It’s got a flying yak and a whispering dragon, mystical powers and an epic scale, but for all of this, "The Last Airbender" is surprisingly dull for a martial-arts-based 3D summer action flick.

For one thing, you might as well leave your 3D glasses at the door—no one’s going to be breathing fire into your lap or karate chopping at your date. The graphics pretty much stay within their celluloid cage once the credits finish their flight, only popping back out for the closing credits.

Setup to be a fantastical thrill-ride, this plodding children’s fare (based on a Nickelodeon cartoon) could have used some more impressive visuals to bale out its pat storytelling. It’s not that Shyamalan’s tale is without imagination: Blending together elements of Buddhist mysticism and Chinese kung fu lore, it offers a battle between pan-Asiatic tribes whose respective champions have control of earth, wind air or water (no, they do not combine their powers and summon Captain Planet). At the film’s center is the requisite "chosen one," The Avatar (Noah Ringer), the latest incarnation of an ancient hero with potential to "bend" all four elements and presumably bring order to the warring factions. The twist, as you already know from the previews, is that this avatar is a little boy (making him a great hero for kids).

Written and Directed by: M. Night Shyamalon
Starring: Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandevi, Cliff Curtis

The biggest problem here is that there’s no adrenaline. The child actors are very talented, but they’re not given textured enough characters to arouse our loyalty and they’re never really put through much palpable danger. While we know that the tribe of the ‘fire-benders" is an evil empire who has conquered and enslaved the others, we just don’t witness enough of this to get sufficiently worked up about it.

Part of the problem is that the film’s villains, led by Dev Patel ("Slumdog Millionaire") as Prince Zuko and Osif Mundvee (TV’s "The Daily Show") as Commander Zhao, are far too likable. They’re charismatic without being scary. Sure they snarl a bit and make some wicked decisions—but they’re pretty chilled out for super-villains. Nothing we see them do gets our vengeance-juices flowing, and they don’t have any haunting weapons or even menacing costume pieces.

They are very clearly no match for Anng the Avatar, whose real challenge is to man up and own the responsibilities of being Spiderman—I mean, a hero. Meanwhile, our other protagonists, Katara, the young girl who is last of the water-benders (Nicola Pelz), and her brother Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), are mainly charged with the task of building up Anng’s confidence. They scurry about with earnest concern and repeatedly pledge their loyalty.

On one hand, as an adult, I want to commend "Airbender" for a remarkable lack of gory violence, but on the hand, I can’t help but wish this was replaced with some sort of lively danger — some flying and tumbling, some exciting chases with narrow escapes, some balletic fight choreography a la crouching dragon—instead of tiresome posturing between dull exposition followed by moments of mystical hand-waving, which conjures up some pretty tame water bubbles, icicles and flamey warning-shots.

The very young might enjoy this film’s super-empowered youth on a hero quest, and it may inspire them to play fight without actually hitting each other—but if you’ve been waiting for the next incarnation of James Cameron’s "Avatar" to take you on a thrilling ride, your savior has not arrived.

About The Author

Jason Rabin is a Blast contributing editor

12 Responses

  1. Rebecca Weaver

    Do yourself a big favor and rent the original TV series from Netflix. Although honestly if you think you’re disappointed by what was on the screen NOW, wait till it occurs to you what this movie coulda-woulda-shoulda been and the total waste of opportunity this alleged “film” is. All the charm, bittersweetness, heroism, meat-and-sarcasm, coming-of-age wonder is in that show. You would never know it from this movie. Honestly, go rent it. But be prepared to be even more pissed off at the movie afterwards.

  2. anonymous

    I would like to mention that the avatar’s name is “Aang” and not “Anng” and that it’s prince “Zuko”, not “Zukko”.

    While I agree with you that this movie … well… sucked, I disagree with your statement about the “enemies”. If you watched the original cartoon, you learn that they are portrayed very much as normal human beings. They are not supposed to be incredible menacing or villain-like, or have scary weapons just because they are on the enemy side. It’s a central theme to the original cartoon that everyone – including your enemies – must be treated as humans and given a chance. Thus I think M. Night Shyamalan stayed true to the original cartoon in this respect.

  3. Avatar Sucked

    This movie had no follow up the the cartoon, they couldn’t say the char actors names right, the storyline was jumping from spot to spot. When he entered the spirit world he didn’t even turn all white he just closed his eyes and the epic battle at the very end was a total fail because he was suppose to turn into a giant fish… Rokus dragon was barley even in the 1st book if at all yet he’s the only dead spirit creature seen. This movie was a massive fail and Katara with her over acting didn’t help. she no doubt cried in almost every scene and every time there was a fighting battle, for the most part it was done in slow motion. movie was a total disaster and failed 100% compared to the show.Avatar let me down and i give no credit to the actors or the director.

