Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Evisceration by Keyboard

I feel nothing for 'The Last Airbender'. Nothing at all. I watch the trailer and get zip -- although, in fairness, I don't believe I've watched a trailer for TLA all the way through.

The stills look silly. I can't remember if I've seen a poster. I haven't thought about the movie. I have a severe disconnect with this product.

There's also a deadness in blog coverage. I haven't read speculations, hopeful gushings, or breathless write-ups about plans of seeing this one. Nobody seems to hate it, love it, or...whatever.

Honestly, I wasn't even aware the movie opens this weekend. Does it really? It's as if it's slinking into theaters with martial arts stealth.

Reviews are rolling in and they're much worse than I expected.

Kenneth Turan goes with:

By specifically critical and broadly adult standards, this film is undoubtedly a disappointment, but it is disappointing in a way that its intended audience may not notice.

That's not so bad. Par for the course when dealing with most kids films, really.

Neil Miller at Filmschoolrejects goes with the mighty and pounding:

To the fans of the original series: I am offended on your behalf.

As you might imagine, the offense was committed by the director, M. Night Shyamalan, but that’s not where it ends. On the whole, Paramount’s The Last Airbender is perhaps the most well-rounded failure of 2010. Whether it’s the wooden performances of its young cast, the action sequences, the community theater-level dialog, the story’s pace or even James Newton Howard’s score, nothing works. It’s as if Shyamalan of 10 years ago is playing a sick joke on fans, a joke with no punch-line and no room for laughs. For anyone wondering if, like The Happening, it’s so bad that it’s funny — it’s not.

Nice. I like that. 'The most well-rounded failure'. Sweet.

Roger Ebert says:

"The Last Airbender" (PG, 103 minutes). An agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. Originally in 2D, retrofitted in fake 3D that makes this picture the dimmest I've seen in years. Bad casting, wooden dialogue, lousy special effects, incomprehensible plot, and boring, boring, boring. One-half of one star.

Agonizing in very category he can think of? Perhaps one of the more direct and pointed instances of evisceration by keyboard in recent memory.

A.O. Scott's intro put a smile on my face:

...there is a scene at the very end that gestures toward a sequel. After 94 minutes — was that all? I could have sworn it was days — of muddy 3-D imagery and muddled storytelling, the idea that this is just the first “Last Airbender” seems either delusionally optimistic or downright cruel.

That's good. Really.

But this! Oh, my! This is jaw-dropping:

An astute industry analyst of my acquaintance, who is 9 and an admirer of the Nickelodeon animated series on which the movie is based, offered a two-word diagnosis of its commercial prospects on the way out of the theater: “They’re screwed.”

!!!!!!!!!!! Holy freaking crap. A nine-year-old kid -- the very heart of the movie's targeted demo -- says 'They're screwed'. I love that. Love it. Screwed...

I really wonder whether M. Night Shyamalan can deliver another good movie. Or, if that's too much to ask, a movie which is bad by less than a whole bunch. I remember the joy and awe of seeing 'The Sixth Sense' those many years ago. I thought: Here's a moviemaker to watch. Here's someone who gets it. I simply could not wait for the next film from this mysterious looking master of storytelling.

That next movie was 'Unbreakable', which left me cold, but I held out hope. Following that came 'Signs' with its laughable story. (Why, again, would aliens who dissolve in water hide in [an irrigated] corn field on a planet more than half covered with oceans)? Then, in quick succession, came 'The Village', 'Lady in the Water', and 'The Happening' -- a one-two-three punch to the moviegoer's midsection, a trio of films which slice and dice intellect into bite-sized pieces -- three movies, each sillier in their plot contortions and more desperate to engage the audience than the last.

Now, these many years after the lush and layered beauty of 'The Sixth Sense', the man's name has become synonymous with, well, offensive dreck. Poor storytelling. Embarrassing movies with silky-smooth camera technique and plots that gleefully ignore fundamental logic. Twist endings for the addled of mind. Wicked bad press. And, worst of all, offensive dreck. Oh, sorry. Said that already. Guess I'm repeating myself.

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