M. Night Shyamalan’s humorless and disjointed film adaptation of the excellent animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is an hour and a half of tedium. Often flashy but lacking in emotional tug, “The Last Airbender” tries to remain faithful to the source material but ends up alienating both those familiar and unfamiliar with the three-season cartoon series.
Important scenes translate as one bulletpoint after another, with barely anything between them to make the viewer care for the characters. It’s hard to give a damn about Aang (Noah Ringer), the recently revived airbender Avatar, who must master his manipulation of the four elements and stop the war started by the Fire Nation. His allies, Water Tribe siblings Sokka and Katara (Jackson Rathbone and Nicole Peltz), barely develop distinct personalities because the story keeps zooming and jumping to the next key scene.
The action starts weakly with the unconvincing revolt of the earthbender prisoners; however, it isn’t a sign of bad stunt sequences to come. The other effects-enhanced fights improve, and they’re about the only watchable things in the movie. Appa the flying bison does nothing; Dev Patel’s Zuko isn’t majestic or pained enough; the Fire Lord (Cliff Curtis) isn’t devastatingly charismatic or mysterious. And there aren’t philosophical or spiritual insights, which made the epic series more layered than the average cartoon show.