In a divided land where separate nations have each learned to harness the power of an element, a hugely destructive war has broken out. Started by the ruler of the Fire nation, Lord Ozai (Cliff Curtis), the conflict has had a devastating effect on the nations of Earth, Air and Water. There's only one individual who can bring balance to the land, a mystical figure known as the Avatar who has the unique ability to manipulate all of the elements. Missing for a century, 12-yearold Aang (Noah Ringer) is found frozen in ice by teenage siblings Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone). The last of the Airbenders - a people who are able to manipulate air - Aang must learn how to use the other elements and bring unity to the kingdom, while Ozai's son, the embittered Prince Zuko (Dev Patel), doggedly hunts down the young mystic.
Arriving on a wave of notoriety, M. Night Shyamalan's critically savaged adaptation of the popular Nickelodeon animation certainly won't win over those determined to ridicule the work of the beleaguered The Sixth Sense director. Then again its intended preteen audience shouldn't be disappointed and will probably overlook the wooden acting of its young stars and the general incomprehensibility of the narrative.
Navigating Shyamalan's blend of muddled mysticism and elemental action is admittedly rather mindbending, but Industrial Light and Magic's impressive special effects ensure that it's satisfying to the eyes if not the grey matter.
Fortunately, Dev Patel is rather effective in his second big screen role following Slumdog Millionaire, although his change of fortunes from appearing in an Oscar-winning sensation to showing up in a box office disappointment shows just how fickle a Hollywood career can be.
Although Shyamalan's assertion that this film would be first of a trilogy may have been a little premature, The Last Airbender isn't quite the disaster some might expect, but it's certainly a tale that will be best appreciated by younger viewers.