The Last Airbender (PG)

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Review byMatthew Turner25/09/2010

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 103 mins

Disappointing fantasy adventure, let down by a dodgy script, ropey performances, atrocious 3D effects and a tendency to take itself too seriously, to say nothing of the unintentional hilarity every time someone says the word “bender”.

What's it all about?
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, The Last Airbender is based on a Nickelodeon cartoon and set in a world divided into four Nations – Earth, Air, Fire and Water – where each tribe can control or “bend” the element they represent. The film begins as plucky Waterbenders Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) find 12-year-old Aang (Noah Ringer) buried beneath the ice and realise that he is the last of the long-ago wiped-out Airbenders, destined to unite the warring Nations by becoming the fabled Avatar and mastering control of all four elements.

However, though he can control air, Aang has yet to master earth, fire or water, so Katara and Sokka agree to take him to “some powerful benders in the northern water tribe” to get a crash course in water-bending. Meanwhile, the evil, vaguely Nazi-like Fire Nation are hot on their tail, so they have to stay one step ahead of Commander Zhao (Aasif Mandvi) and the exiled Prince Zuko (Dev Patel), who's trying to regain the trust of his father Lord Ozai (Cliff Curtis) by capturing Aang.

The Bad
The biggest problem is that Ringer is a terrible actor, delivering most of his lines like a Californian brat about to hit the mall rather than an elemental warrior who's just spent 100 years beneath the ice. Peltz is fine but Rathbone (whose resemblance to Hayden Christensen goes further than just his looks) is horribly wooden throughout while Patel looks permanently panicked and Mandvi chews so much scenery it's a wonder he doesn't choke on it.

The slow-moving plot isn't helped by turgid, exposition-heavy dialogue and a lack of anything resembling comic relief, unless you count unintentionally hilarious lines like “The Fire Nation's plan is to suppress all bending” and “Earth-benders! Why do you live like this?” (Seriously, did no one tell Shyamalan that those lines wouldn't translate so well to the UK?)

The Worst
To be fair, the actual bending effects are pretty good, but the film is fatally hamstrung by a post-production 3D conversion that adds nothing except making everything look darker and fuzzier.

Worth seeing?
As Shyamalan movies go, The Last Airbender isn't quite as bad as The Happening but it's still a massive disappointment thanks to poor direction, dodgy performances and a dull script. Don't hold your breath for the sequel.

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The Last Airbender (PG)
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Content updated: 21/11/2019 11:50

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