By Chris Nashawaty
Updated November 09, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST

Have you seen M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense lately? Trust me, it’s as haunting and note-perfect as it was back in 1999. I’d even argue that his follow-up, 2000’s Unbreakable, is the best superhero movie ever made — even better than The Dark Knight. So what the hell ? happened to the guy once hyped as ”the next Steven Spielberg”? How did it all go so wrong? Well, for starters, there was his whole Twilight Zone signature twist-ending thing. Boy, that magic trick got old fast. By the time he was pulling 2002’s Signs and 2004’s The Village out of his hat, the audience was yawning, wondering what else he had in his cabinet of wonders. Evidently, not much. The reviews of Shyamalan’s movies got uglier and more personal, as if the critics felt betrayed and wanted to take him down a peg. Meanwhile, the director was doing a pretty good job of that himself. His latest film, the kids’ action fantasy The Last Airbender (2010, PG, 1 hr., 43 mins.), may be his biggest disappointment yet. The adaptation of a popular animated Nickelodeon series is an overly earnest slog weighed down with mystical mumbo jumbo and messianic hooey. Noah Ringer plays Aang, a monklike boy who can control the elements (water, earth, fire, and air) and bend them with a little help from what one assumes is F/X house ILM’s B team. He’s basically a bland Luke Skywalker being hunted by a bratty Darth Vader (Slumdog Millionaire‘s Dev Patel). Worst of all is the ending — once Shyamalan’s ace card — which sets up a sequel. It’s a twist no one would want to see coming. The best thing about the disc is the EXTRAS, especially a pop-up-video feature that flashes interviews and behind-the-scenes anecdotes alongside the film. Airbender: C-

The Last Airbender

  • Movie
  • M. Night Shyamalan