"The Last Airbender" sounded promising. Thousands of kids loved the Nickelodeon animated series. M. Night Shyamalan of "Sixth Sense" fame signed on to write and direct. The trailer looked a little confusing, but surely that would be all worked out in the $280 million film, right?
Wrong. Take it from one who's seen it: "Last Airbender" is a mess. It's boring, confusing and weirdly pretentious. It was converted to 3-D after being filmed, and the extra dimension is so lamely used you almost forget why you're wearing the glasses at all.
The dialogue is heavy on exposition and makes you laugh where the filmmakers surely did not intend. One line goes something like "We must prove to them that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in what they believe in." Believe it!
At one point, the movie was dragging so slowly I found myself thinking more about the packages I'd mailed earlier in the day than what was on the screen. Let's see, if they get picked up today, and taken to the downtown post office by tomorrow, they should reach their destinations ... about the time this interminable movie finally slumps to an end.
But don't take it from me, take it from the nation's critics. Here's just a sampling of their opinions. At least one of them joined me in mentally mulling over minor personal chores as the movie slogged ahead.
"He's the missing Avatar, naturally — last survivor of the all-but-exterminated Air Nation — and they set out to save the world. If that sounds like a pile of spoilers, uh, no. That's what I learned in the first 10 minutes of the film, before I began exercising my own magic powers and writing shopping lists with my mind. Did my wife say laundry detergent or dishwasher detergent?" —Andrew O'Hehir, Salon
Agony and bad 3-D
"The Last Airbender" is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here. It puts a nail in the coffin of low-rent 3D, but it will need a lot more coffins than that." —Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Casting least of worries
"Based on a Asian-ish cartoon series called “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” the movie has been criticized for racially inappropriate casting, but that’s the least of its problems. The acting is laughable, the effects are phony, the editing is addled and the dialogue is disastrous." —Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Blew a bulb?
"Huge sets and unit work from Greenland to New Zealand all look strangely underlit. One wonders whether the projector blew a light bulb. The movie was foolishly converted to 3D after principal photography, but if anything, this conversion is worse than 'Clash of the Titans.'" —Kirk Honeycutt, Reuters
3-D gets an 'F'
"As for the 3-D, I'm tempted to leave responsible critical language behind and say, quite simply, that it sucks — except that the 3-D visuals in this movie would have to exist before they could be called terrible." —Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
Worst film of summer?
"A soul-crushing disaster made worse by unnecessary, counterproductive 3-D, 'The Last Airbender' fails to immediately qualify as the worst film of the summer only by virtue of the year's abundance of other candidates." —Todd Gilchrist, Cinematical
"The script is so incomprehensible, it's often difficult to follow, despite several instances of characters stopping whatever they're doing to explain what's going on." —Christy Lemire, AP
No sequels, please
"'The Last Airbender'? Let's hope so." —A.O. Scott, New York Times