Shyamalan 7: The Last Airbender (2010)

or, everyone’s second favourite Avatar.


Of course, in England, to be a bender means something quite different…

Right in front of me are two bookshelves stacked with Blu-Rays and DVDs.  I have to prewarn people before they enter the flat because of how many there are.  It’s an extraordinary indulgence, and one that speaks to my obsessive characteristic; but one I have personally justified due to the paucity of decent films available on streaming services and the large movie studio’s reticence to release their product.  One day, these bookshelves will be closer to an archive than an indulgence.

Now I can watch any movie that springs to mind.  I may watch two or three films a day.  If my seven-year-old self could see the collection, I would lose my mind.  It would be the most exciting thing on the planet.  However… whilst I have all this… stuff… do I really value it?

Because my seven-year-old self owned little more than a couple of Tom and Jerry VHSes.  But I treasured those cartoons.  Half-hour episodes of a cartoon series on CBBC would fuel my imagination for weeks.  Prince Valiant would be re-enacted on the playground.  Episodes of Through the Dragon’s Eye would be discussed; characters would be chosen to play, your popularity would determine whether you had a creature with decent abilities or not (by the juniors I was often reduced to being the Pink Ranger).   There was some quest type show that featured a talking monkey-parrot creature (I can’t be bothered to google what it was) that was the most exciting thing on the planet to me as a child.  I would give anything to feel that excitement again, to treasure visual media in the same way.

Which is to say, those cartoons were extraordinary, imaginative and exciting… to a seven-year-old.

What I wouldn’t do is spend $150 million of someone else’s money in some pathetic attempt to recapture that playground magic.

So Shyamalan became another one of those directors who postponed a promising film career in order to service some pathetic franchise (see Rian Johnson, Shane Black, Matt Reeves et. al.).  Once upon a time directors like John Carpenter dreamed of working within the studio system, so difficult it was to get their personal projects off the ground.  Nowadays, filmmakers run to the bosom of some dumb toy franchise just in a wanky hope of keeping themselves in work.


The Last Airbender is a strangely unphysical film, such is Shyamalan’s insistence on extended shot lengths.  He hyperkinetically races through scenes and scenes of exposition; in his desperation to create event, he fails to create a coherent world.  And his peculiar obsession with religion comes to a ridiculous peak when he employs worship and adoration as a twist ending.


Shyamalan rankings:


  1. The Village
  2. The Sixth Sense
  3. The Happening
  4. Lady in the Water
  5. Signs
  6. Unbreakable
  7. The Last Airbender

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