‘Sixth Sense’ director Shyamalan misfires with ‘Last Airbender’
After such misfires and outright embarrassments as “The Lady in the Water” and “The Happening,” plenty of movie lovers have hoped “Sixth Sense” director M. Night Shyamalan would venture beyond his “Twilight Zone” format in search of a creative rally. He did. It didn’t work. “The Last Airbender,” based on Nickelodeon’s animated TV series “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” is thoroughly divorced from the twisty-turny territory for which Shyamalan is known, and the most generous way of looking at it is to suggest that, when working from someone else’s story, the writer/director simply couldn’t find it in him to do more than steer the efforts of the reasonably talented design and effects crews Paramount Pictures hired for him.
The movie’s most glaring failures are the two areas for which Shyamalan is most directly responsible: writing the script and directing the actors.
There isn’t a single convincing performance in the picture, and the badness of the acting is, bizarrely, pretty much in direct proportion to a character’s importance: While actors in smaller roles might escape embarrassment, those in the leads — like Nicola Peltz, who plays a girl trying to master her magical ability to move water telekinetically — seem to have been plucked off the street and thrown into the action with no guidance.
In Peltz’s defense, her character is stuck with the worst lines in a very bad script — so much so that it sometimes seems her superpower is
in fact the ability to state the obvious. (As she and her brother together stare at a furry flying beast, for example, she tells him that “the creature floats.”)
Given the dearth of talent in the cast, the controversial decision to hire white actors to play heroes who are Asian in the series (and to put all the movie’s dark-skinned actors in villains’ roles) is the least of its worries.
Fans who have followed the show on the small screen and are dying to see a live-action version might be able to overlook some of the flaws of “Airbender” and focus on its CGI re-creation of fantasy lands and its occasionally diverting action, which weds magical control over the ele- ments to old-fashioned martial-arts gestures.
But it’s hard to believe many moviegoers will be satisfied. And when the movie’s final, “Star Wars”-inspired scene sets up a sequel, most who know Shyamalan’s filmography will hope that the promise of more “Airbender” is as empty as the suggestion that his “Unbreakable” would be the start of a Bruce Willis superhero franchise. Rating: PG for violence. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. Theaters: Alamo Lake Creek, Alamo Village, Barton Creek, City Lights, Cinemark Cedar Park, Cinemark Galleria, Cinemark Round Rock, Cinemark Southpark Meadows, Domain, Gateway, Lakeline, Metropolitan, Starplex, Tinseltown Pflugerville, Westgate.
The character of Katara (Nicola Peltz) inspired director M. Night Shyamalan to make ‘The Last Airbender.’ Though she can move water, she’s stuck with the worst lines of a bad script.
The ‘Last Airbender’ is Aang (Noah Ringer), who has the ability to control earth, fire and water as well as the air itself.