Plot: The Four nations of Water, Earth, Fire and Air lived in peace for centuries, protected by the Avatar who has the power to control all four elements. Young Aang (Noah Ringer) was the next Avatar in line until he disappeared, frozen in ice for a hundred years. The Fire Nation has declared war and is close to controlling all the nations, but Aang is finally discovered by Katara (Nicola Peltz) and her brother Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) of the Water Tribe. Aang is the last hope to bring peace to the four nations, but he must learn to master all the elements.
You would think a movie where people can bend and control elements would be pretty damn cool, but instead it’s boring and poorly directed by a man who is falling faster than Blockbuster Video: M. Night Shyamalan. What happened to this guy? His first two films (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable) were downright spectacular, and then for some reason he lost the ability to direct a good movie. I know some people really like Signs, but I hate it. Regardless, The Last Airbender’s premise was a lay-up; A bunch of dudes who can fight using fire, water, the earth and air. Come on! You can’t make that cool? But what’s worse than the directing is the terrible acting.
I feel bad calling out the acting because it’s almost all kids, but really, this is Jake Lloyd/The Phantom Menace level acting going on. It’s a smorgasbord of overacting, awful delivery and laughable facial expressions. Noah Ringer plays the hero, Aang, and man is he bad. You know you are experiencing bad acting when it takes you out of the movie. And that’s what Ringer does every time he speaks a line of dialogue. There’s one scene where he’s rallying the troops in the Earth tribe. I imagine this is what the speeches were like in the Detroit Lions locker room before every game in their 0-16 season. It was that poorly delivered.
Jackson Rathbone is equally as bad as Sokka. Nicola Peltz as Katara was passable, only because she is a very likable character. But really, all these characters have no pulse. They are all static and monotone with no personality. The one character that seemed to be salvaged was Dev Patel as Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation.
Patel gave a strong performance, but he was also the only character that was well developed and had a sympathetic back story even though he’s a big villain here. You really understand his drive to capture the Avatar Aang and why he is so vengeful. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about our protagonist.
Shyamalan does a horrific job of explaining to the audience why Aang is important. Yeah, we get the idea he’s the only one capable of controlling the elements and bringing peace, but his true power is never explained. We’ll have random scenes of him talking to spirits in really lame dream sequences. How does this happen? If this is the Avatar’s true gift, than how come he can commune with the spirits before he can even master controlling all the elements? These scenes just happen with no explanation.
Now maybe the movie can be salvaged with some cool fighting sequences, right? Nope. They are actually filmed really poorly. The worst part is that they are hokey when they should look awesome. One scene in particular is when they are in the Earth nation and these warriors almost do a silly Lord of the Dance sequence when they should be tearing up the earth. I’m supposed to take this seriously, but the fights are a joke. The use of the elemental powers are weak as hell. And when there isn’t fighting going on, the film has nothing to offer. Nothing. It is a black abyss of horrible acting and yawn inducing scenes. The end battle is decent, which at least brings this film some solid entertainment value.
As bad as the acting is though, the man to blame here is M. Night Shyamalan. I feel like he was asleep while making this movie. There are important plot points that are not even shown that you feel like were accidentally left out, like you went to the bathroom for five minutes even though you didn’t. Now that’s just lazy filmmaking. This is really great source material but there is nothing about this worth recommending. It’s a bad movie. I would give this series another chance if they brought in another director, but seriously, M. Night, go away.
Rating: 4.5 out of 10