Bomb of the Summer: The Last Airbender?

The Last AirbenderEveryone knows that M. Night Shyalaman’s last two movies have sucked big time, so there’s a lot riding on his latest film The Last Airbender, which is apparently the first of a trilogy. I recently read an article at a respectable website where the one of the authors was describing The Last Airbender as his most anticipated movie of the summer. Really. Really?

The Last Airbender – and here’s my professional opinion – will be the bomb of the summer. It will make some money, perhaps even a respectable amount, but it cannot possibly live up to whatever wild expectations there are of the film. Because, apparently, there are expectations for the film.

The movie will be released on July 2, 2010 and have the 4th of July weekend all to itself. That’s something, and by default should allow it to make a decent amount of money. But the 4th of July weekend should be reserved for Will Smith extravaganzas or fighting robots, not some cheesy anime adaptation with questionable special effects and even more questionable casting.

From what I hear, the material on which the movie is based is supposed to be pretty good… but good material doesn’t necessarily translate into a good movie.

1. The actors. Just like Dragonball or the new Street Fighter, two horrible adaptations, the casting just looks wrong in this picture. From the completely un-intimidating lead (who has no prior acting experience) to the likes of Dev Patel and Jackson Rathbone, the actors don’t seem to fit their surroundings. Then again, when this happens, it’s often more an issue with…

2. The overall look and feel. The entire atmosphere of the movie feels hokey and surreal, and not in a good, imaginative way. M. Night Shyamalan has made some great movies (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable are favorites) of mine, but both were very narrow, personal films with mood lighting and the works. When he’s tried to open his movies up to a broader set of characters or setting, he has shown to be less than effective. Furthermore, Shyamalan has never dealt with heavy duty…

3. Special effects. They don’t look bad. They just don’t look that good. As in not anywhere close to Iron Man/Avatar/Transformers/Star Trek good. This is a 4th of July movie we’re talking about, in the 21st century. From what I’ve seen, the special effects just aren’t up to the caliber of huge blockbusters. Of course, a bigger problem is…

4. The source material. The source material may be great, but American audiences don’t know that. The movie is based on a cartoon and the movie trailer exudes this fact. Will that resonate with American audiences on the level the studio is expecting? I doubt it. Oh, and let’s not forget the movie is written and directed by…

5. M. Night Shyamalan. He still has his fans, but they are dwindling. The Happening, as bad as it was, opened to $30 million, but barely made back its budget after that. This is a huge drop from the openings of The Village and Signs ($50 and $60 million, respectively), which featured more intriguing plots and big stars. Between The Happening and Lady in the Water, he’s lost a lot of goodwill with moviegoers (such as myself, who used to get excited for his movies) – frankly, I’m surprised they’re using his name in the marketing.

I could be wrong. I’m no box office analyst, and there have been movies I thought looked horribly stupid in the past that went on to make lots of money. Since it opens over the 4th of July weekend, it’s bound to make some cash – but what opening number will be considered a success? $50 million? $60? $100 million? Against a budget of $250 (reportedly for three films, not just the one in question), The Last Airbender is going to have to kick ass to succeed. And it’s not going to kick ass.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Movies
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