How Bad is M. Night Shyamalan's New Movie? (Really Bad.)

Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan has a new movie out. It's called The Last Airbender; it is apparently based on some kind of cartoon; and it really, truly sucks. Like, "4 per cent 'fresh' on Rotten Tomatoes" sucks.

This is probably not very surprising to anyone who was unfortunate enough to see Shyamalan's last movie, The Happening, or his movie before that, The Lady in the Water, or, for that matter, the one before that, The Village, or its predecessor Signs, or, let's be honest, the movie before that one, Unbreakable. It may be surprising to the movie executives who signed off this project, because I assume they have not seen any of those movies, due to, if you had, you would not have allowed this to happen.

The Last Airbender is the tale of, oh, who the hell knows. It is basically Star Wars with a Buddhist "theme," and it stars Aasif Mandvi from The Daily Show. You may remember when this movie was being made there was a fair amount of controversy about the cast being largely white, when the characters in the source material were Asian. Attention, Asian community: You seem to have dodged a bullet.

What is wrong with this movie? Besides being directed by M. Night Shyalaman, I mean. Well: The script sucks, albeit hilariously, according to The Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan:

In fact, if there is anything that is intended to resonate with adults, at least parents of the New Age persuasion, it is the philosophical truisms that dot the dialogue, lines like "water teaches us acceptance," "you must let anger go," "there is no love without sacrifice" and the ever-popular, "is there a spiritual place where I can meditate?"

Do you mind if I just copy and paste some of that again, just for, you know, emphasis?

"water teaches us acceptance," "you must let anger go," "there is no love without sacrifice" and the ever-popular, "is there a spiritual place where I can meditate?"

Oh, wow! Maybe those lines can be redeemed by the acting? Ha. Ha! No, says Keith Phipps at the A.V. Club:

Shyamalan lets his unimpressive special effects do the work for him while coaxing performances from his young cast that make Jake Lloyd's performance in The Phantom Menace look studied.

Keith Phipps just went there. You must let anger go, Keith!

What else sucks about this movie, besides that it is worse than The Phantom Menace? Apparently it is quite dark, according to A.O. Scott of the New York Times. Not "dark," like, "mature and serious." "Dark," like, "you can't see a goddamn thing":

The movie is so dim and fuzzy that you might mistake your disposable 3-D glasses for someone else's prescription shades. And Mr. Shyamalan's fondness for shallow-focus techniques, with a figure in the foreground presented with sharp clarity against a blurred background, is completely out of place in the deep-focus world of modern 3-D.

Roger Ebert sums it up:

"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.

Aw, poor Ebert. Is there a spiritual place where you can go meditate, maybe?

[Rotten Tomatoes; Metacritic]