Hollywood turned in its assignments early this week with releases on Wednesday and Thursday. Now Fat Guy Kevin Carr hands out his grades for the latest installment of The Twilight Saga and the big screen adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene and Peter Facinelli
Directed by: David Slade
What it’s about: The supernatural love triangle of a human, a vampire and a werewolf continues in the third film based on Stephenie Meyers’ wildly popular series. Bella is still aching for Edward to make her a vampire, but he refuses to do it until they get married. But the ripped shapeshifter Jacob Black is also vying for her affection. Meanwhile, the vampire Victoria is amassing an army of newborn vampires to kill Bella, and it’s up to Edward and Jacob to form a truce and defend the town and the whiney teenager they both love.
What I liked: As far as Twilight movies go, Eclipse is the best of the three. Like New Moon, it delves more into the overall vampire politics, with some nice cameos by the Volturi (hint, hint, these are the vampires I actually like). It’s not as ballsy as True Blood by any stretch of the imagination, but the distractions from the teenage angst are far more interesting to me. From this angle there’s some excellent action sequences, and as long as Edward isn’t the focus, the vampires are pretty badass.
Likewise, this film is the best made from a cinematic standpoint, and that is due to David Slade, who gave us the bloody vampire flick 30 Days of Night a few years back. It took them three tries to really nail the look of the film, the effects on the werewolves and the make-up on the vampires. I actually found this film to be watchable most of the way through.
Yeah, there’s teen angst, but it’s spread evenly through the film rather than shooting an eight-ball of teen angst crack into your vein in the first half. Plus, as whiney and petulant as Bella is, she’s relatively low key, compared to the screaming, aching and poster-child for depression from the last film.
What I didn’t: On the whole, there are really only three problems with Eclipse. Though big problems they are. First is the overload of teen angst. It can’t be said enough how tedious this becomes, and if I had to sit through another scene of Bella bitching about wanting to be a vampire, I was going to punch a puppy. I honestly can’t wait for someone to get their hands on the DVD in a couple months and edit all that crap out. We might end up with a kick-ass 45-minute action movie in the end.
Second is the acting. Kristen Stewart had such a promising career back when she was making Panic Room and Zathura. But Twilight has ruined her. She is godawful in this film, and she sucks worse than the violent vampires here. Likewise, Robert Pattinson is still trying to channel James Dean but ultimately comes across looking like he’s ready to vomit. There is one curious scene, which I like to call “The Brokeback Vampire” moment where Jacob and Edward have a tete-a-tete in a tent. We actually get a glimpse of some decent acting from the both of them without Stewart involved to suck the life out of the moment.
Finally, the biggest problem comes not from the film or subject matter but rather from the hype. It is impossible to experience this film without the hoards of teenage girls (and shockingly inappropriate cougar wannabes) screaming in the audience. My press screening was bad enough, but seeing this film in the first week or two of release will be like sitting in the front row of a Jonas Brothers concert, only with an audience that actually knows what sex is.
Who is gonna like this movie: Twi-hards, angsty teenage girls and creepy-ass, middle-aged Twi-moms who hoot and hollar at a seventeen-year-old kid without his shirt on.
THE LAST AIRBENDER
Rated: PG for fantasy action violence
Starring: Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Dev Patel, Jackson Rathbone and Shaun Toub
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
What it’s about: M. Night Shyamalan takes control of the live-action adaptation of the Nickelodeon cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender. The story follows young Aang, an unrefined child who has been trapped in the ice for a hundred years. With the power to bend air, Aang must learn to control the other three elements (water, earth and fire) to defeat the oppressive fire nation.
What I liked: The look of the film, minus the uninspired 3D (which included a sum total of about three “eye-popping” shots), is very slick. And for the most part, the production design matches the look and feel of the original cartoon.
But yeah… it ends there. The original Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon is fantastic. Watch those on Netflix instead.
What I didn’t: Oh where to start… I was so disappointed with this film because the concept and original source material is so fantastic. But Shyamalan’s incompetence ruined the film… and that’s coming from a guy who likes most of his movies. Even the bad ones (yes, even Lady in the Water).
But The Last Airbender is extra special bad. The core of the suckage comes from some of the worst acting you’ll see this year… and that’s a lot to say about a film opening against Eclipse. Shyamalan has never been an actor’s director, but it’s clear that without someone like Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson or Samuel L. Jackson or even cheeky Mark Wahlberg, the actors deliver their dialogue (which is terrible to begin with) at community theater quality.
Shyamalan manages to hit all the points from Book I of the series, but there’s no soul in the delivery. Forget the whitewashed actors, which wouldn’t be so silly if all the extras weren’t cast as the appropriate races (because I just couldn’t figure out how a brother and sister from a lone village manage to be white while everyone else is Inuit). Shyamalan is just going through the motions here.
This film reminds me of Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake. Just because you keep the same shot list doesn’t mean the final product isn’t going to be a steaming pile of Appa poop.
Who is gonna like this movie: Kids who aren’t old enough to know better.
Want to see what Kevin had to say about these films on TV? Check out his interview on FOX…