The world of "The Last Airbender" is divided into clans that represent the elements: fire, water, earth, and air. Each clan has members who can manipulate one of the elements but since everyone knows fire is the dominant element and is symbolic of evil, the Fire Clan gets to be the bad guys. The only person who can maintain a balance between the clans is known as the Avatar who can use all four elements. Unfortunately, the Avatar has been gone for 100 years and so the Fire Clan rules the world and maintains an oppressive control over the other clans. When the Avatar suddenly reappears as a young boy with an understanding of only the Air element, he must master the others before the Fire Clan subjects his people to slavery.
Look, I knew that "The Last Airbender" was going to suck. I had no delusions of grandeur going in as this was definitely the type of crappy action movie I try desperately to avoid. I saw all the scathing reviews, I cringed throughout the trailer, and most importantly, I watched "The Happening" last year and confirmed that director M. Night Shyamalan has no idea what he's doing anymore. Still, though, I had to see for myself. Like Travis taking the musket to his beloved dog Ol' Yeller, I needed, on my own accord, to see that my old friend had indeed gone mad.
This was the first Shyamalan movie I didn't see in theaters. But after the abortion that was "The Happening," what other option did I really have? I love Shyamalan's first four films. "The Sixth Sense" may have ruined the suspense genre in the long run but wow, what a fantastic experience that movie was. "Unbreakable" is HIGHLY underrated in my book and I consider it to be one of the better superhero movies ever. "Signs" is one of my 25 favorite movies of all time and I still contend that if you don't like it, you're not watching it correctly. "The Village," while imperfect, is a more than reasonable thriller with a genius twist that gets a little lost in translation. Even "Lady in the Water" isn't horrible. But "The Happening" is, in fact, horrible. I'm still at a loss for words as to how that piece of crap ever saw the light of day. That movie confirmed to me, a hardened and stubborn Shyamalan fan and apologist, that the guy had lost it. When I saw the trailer for "Airbender" for the first time, I wanted to cry. There was never any question that this movie was going to kill his career once and for all. And darnit if I wasn't right.
On to the film. Terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE acting. Every time I see a movie that features child actors so prominently I'm reminded of just how good the "Harry Potter" series really is because, even in their worst early moments, none of those kids make you want to choke a puppy. Pretty much every kid in "Airbender" made me want to do just that. At times the action scenes are dynamic but more often than not, they're done just for the sake of showing the audience cool karate moves regardless of whether or not it fits into the story. And the story is a jumble of cliches and poorly developed plot points that takes the most painfully direct route to the inevitable sequel setup that you'll ever see. All in all, I would say there is about 15 minutes of a decent movie in here somewhere, surrounded by an hour and a half of truly painful moments. It's not the worst movie I've ever seen but it might have a place in the discussion.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to put a figurative musket ball in M. Night Shyamalan's figurative head.