Film Friday: ‘Twilight Saga: Eclipse’ and ‘Last Airbender’

by W. Andrew Powell

Noah Ringer in The Last Airbender

Noah Ringer in The Last Airbender

Opening this weekend in theatres: the latest in the The Twilight Saga arrives with Kristen Stewart tied up in knots over which side she belongs with; plus M. Night Shyamalan channels Earth, Air, Fire and Water in the fantasy epic, The Last Airbender.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz
Director: David Slade

How does the idea of sparkling vampires make you feel? If the answer is all hot, sweaty, and filled with more excitement than you can contain, then I have great news for you this week. If, however — as most adults would react — the answer is that you’d rather die than watch a movie about cute vampires, then I also have good news for you.

For fans, the good news is that the latest Twilight film has arrived, and it’s getting some of the best reviews yet, earning praise from some critics who have otherwise suggested they hated the franchise.

Created by author Stephenie Meyer, the Twilight Saga is a hit that barely needs any introduction, but for the uninitiated who are still curious, the latest film has Bella, played by Kristen Stewart, once again surrounded by danger, but this time she’s forced to decide between the vampire Edward, played by Robert Pattinson, and the werewolf Jacob, played by Taylor Lautner.

This decision is, in fact, the biggest driving force behind the saga’s storyline and promises to ignite further angst and anger between the vampires and werewolves.

At the same time the city of Seattle is currently the site of numerous killings as one vampire also hunts for her revenge.

Although the film has only picked up 52% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, the top critics are rating the film 63% fresh, and Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal went so far as to write, “I can’t pretend that the third episode instilled a fever in my blood, but it didn’t leave me cold. For the first time in the series I felt I’d seen a real movie.”

While Kyle Smith of the New York Post wrote, “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse dispenses with much of the caramel gooeyness of the first two episodes in favor of decent action, some heartfelt tender moments and even a splash of wit. This time they’re actually Twi-ing.”

And what about the good news for those uninterested in youthful angst? For the rest of the population who are sick of the crying teenagers, the good news is that it’s summer outside, and this is a perfect weekend to forget about the movie theatre and enjoy a nice picnic. Just watch out for the sparkling teenagers.

The Last Airbender
Starring: Noah Ringer, Jackson Rathbone, Cliff Curtis, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Shaun Toub
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

That sound you hear is director M. Night Shyamalan’s career imploding.

The well-known director, who climbed to fame with his first big film, The Sixth Sense, has never really hit his stride when it comes to his subsequent releases. Aside from, Unbreakable which was something of an indie hit, but failed to impress most moviegoers, and Signs, Shyamalan’s other films have all been met with harsh critical reactions and poor box office returns.

The Last Airbender might have been a perfect opportunity for the writer and director, with an opportunity to reboot his career with a story totally unlike anything he had worked on before. The problem might just be the legacy of the franchise.

Avatar: The Last Airbender was a hugely popular animated series with a vast amount of depth and backstory. The series tells the story of a world divided into four nations: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, with one young boy from the Air nation given the power to control all four elements as a means of maintaining peace between the people of the planet.

In the film, Aang the Airbender, played by Noah Ringer, is so afraid of his heavy responsibility that he flees his country, but a freak accident leaves him frozen in a giant block of ice as the Fire Lord Sozin attacks the Air Nomads to destroy the Avatar, and seize control of the world.

One hundred years later Aang is freed to discover his people destroyed, and he now has to fight to restore balance to the nations.

Reviews for the film are potentially the worst of any film major film released this year, with most critics calling the film a big, lumpy mess, thanks in part to Shyamalan inability to write good dialogue, or distil the story down to one theme.

“Stiff, fuzzy-looking, cloddish and disastrous in nearly every way, The Last Airbender looks as if it could have been made by the spoiled son of a studio mogul willing to waste gobs of money,” wrote Tom Long for the Detroit News.

While Lou Lumenick of the New York Post wrote, “Stilted dialogue, wooden acting, glacial pacing, cheesy special effects, tacky-looking sets, ugly costumes, poorly staged and edited action sequences, all shown in murky, cut-rate 3-D.”

If this movie is any indication, Shyamalan may not have too many more big budgets to work with, unless he can pull a new hit out of thin air.

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