  4. derikforeal

    …I’m a t a loss for words…I have got to be the biggest fan of the series on earth being that i’m close to 30 and have a very busy,successful career and yet still made absolutely sure i was at home to see the new Avatar every week on Nickelodeon, what can i say? It hooked me…that said, the movie didn’t…I am so disappointed i don’t know where to start, and anyone who is as big a fan of the series as i am will absolutely feel me on this. M. Night Shamalamawhoever totally blew it, i mean absolutely ruined the chance at something great!! I have no clue how you take an amazing story line like that of Avatar and completely blow it…He rushed threw the entire first season, left out soooo man things, the acting was terrible, dialogue terrible, special effects mediocre at best, 3D was terrible, they pronounced all but Kitara’s names wrong, casting was terrible, they made most the cast white and indian where-as the series everyone is predominantly asian, and to really top it all off, to really piss you off, M Night Shamasucks-a-lot totally made Aang a sissy of an avatar compared to what the series made him!! The battle at the northern water tribe was epic in the series and completely anti climactic at best in the movie!! Aang in the series after everything almost going wrong and the fire nation finally stealing the moon and almost conquering the water tribe, gets the moon back and goes into the avatar state and becomes a 1,000 ft tall fish monster and completely takes out the entire attacking fire nation army by swiping and tossing and crashing down with waves and force that was intense! In the movie all he does is create a giant wall of water that apparently scares the fire nation away and that’s it!!! No battle, no fighting, no crazy avatar state scenes…just a giant wave…I can’t believe it, while watching the series every week for a few years all i could think of was “man, i pray they make this into a movie..” and now i’m sad they did, at least with this director and cast…I’m so disappointed, although it may not seem like it by my venting novel i just wrote, i’m at a loss for words. I’m praying to the cinema gods, or just to the powers that be, that part 2 and 3 have a new cast and director, and hopefully it’s Peter Jackson, Speilberg, Cameron, or Michael Bay, at least his remake of Transformers had me standing up and cheering…Avatar’s remake had me shaking my head in disbelief!

  5. Benjamin

    Dude, do some research about the origins of the TV show before you post an even worse review than the wretched movie that should be burned. You’re just as bad as the idiot M. Night Shyamalan, butchering ever characters name!

    This movie was flat out a disgrace to Avatar: The Last Airbender and Nickelodeon. This TV show brought in more adults than it did children, and M. Night Shyamalan should have done some of his own research on the TV show.

  6. Fan Lady

    Being a big fan of the TV series, I left the theater, wondering how I would have felt about the film without my prior knowledge. Probably just as lost and dazed as I am now. I’m willing to give this movie some slack: You can’t possibly expect to fit 20 action packed, heartfelt, and touching episodes into one movie. BUT…the movie was only 1 hour 45 mins long! Surely a little more could have been added for character and story development. Dont tell us…Show us. It seems like M. Night was so wrapped up in the fighting and effects that he missed the other stuff completely. So yeah, the movie was a disappointment but I still want to see the others seasons turned into movies as well- If M. Night can use this as a learning ground for all the big budget computer animation stuff and really focus on character development the next ones could turn out okay. The real tragedy won’t be this movie’s failure but the other two being canned before they ever begin because Im not the only fan who will pay money to see the rest of the series on the big screen.

  7. Matt McHugh

    FANS OF THE TV SHOW… Band together and show your support for the original version: the Nickelodeon cartoon created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. Talk it up, post in on comment boards, anything to remind the public of the excellent source material and forget the Shyamalan hack-job.

    Don’t let this lousy movie condemn the original “Avatar: The Last Airbender” to the dustbin of pop culture history. It deserves much better.

    — mm

  8. bobbi

    Well~ Now I am disappointed.
    I was going to see it this weekend. Eh, I probably still will.
    I LOVED the tv show- watched all of them off netflix. But I was so EXCITED. Disappointing. Is their even Toph in the movie???!?!! If you put an Indian guy as Zuko and NO ASIANS as main leads, then the movie going to be retarded.

  9. Ryan Hildebrand

    I’m right with all of you. I didn’t think i would enjoy the show when it came out as I am eighteen, but was proven wrong once I gave it a chance. I eventually saw every episode. I was abhored while seeing it and the great lack of character building. It had an uncountable number of flaws including showing the “big bad” far too early, cause an unknown villain is so much more threatening than once you see every ten minute, the downplay of avatar roku as just a dragon instead of a human, downplay of all the bending and zuko’s swordplay. Not to mention that its storyline was a crazy straw. I would take the TV show before the movie every time. On top of everything, i think the worst thing it did was completely lose the message(s) that Avatar had.

  10. WonkoTheSane

    I went and saw it in “3-D” (yeah right) Saturday night. What the FUCK indeed!!!!???!!!!! Who the hell decided to let him direct the live action avatar movie.HE DOESN”T DO ACTION!!! The only cool parts os it were the fight scenes, but guess what??? They fucking cut away from every action shot within 1-2 seconds. WHY????????? I felt more like I was watching a 2 hour long movie about villians than I did Avatar. I don’t give a shit about the Fire nation’s little squabbles and problems! M. Night can eat a dick after this. Truth be told the movie wasn’t completely horrible…. it was just completely ruined and fucked up. They litterally showed just about every action scene in the freaking trailer. Like I said, every fight scene cuts away before they really even show you whats going on. So much for scale. Why bother wasting the money on special effects. I could have just used my freaking imagination. Also, why was this in “3-D”. It wasn’t. It was fucking shit. I saw Alice in Wonderland last month… that was 3-D. Bottom line, Avatar is [cut away] awesome, they fucked it [cut away] up BIG TIME.

  11. Latest Movies Online

    The Movie is to far to the anime series I didn’t like the way they act. The characters are very serious. I miss the personality of the real Anime Aang.


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