Review: The Last Airbender

Shyamalan runs out of ideas.

Released: Out now

Certificate: PG

Director: M Night Shyamalan

Screenwriter: M Night Shyamalan

Cast: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone

Distributor: Paramount

Running Time: 103 mins

Shyamalan scored big with The Sixth Sense but since 2002’s Signs his star has been diminishing, rapidly. And so after the absolute preposterousness of The Happening, it is understandable that The Last Airbender is approached with trepidation. Initially, things look somewhat promising, with Shyamalan deciding to forego his own story ideas and adapt a Nickelodeon animated fantasy series, and without a rug-pulling denouement, and with no one talking to a pot plant or running from the wind either. But this is, sadly, as far as the career resurgence goes.

In a mythical land, a war is raging between four tribes based on the elements of earth, water, fire and air, the members of said tribes possessing magical capabilities to manipulate, or bend, their element. The Fire Nation’s quest for dominance though, spear-headed by Prince Zuko (Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel), is threatened by the arrival of Aang (Ringer), a 12-year-old bald-headed avatar capable of controlling all four elements, which kicks off a battle for the future of the kingdom. Well, sort of.

Unfortunately, there is something quite farcical about the seriousness with which The Last Airbender carries itself, its cod philosophising mumbo jumbo (non-specific ‘spiritual places’ and ‘moonspirits’ and the like) making James Cameron’s tree-hugging Na’vi sound like divine inspiration. It is littered with the kind of vacuous characters that would do Baywatch proud – Water tribe-ers Sokka (Rathbone) and Katara (Peltz) especially – and a plot that meanders all over the place without ever reaching any kind of destination. Most worryingly, though, is that for a filmmaker whose detractors have often accused of being a better director than screenwriter, Airbender is devoid of tension, action or, despite its CG-budget and 3D presentation, any spectacle at all. The final reel kiss-off to kick-start The Last Airbender Part II seems tragically optimistic.

Shyamalan comes unstuck, again, ith an insipid fantasy adventure that tumbles at every hurdle. A poor effort from a director who once promised so much.