Is Last Airbender the Worst Movie Ever?

Reviews for M. Night Shyamalan's big-budget epic are epically harsh, but how'd it do at the box office?

By Joal Ryan Jul 02, 2010 7:47 PMTags
Dev Patel, The Last AirbenderParamount Pictures

The Last Airbender is "dull," "dreadful," and, lowest of low blows, "like a Care Bears movie."

Well, all right, hardly any movie gets perfect reviews. But has any film ever gotten so many bad reviews?

The short answer is Battlefield Earth—meaning, yes, other films have been blasted good by critics. But, boy, oh boy, in Hollywood's summer of unloved movies, The Last Airbender, which opened Thursday, is getting some historic hate. 

As of this morning, its Metacritic rating stood at 20, "good" for a spot on the review-crunching site's all-time low scores list. (Airbender's down there between Digimon: The Movie and the Lisa Kudrow rap classic, Marci X.) Worse, outside of Ashton Kutcher's and Katherine Heigl's Killers, Airbender is the only 2010 wide release on the Metacritic's list of shame. 

Things are no better at Rotten Tomatoes, where its Tomatometer reading is a barely there 9 percent, which is actually up from yesterday's 6 percent. (For the record, our own Luke Y. Thompson assigned the "most boring summer-action epic in ages" a D+.)

Even before the bad reviews came along, it's been a rough ride for The Last Airbender, which couldn't call itself Avatar: The Last Airbender, like the animated series it's based on, because of some little James Cameron project: Avatar-something.

The film's also been dogged by criticism that director M. Night Shyamalan cast too many non-Asians in Asian roles. Time magazine's Richard Corliss tried to disarm the controversy with perhaps the film's most devastating review. In it, he argues that "actors who didn't get to be in The Last Airbender are like the passengers who arrived too late to catch the final flight of the Hindenburg."

But before you write off the reputedly $150 million behemoth as a disaster, two things: (1) At the fan-review site Flixster, the film's a hit; and, (2) At the box office, the film's a non-bomb, scoring a solid, if non-Eclipse-ian $16 million opening day.

So, maybe the Care Bears thing was meant as a compliment?


See what else is hitting theaters in our Totally New Releases gallery.