The Last Airbender might be the first and last movie for the franchise, which is unfortunate for fans of the cartoon series who expected to invest in seeing something more drawn out and worth the price of admission and popcorn. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan whose quick rise to fame with The Sixth Sense has started to freefall with some critically panned movies, The Last Airbender might prove to be the final point that M. Night Shyamalan isn’t the next Hitchcock, and that he hasn’t fully realized the potential many thought he had. A poorly written script, questionable casting choices, and a story that sort of meanders on work together to create a mess of a movie that comes in a shiny package.
Shyamalan’s newest flick releases with the Avatar part stripped from the title to keep it from being confused with the ultra successful James Cameron movie that raked in over a billion dollars. Aang (Noah Ringer) is the titular hero who can “bend” the four elements (fire, water, air, and earth) to his will. Frozen for 100 years, he’s discovered by a brother and sister team looking for food, Sokka (Jason Rathbone) and Katara (Nikola Peltz), who end up travelling with Aang to unite the world against the imperialistic Fire Nation.
It’s one thing to try and cram an entire season’s worth of the television show into one 103-minute movie — much of the story from the television show was probably cut and left on the editing floor. Picking and choosing what’s left in, Shyamalan puts himself in the line of fire of fans who worry about things like directors taking shows and ruining them. Fears may be justified after seeing The Last Airbender because, while the special effects and cinematography are rather impressive, the rest is not. The story is stir-fry with poorly connected scenes, and dialogue is used to narrate events. The dialogue is poorly written and would sound bad enough coming from the most elite of thespians, but this film’s stock of actors and actresses don’t have the collective talent (or perhaps direction) to match the production values which is a highlight — Shyamalan still has it in terms of flash, and the action helps carry the movie. If there is a sequel, it would be best to relegate director/writer/producer/casting director Shyamalan to one-quarter of his duties, at least until he gets his swing back.