it. Well, The Last Airbender draws from Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender which was a anime-esque 30 minute Saturday morning cartoon. It was immensely successful. The show was a little cliché, but the stories were cute and there was a real sense of depth to the world and epic-quality tension and action in the plot. Conversely the movie had far too much explication (the explaining of events that take place before the start of the film) that muddied up the plotline of the movie.

To conclude I would liken this movie to two movies for children, one of immense quality that ranks high with me and the other one that could have reached the same heights. Eragon released only a few years ago should have been showed to M. Night Shyamalan so that he could see where he would potentially go wrong in his movie. I am referring to the unnecessary "return shot" to the Evil King in his castle being appraised of the deplorable actions of the hero in stymieing his plans. There is far too much time wasted in a 90 minute movie on the Emperor of the Fire Nation, a character we aren't supposed to emote with nor truly understand his motivations. So if we aren't supposed to sympathize with him or see explicitly why he wants to subjugate the whole world – why spend any time on him at all – heck, why cast him in the first place? A dark looming and unspeaking figure (like the Lord of the Rings, Sauron) would be just fine, wouldn't it?

The other comparable film, for me, would be Willow. But Willow got it right. There was a clear, solid narrative, exciting adventure with clear special effects and well acted portrayals (granted these aren’t kids in the movie) without overly focusing on the Evil Sorceress.

The Last Airbender, in 2D with another 30 minutes to delve into the world, bring out the youth and joy in the principle characters and without narration would have been an amazing film. That's not what we got though.

Much like the title, this movie is only worth 1 element out of 4.

Kyle Gould is a University of Calgary Graduate in English devoutly trying to make the 25,000 dollar piece of parchment not just a glorified ink blot. Currently it would serve better as a Rorschach test. Feel free to throw some ink his way at


NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to