One of the most common criticism of M.Night Shaymalan’s The Last Airbender is the bending visuals, both SFX and VFX.

In his extremely critical review of the movie, the great Robert Ebert had this to say about the special effects:

Since "Airbender" involves the human manipulation of the forces of air, earth, water and fire, there is hardly an event that can be rendered plausibly in live action. That said, its special effects are atrocious. The first time the waterbender Katara summons a globe of water, which then splashes (offscreen) on her brother Sokka, he doesn't even get wet. Firebenders' flames don't seem to really burn, and so on.

Honest Trailers showed a compilation of special effects in the movie calling them some of the worst ever put to film:

The bending in this scene has received a lot of criticism, especially at around 1:28:

Den of Geeks actually praised the effects, but criticised their implementation into the bending, as they explain here:

The effects house did a great job and the visuals are amongst the few redeeming features here, but as with so much of the film, it’s baffling how they could be integrated so atrociously. If a fireball hits anything or anyone in this movie, it doesn’t set it on fire. If a chorus line of villagers from the Earth kingdom perform an elaborate version of the haka, it only summons one piffling boulder to slowly hover towards their adversaries.

There are quite a few more examples which I can put on here if you want. Now, I’m a story guy so I have no idea about SFX and VFX. As such, I have tried to ask this question to get answers about this, but they've all been shut off as opinion based. As such, I now would like to ask how realistic are the bending effects.

P.S: Especially on the waterbending and airbending effects

P.S.S: Apologies for my terribly-written question I posted yesterday. If my third attempt to better present this question fails, please let me know.

  • 2
    This is probably going to end up closed as 'opinion-based'. From a quick look at a minute of the fight scene in the 3rd clip, perhaps the reviewers also hate "wire work" as much as I do. Similar shots of 'guys swinging from ropes' made The Matrix & Crouching Tiger equally unwatchable for me. It's a 'trope' but it's a trope I cannot bear to watch. It has echoes of the Japanese 'Water Margin' type effects from the 70s.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 13, 2021 at 8:17
  • 3
    Yes. The criticisms are justified. It's people expressing their opinions. You are, of course, allowed to disagree with them. (Personally, I think the movie sucks on nearly every level: casting, script, direction, FX, etc.) Jun 13, 2021 at 19:09
  • a good topic worthy of discussion (and I definitely think personally that there are problems with this movie's FX), but perhaps presented in such a way that might cause it to be closed by the more "unbending" moderators. how should someone answer the question? by synthesizing many (respected) critical reviewers' detailed explanations? by conducting original research to describe failings in this movie's S/VFX that, when comparing to acclaimed movies for FX, aren't in competent movies? this might require industry experience or significant amount of knowledge. OR is frowned upon on WP, e.g. Jun 13, 2021 at 23:17
  • Meat Trademark: Agreed. The movie is a sloppily-written, awkwardly-acted and clumsily put-together cinematic disaster. Watching it has scarred me for life. Fluffy Flaroen: I understand, I will edit my question so I can re-present it.
    – Jackson
    Jun 13, 2021 at 23:58
  • How can I present this question in a way that won't be closed off as opinion based, this is the second time
    – Jackson
    Jun 14, 2021 at 9:49


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