Disclaimer: I don’t know the first thing about the source material.
Not that it matters. I can imagine any fan of the series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, sitting in the theater, slack-jawed, at this dreary, joyless, and boring effort from M. Night Shyamalan. Where’s the fun? We’re talking about characters that can throw fire and water. Where’s the excitement and sense of wonder? Shyamalan treats this material with documentary-like seriousness, and the result is simply another bruiser on the once-hailed director’s corpse of a resume.
The story is a convoluted mess, but here it goes. During an undefined time, the world is divided into four powers: Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads. Each power contains a group of people who can manipulate their land’s source element through a combination of martial arts and magic, called Benders. There’s only one who can bend all four elements, however, and he is known as The Avatar. After being encased in ice for 100 years, Aang (Ringer), The Avatar, re-emerges to a war torn world, and Katara (Peltz), a Waterbender, and her brother, Sokka (Rathbone), need his help to bring peace to the region.
Shyamalan’s screenplay treats all of this nonsense as if it were The Greatest Story Ever Told. Kids couldn’t care less; they just want battles and they do get some. The problem is that the action contains no wonderment or joy. It’s just there, with little energy or purpose. The film’s attempts at humor are quashed by the actors, namely by a trio of villains (Dev Patel, Aasif Mandvi, and Cliff Curtis), who act like they’re straight out of a period piece Home Alone flick. The CGI, while adequate, is nothing to write home about and is not done any favors by the 3D presentation.
About that 3D: The Last Airbender has to be one of the biggest 3D scams perpetrated on the public this year and possibly since the fad began. After the title cards, you may as well take the glasses off. This is another post-production cash-in (think Clash of the Titans) that is only made all the more ugly by wearing sunglasses indoors. There’s no third dimension to speak of. This is a shameless move on the studio’s part.
3D or not, saving this project was futile. Shyamalan’s incapability to inject any joy into this idea makes it DOA. While the story is pretty senseless, the powers utilized by the characters at least offered some possibilities for a fun kid’s flick. Instead they’re going to be lectured by inane dialogue and served up by-the-numbers action scenes in a 3D film that contains no 3D. Either save your money, or just see Toy Story 3 again.
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Length: 103 Minutes
Rating: PG for fantasy action violence.
Theatrical Release: July 1, 2010
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub