While Twilight is geared up to rule the plexes nationwide, Night is angling in more ways than one to not be far behind. That is, M. Night, whose mythologically minded, exotic 3D battle of the boys blockbuster The Last Airbender, opens the same week.
And though both movies share immortal kid protagonists and minors who get to kick adult butt, comparisons and audience preferences end there. For while Twilight: Eclipse in its third redundant installment can stand as a story in its own right every time, The Last Airbender, which is based on the popular 2005 debut Nickelodeon animated series, is more likely to appeal to, and be readily comprehended by, its devoted fan base.
Teeming with Eastern mystical sensibilities and Western special effects lush visuals, The Last Airbender unfolds as a chaotic fantasy world with a mix of ancient and futuristic elements, as antagonistic nations variously embodying Air, Water, Earth and Fire brace for war. Joining together in the struggle against the Fire Nation for world domination, is girl waterbender Katura (Nicola Peltz), her teenage warrior brother Sokka (Jackson Rathbone, likewise currently sinking his teeth into Eclipse), and Aang (Noah Ringer). He’s the gifted airbender boy in question, who can apparently bring ferocious imperialist armies to their knees with a supernatural talent for wind control wizardry. And an unchallenged superpower which leads him to be fast tracked as the rumored Avatar, or the only martial arts magician in eternal existence who can dominate and pacify all others.
For those unfamiliar with the television series, the narrative is not likely to be of much interest or worth the effort to decipher, and seems to dangle from the elaborate array of special effects as a mere afterthought. But there’s no denying that M. Night Shyamalan is a cinematic Avatar in his own right, and a bender of amazingly crafted, mesmerizing visuals that entrance onscreen.
If only the inconsequential story that woefully pales in comparison, matched the exquisite, dazzling imagery, though a bit on the wet side as drenched seafaring adversaries continually collide. And not helped either by a script filled with awful adult role models set upon by unruly children who know better than the grownups, along with multitudes of meditating monk extras addressed as ‘guys’. And beyond silly serious kids with the weight of the entire world on their shoulders, and much too busy for any of the usual afterschool stuff like homework and puppy love.
2 1/2 [out of 4] stars