I got slightly suspicious of The Last Airbender when we didn’t hear a word from the main character until the third or fourth trailer. Aang’s first words were “I don’t deserve their praise”, and looking back it’s quite funny considering The Last Airbender has received hardly any from critics who have seen the film. And when I say ‘hardly’ I mean it is currently the worst rated film of 2010, with a measly 8% on Rotten Tomatoes.
I guess this could have been foreseen (well…Aang does have a huge down arrow on his forehead). Each film from M. Night Shyamalan has been progressively worse than the previous one following his hailing as the ‘next Spielberg’ thanks to The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. Many thought that The Last Airbender could be a chance for M. Night to redeem himself as a huge summer blockbuster has never crossed his path before, but he seems to have dug himself into a deeper hole by making the worst critically received movie of the year.
Here’s what a few critics are saying:
The long-winded explanations and clumsy performances are made worse by graceless effects and a last-minute 3-D conversion that wrecks whatever visual grace or beauty might have been there.
The dialogue is couched in unspeakable quasi-medieval formalities; the characters are so portentous they seem to have been trained for grade school historical pageants. Their dialogue is functional and action-driven. There is little conviction that any of this might be real even in their minds. All of the benders in the movie appear only in terms of their attributes and functions, and contain no personality.
Even without one of Shyamalan’s trademark twist endings, “Airbender” easily fits into the helmer’s portfolio of brooding genre inversions: Here, we expect an epic martial-arts movie and instead get a soul-searching adolescent’s decision to spare his enemies — a character-driven approach that’s ill served by the largely amateur cast.
Tedious, overstuffed, visually flat … emotionally inert, filled with painfully expository dialogue and mostly poorly acted, it’s simply an all-around misfire.
But of course bad reviews don’t necessarily mean a poor box office. With The Twilight Saga: Eclipse taking over the weekend young males may be inclined to see The Last Airbender, however with a budget of over $280 million ($150 million to make, $130 million to market) Paramount will need Airbender to generate more than $580 million worldwide at the box office and on DVD to turn a profit.
I think M. Night Shyamalan may want to halt work on that sequel…