The Last Airbender: It’s Like Tai Chi Meets Racism!
I am not convinced that M. Night Shyamalan has ever met a person before. The gentleman is certainly not familiar with the ways in which humans think, speak, interact, move, or otherwise exist in the world. I am not convinced that M. Night Shyamalan did not sell his soul to a leprechaun for the script of The Sixth Sense, because homey lucked the shit out on that one. I am also not convinced that M. Night Shyamalan has not spent the past decade masturbating while staring at his own reflection in a big mirror. M. Night Shyamalan is an incompetent madman. Hollywood, please: STOP POURING YOUR MONEY INTO THAT M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN–SHAPED MONEY INCINERATOR.
The Last Airbender is one of the weirdest movies I have ever sat through. It’s the story of Aang, a little bald baby-child who rides a giant flying beaver and is probably the savior of all humankind. He falls asleep inside a ball of ice for a few years (like ya do), and when he wakes up, he finds himself alone, cold, and in the middle of a war between the four elemental nations (Earth, Water, Fire, Air). It’s like Captain Planet meets Jesus meets Rip van Winkle, with a little bit of Carrie thrown in there for tang. (Sometimes Aang moves stuff with his emotions. Also, he gets his period.) It’s a fun, classic formula (plus giant beaver!), and The Last Airbender could have been a fun, classic, kids’ adventure movie. BUT NO.
Shyamalan has gotten a lot of well-deserved grief for his casting choices—The Last Airbender takes place in an explicitly Asian-inspired universe, but Shyamalan went ahead and cast white actors in all the lead roles (I’m sure he has some bullshit justification involving the phrase “postracial society”). The people of the noble, peaceful water nation are lily-white hippies. The people of the dirty earth nation are exotically grubby Chinese peasants. The people of the villainous, imperialistic, world-ruining fire nation are dark-skinned Indian jerks. The people of the air nation are extinct, so whatever. It’s so transparent you can see all the way to China.
Airbender’s editing is clunky, its pace glacial. It feels like watching someone’s homemade tai chi highlight reel, if tai chi could be somehow racist. The script appears to have been run through Google Translate and back a few hundred times. Here are some words that M. Night Shyamalan actually wrote down on a piece of paper for actual professional actors to say with their actual mouths: “This time we show the fire nation that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in theirs.” “Wake up, young man. I am Commander Zhao. I set this trap for you.” “It’s led by a princess, because her father died.” “Bring me ALL YOUR ELDERLY.” “Again, I offer my condolences on your nephew burning to death in that terrible accident.”
Shyamalan, I offer my condolences on your career burning to death in this terrible accident.