Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Last Airbender

I had read the reviews of this film (2010; dir. M. Night Shyamalan)--uniformly negative. I came to it with the lowest expectations. It offered a quasi-mythic comic book tale of magic and fantasy. It offered cartoon-like special effects. I knew I would not have to think much while I watched and dozed. And I wasn't sure how much of it I would watch. I was just curious—another chapter in M. Night Shyamalan's sad decline—what would it be?

So it is perhaps a symptom of senescence when I confess to how much I enjoyed this half-witted film and its febrile mysticism and hyper-dramatic, faux epic, Kung-Fu saga of how a boy frozen in ice for a century emerges back into the world and with the help of young friends defeats the kingdom of fire that is trying to destroy the kingdom of water and ice benders. The thawed-out boy is the Avatar who kept the world in Balance, and with his disappearance the world fell into chaos. This is a world in which special individuals within each nation can bend or control the four basic elements of air, fire, earth, and water. The Avatar can bend all four elements.

I do not know enough about Asian cinema to say with certainty that it had an influence on this film, especially the balletic movements and fighting that make up much of the action. The Last Airbender seems built on a faintly Tibetan form of Buddhism, and the Avatar himself, who is reincarnated from one generation to the next, may have something in common with the Dalai Lama.

At any rate, though I was not of the target audience, I was entertained.

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