THE LAST AIRBENDER (D: M. Night Shyamalan, 93 min). Opens Friday (July 2). For venues, times and trailers, see Movies. Rating: N
Small children and 3-D fans deserve better than this poorly made, spiritless live-action rendering of an animated kids' series about a young boy with untrained mystic powers who wakens from a 100-year sleep to discover that his world is at war and it's up to him to set things right.
A few moments in the final battle and some panoramic establishing shots of fantastic cities look cool. But the arm-waving that the goodies and baddies engage in to hurl bolts of CG fire and water at each other just looks silly, and the six-legged flying furry our hero uses moves well, but has the face of a Maurice Sendak reject.
Between arm-waving scenes, we're treated to much leaden over-exposition of an underdeveloped plot. The acting, here and throughout, is not quite up to after school-special standards, except for Dev Patel as the evil Prince Zuko. He works hard at being sullen, but with a face born to play Archie's pal Jughead... it's an uphill battle.
The 3-D, which looks like it was added in post-production, is only noticeable in a handful of shots and it doesn't add much. It's disappointing that M. Night Shyamalan, a director who has devoted his career to exploring otherworldly feelings, can't even raise a tear at the key moments.
The ending is a clear sequel set-up, but maybe we'll get lucky and this really will be The Last Airbender.