The Last Airbender
As if becoming a Slumdog Millionaire wasn’t hard enough, now he’s being bbq’d.

Theatrical Release Date: 07/01/2010
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi, Cliff Curtis, Seychelle Gabriel

I never saw the television show “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and after seeing the big screen adaptation “The Last Airbender” (James Cameron’s little film that could took the word ‘Avatar’ hostage), I can’t say I care about that.

The basic idea is that the world is comprised of four cultures, each inherently attuned to a specific elemental force: water, earth, air and fire (the latter three got together and spawned some Billboard number ones later in life under a slightly different moniker). To keep everyone in balance, there’s the Avatar – though rather than a tall blue skinned insult to Native Americans, this time around it’s a child with the potential to control all four elements.

Of course, in order for there to be something worth writing a script about, it’s up to the Fire tribe to attempt world domination, with only the Avatar in their way. There’s a host of complications but for audiences that just love getting everything explained to them, have no fear. The film spits text on-screen to let us know where in the world we are each time the story jumps forward (I hope you’re not looking for the script to fill in time gaps) and then the characters proceed to lay out exactly how and why they’re going to do what will happen in the next few minutes.

This goes hand in hand with the other problems with the film, which oddly enough have nothing to do with the insane amount of CGI effects (though they are decently rendered). The issues stem from a complete lack of character development, sense of urgency, or reason anything that’s going on should matter at all to audience members who aren’t familiar with the characters from the TV show.

Perhaps the reason for most of this can be attributed to the film’s director, which supposedly is M. Night Shyamalan. His trademarks are suspense and twist endings (that we now see coming), matched by the manner in which he choreographs and plots the characters and their arcs. This is the first project Shyamalan didn’t originate and apparently, that goes a long way to providing him with inspiration.

If I hadn’t seen his name all over the trailer and in the credits, I couldn’t have begun to guess who sat in the director’s chair. The film is devoid of any sense of style and might be a new alternate definition of the word ‘bland’. As a result, sitting through the entire affair is an exercise in finding a comfortable sitting position. I’d be more critical of the acting but that would require that I cared enough to do so.

And recently I’ve seen that the film is being marketed as the 3D event of the summer. This is sort of like saying that December is the hottest month in the northern hemisphere – sure it’s a month of the year, but few people worry about their air conditioner being in working order at the time. Although the opening minute or two throw a few splashes of water at the audience, from then on the only elements that break the plane of the screen are the titles telling us which location the film has jumped to. For making anyone place those tinted shades over their eyes and saying it’s because of the 3D, the studio should be giving the audience money, rather than the other way around.

Simply put, the fantasy world here is rich enough to make interesting, full of magic and conflict – almost like “Lord of the Rings: The Teenage Years”. The final battle scene is even reminiscent of the attack on Helm’s Deep in “The Two Towers” … however, it’s more of a completely toned down version lacking any of the drama or interest (nor is there any logic in why people who can manipulate water don’t use their powers to put out the flames the Fire tribe needs to be effective).

Under a different creative team, there was an opportunity to fashion something worthy of all the dollars that were sunk into the budget. Sadly that didn’t happen and now it’s only a matter of how many people are suckered into the theater by the promise of shiny CGI effects which will decide if this will become a trilogy of films, as is the obvious intention. Hopefully, as the title implies, this will be “The Last Airbender” and all I can give the film is a 1 out of 5 … this is a prime example of innocuous film making pandering to the lowest common denominator. Simply skip this and spend your money elsewhere at the multiplex.