The Last Airbender: An Expensive Disaster

But the soldiers of the Fire Nation, whose firebenders can lob flameballs (which sound cool but are largely ineffective throughout), are forbidden to kill the Avatar (he would just be reborn), and the Avatar is forbidden by the spirit world to kill the fire people. Moreover, the Avatar, who at the moment is just coming into his skills but will eventually be master of fire, earth, and water, is already an airbender, meaning he can kick up a cloud of hot air and literally blow people away if they try to nab him. He is also highly skilled in martial arts and can out-leap and out-spin anyone.

So (the audience figures this out even though no one on screen does) he is essentially impossible to keep prisoner. The main body of the movie consists of him being repeatedly captured by the rival warriors and then slipping away. Because the Fire Nation can’t kill him, at one point they simply let him escape.

The Avatar is one of the most boring superheroes ever presented on screen; the child actor playing him is dull and straightforward and Shyamalan doesn’t give him any shadings. He’s just a noble hero on the run -- and as we watch him taken prisoner and then running away again this story line looks like it could keep repeating itself forever. He spends much of the movie trying to add waterbending to his airbending ability, but since his airbending technique alone seems plenty to keep him safe, this isn’t much of a subplot and seems to be featured mainly so the CGI artists can work up a hugely expensive-looking (though uninvolving) climax in which vast amounts of water get manipulated.

Like The Golden Compass, another movie with yards of exposition for every inch of forward momentum, The Last Airbender is full of magical creatures and fantastical situations -- but there’s no fun in it, and watching it is more like work than entertainment. These days, chosen ones seem to be intent on being repetitive, wasting lots of money and taking themselves far too seriously.