In the US, this film has been ousted as one of the clangers of the century, a confusing, bland, boring piece of non-cinema that marks a new low for failing director M Night Shyamalan. And, upon seeing it over here, it really is not hard to see why.
Based on a cult cartoon with quite a fan base, the film begins with a Star Wars/Blade Runner piece of writing on the screen detailing the important points of the plot up until this point. And its narrator, a young girl called Katara (Nicola Peltz) succeeds in having one of the most annoying voices in cinematic history. She speaks every line with a sense of Desperation, going beyond Overacting into the realms of just plain Bad. You may have seen those children’s toy adverts, where the naÃ¯ve young children are forced to scream every line, endorsing something they do not truly believe in, yet want to convince otherwise. This is the sense we get from the introduction alone.
A dodgy prologue then shows us that a young boy called Aang has been frozen inside a giant ice bubble for 100 years. The aforementioned Katara and her simple, annoying brother Sokka (Jackson Rathbourne) stumble across this orb and break it, freeing the boy. How? I honestly cannot remember. But the boy comes spilling out in a frenzy of special effects and more awful acting. And thus we are introduced to the title character. From this point on it’s hard to take the film seriously.
The boy playing Aang (Noah Ringer, definitely NOT one to look out for come Oscar time) seems to have looked at Peltz’s hideous overacting and wanted to outod her by playing him with all the eternal mystery and command a 10 year old can muster. You can hardly hear what he is saying, but, in truth, it doesn’t matter.
M Night, who scripted this abomination, certainly seems to be taking this film very seriously indeed. Why else would he include such lines as ‘Oh no, she’s a bender!’ and ‘ever since you were little, I knew you were a bender’. It’s like he’s risking gigglesome elements in a film that works best as a comedy anyway. And it hammers in how good the Sixth Sense really was.
Dev Patel shows up as the Evil Fire Lord, only he’s been banished, which serves no real purpose to the plot at all, except in expanding a friendship plot line, which is inconsequential anyway, because all Dev Patel seems to do is SHOUT ANGRILY AT EVERYTHING. He could be hero, villain, anti-hero, we simply do not know. Why is he chasing Aang? He’s been exiled; it would serve no purpose anyway. And say he catches him, what exactly would he do then? I know there comes a point when questioning films highlights a critic’s own arrogance, but it is clear M Night is aiming for profundity. He deserves to know where he went wrong.
Other aspects of this film include: a big CGI dog which appears only when it won’t serve the plot, and never when it might be useful; a love interest given as much attention as a mouldy sock; some guff about Aang becoming a peaceful man, not a warrior (why has he been given endless powers then?); a final battle which is the ultimate example of special effects over plot; and a CGI waterfall. It’s a mess if ever I saw one.
And yet! M Night is not content with showing us this one piece of rubbish -it’s a trilogy! Although, judging from the reception this film has received, he may have to rethink that plan.
In summary -it’s a mess on every conceivable level, and even some unconceivable ones. It works better as a comedy, and is funnier by a long way than the (insert genre here) movies. If this is his Airplane, then let’s hope the sequel isn’t Airplane Two, because in a way, he’s already made that film as well.