Who's In It: Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Dev Patel
The Basics: In a fantasy world consisting of four nations: Earth, Air, Fire and Water, only the Fire people are really doing well. And that's because they set everyone on fire. And the Avatar, who's the only guy who can "bend" and control all the elements, has gone missing for a hundred years. But then, boom, he's back, in the form of a worried-face kid--understandable, since it's sort of his fault that the whole world's gone to hell in his absence--with a tattooed forehead who is also the last person who can bend air, which he does via a kind of silly slow-motion disco tai chi that reminded me of Terence Stamp vamping around in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. He has also somehow resurrected that giant horned otter/dog thing from The NeverEnding Story to ride around on too, which was kind of him.
What's The Deal: This is a kid's movie that doesn't seem to realize that it's a kid's movie. It moves slowly and solemnly and only comes alive in the way that kids enjoy in fits and starts. (The screening I attended was sold out with under-10s and they liked it when people got kicked in the butt and bonked on the head, otherwise they were restless and clomping up and down the aisles and kicking my seat.) But it made me think of this one boring, bad kid movie I saw as a child called The Island at the Top of the World. Terrible movie. And on some level, even though I was young, i knew that. But I went anyway because it was a movie to go see and I had a good time because I was at a movie. And I remember the last part when they got to the island at the top of the world being pretty exciting. And, weirdly enough, the last bit of this movie is sort of rousing too, which will make its target demo happy enough to say they enjoyed themselves. Only later in life will all the little kids in the theater I was at today re-watch this on TV and think, "Wait, I used to like this crap?"
How It's Different From That Other Movie M. Night Shyamalan Made About Air: In this one the air isn't chasing people and killing them, it's just making them doze off. I did. Twice. Thankfully I had friends along to elbow me back into wakefulness.
About That Post-Racial Casting: On the one hand, the original animated TV show is set in a fantasy world where everything is sort of Asian-y yet non-specific, so you might attempt to argue that anyone or any race could be in the movie. On the other hand, they specifically chose white people to be in this and they deserve to be called out for it, even if Shyamalan himself isn't Caucasian.
How To See It If You're Going To See It: In 2D. Having missed the advance press screening I got to make the choice for myself. And I had already been told that the 3D for this one--where a lot of vital plot stuff goes down in scenes that take place at night--was even worse than Clash of The Titans if you can believe that. So that's what I did. And you should too.