- Running time:
- 103 minutes
- Noah Ringer -
- Dev Patel -
- Prince Zuko
- Nicola Peltz -
- Jackson Rathbone -
- Shaun Toub -
- Uncle Iroh
A world divided into four tribes—each representing one of four elements: Water, Fire, Air and Earth—has been overtaken by war. The Fire nation has wiped out the Air nation and threatens to do the same to Water and Earth. Only one person can stop the onslaught—the Avatar, a mythic figure who has the ability to bend (meaning control) all four elements and bring balance to the world. When two members of the Water tribe, Katara (Nicola Peltz) and her brother Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), discover 12-year-old Aang (Noah Ringer), who has been frozen in ice for 100 years, they begin to suspect he may be the Avatar. Unfortunately for all of them, evil Fire Prince Zuko (Dev Patel) thinks so too.
The buzz: The animated TV series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” attracted a devoted cult following of all ages thanks to its lively blend of action, humor and spirited fun. Enter M. Night Shyamalan, once the golden boy of Hollywood (back when he was a double Oscar nominee for writing and directing surprise blockbuster “The Sixth Sense”), but lately more of a laughingstock on a serious downward career spiral. He was just looking for a little redemption by turning “Avatar” into a major franchise. Then the release of James Cameron’s “Avatar” meant the title would need to change, a grassroots group began protesting casting Caucasian actors in roles conceived as Asian in the original series, and the movie was hastily converted to 3D in a seemingly desperate bid to capitalize on a box office-boosting trend.
The verdict: Anyone hoping Shyamalan might improve by stepping outside the world of pretentious thrillers only needs one look at this disaster to hope he goes right back where he came from. “Airbender” is kiddie fantasy so limp it makes “Narnia,” “Percy Jackson” and “The Golden Compass” look like unqualified masterpieces. Tedious, overstuffed, visually flat (and even darker and blurrier in the 3D rush job than it presumably is in standard 2D), emotionally inert, filled with painfully expository dialogue and mostly poorly acted, it’s simply an all-around misfire. If trying to condense 20 episodes of a small screen storytelling into a 100 minute movie sounds like a bad idea, that’s because it is. Making matters worse, Shyamalan’s inexperience with large-scale special effects and action set pieces is all too evident in the film’s shoddy construction. The only defining quality he brings to the project is a trademark air of suffocating self-seriousness. Unless “The Karate Kid” has wildly increased the moviegoing appetite for children performing martial arts, there’s no hope audiences will warm to this world enough to merit one film, let alone the two sequels Shyamalan was banking on.
Did you know? Ringer didn’t have to practice too hard to convince as a martial artist. He started learning Taekwondo at age 10 and eventually became the American Taekwondo Association Texas State Champion.
Movie theaters and showtimes for The Last Airbender in Phoenix.
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