Racism May Be Least of Problems With M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender

Protests greeted last night's opening of The Last Airbender as folks in Seattle, Los Angeles and perhaps elsewhere publicly complained M. Night Shyamalan's new movie discriminates based on race.

This is based on the production's selection of white lead actors to play characters widely acknowledged by the creators to be Asian or Inuit in the original animated series.

But what should be more troubling for Shyamalanadingdong is what others are saying about Airbender: It just plain sucks.

Racism May Be Least of Problems With M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender

Airbender is about four nations (Water, Earth, Fire, and Air) peopled by Waterbenders, Earthbenders, Firebenders and Airbenders who have mastered their native elements. Only a 12-year-old boy known as the Avatar can manipulate all four elements and maintain harmony. When it appears he has died, the Fire Nation launches a global war to rule the world. A hundred years later, and with the world in chaos, it is discovered the Avatar was not dead but locked in suspended animation. Once unlocked, will he be able to restore harmony among the war-ravaged nations?

Shyamalan, who has gone on record saying that The Last Airbender is the most ethnically diverse movie ever, may be wondering if he can restore harmony with the folks behind Racebending.com, which organized its opposition to his movie long before it opened this week.

But worse for his flick, which is in theaters countywide, is this: only nine positive reviews, 88 negative ones, and an average rating of 3 on Rotten Tomatoes, which compiles the reviews of film critics across the country.

At least for now, that makes The Last Airbender the worst reviewed movie of summer 2010. And that's saying something, since it's been a season of bombs and disappointments already, with some calling it the worst ever--despite the raves for Toy Story 3, the success of The Karate Kid, and the at least middling reviews for The A-Team and Twilight: Eclipse.

Robert Dougherty puts it all in perspective for Yahoo:

The Last Airbender review scores are low, even by M. Night Shyamalan standards. If The Last Airbender review stats are that bad, then The Last Airbender must be truly terrible. However, those aren't the only low standards that this movie may have surpassed. Being ranked lower than Lady in the Water and The Happening is one thing for the film. Yet, getting worse write-ups than Sex and the City 2, Marmaduke, Grown Ups, Killers and Jonah Hex is something else. Impossibly, The Last Airbender review scores are that bad, bringing the summer 2010 season even lower.

Some have accused critics, who hailed Shyamalan as the next Spielberg when The Sixth Sense came out, of having piled on the filmmaker ever since because nothing he has produced could possibly stand up to the out-of-nowhere sensation of 1999.

But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding pop: Unbreakable, The Village, Lady in the Water and The Happening. Indeed, Signs is the only Shyamalan film that came close to rivaling the deserved acclaim for The Sixth Sense.

I see dead film careers.


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