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THE LAST AIRBENDER (2010)

Movie review by David Blackwell

 

103 minutes, rated PG

STUDIO:  Paramount pictures/ Nickelodeon Films/ Blinding Edge Pictures/ Kennedy-Marshall Company

Theatrical RELEASE DATE:   7-1-2010

 

STARRING Noah Ringer (Aang), Dev Patel (Prince Zuko), Nicola Peltz (Katara), Jackson Rathbone (Sokka), Shaun Toub (Uncle Iroh), Aasif Mandvi (Commander Zhao), Cliff Curtis (Fire Lord Ozai), Seychelle Gabriel (Princess Yue)

WRITTEN and DIRECTED by M. Night Shyamalan

Based on the animated series, AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER

Katara is the last Waterbender of the South Water Kingdom.  One day, she and her brother Sokka come across a sphere of broken ice that contains Aang, the last Airbender.   Aaang has been frozen for 100 years during which the Fire Nation (one of four nations based on the natural elements- Air, Earth, Fire, and Water) has waged war on the other nations.  Aang is the last Airbender and also the next in line of Avatars.   The Avatar can bring balance to the elements and he also can talk to the spirits.

 

Katara and Sokka help Aang on his quest to unite the four nations and bring peace to the world again.  In their way are banished Prince Zuko (who must bring the Avatar to his father- the Fire Lord- if he wants to be the next ruler of the Fire Nation) and Commander Zhao of the Fire Nation (a general of the Fire Nation).   Aang also seeks to master the element of Water.   Zuko’s uncle is torn between wanting peace and serving Zuko.  He evens tries to get Zuko give up his quest and settle down.

 

THE LAST AIRBENDER is the first of a proposed trilogy.  The first film is Book One: Water.  It compresses the whole season of the TV series into over 100 minutes.   The director said he cut out bits of humor because he felt it detracted from the film.  THE LAST AIRBENDER is sometimes a little too serious.  It is a good visual experience.  The 3D conversion is wasted here and the film appears a little flat for it.  Paramount could have saved the money and not converted this film into 3D.   I enjoyed the film, but the reviews reveal that fans of the animated series hate this adaptation.   Yes, the character names are mispronounced.  Aang comes out sounding like Ung.   The lead playing Aang is no great actor- just barely above the ability of the kid who played Anakin Skywalker in the first STAR WARS prequel.   THE LAST AIRBENDER isn’t a total fail in the acting department as some good actors do their best with the script.   Dev Patel is good as Prince Zuko and Jackson Rathbone is good as Sokka.  The narrative is too rushed which makes me think M Night can direct, but he isn’t the best writer or editor.  

 

If THE LAST AIRBENDER is successful enough, hopefully Paramount can find a better writer and another director for the next movie.   The only thing that stands in the way of a sequel is the amount of money it will make.   If it performs poorly, no sequel like better adaptations before it (THE GOLDEN COMPASS that deserves a sequel failed to perform well in the USA while New Line foolishly sold overseas rights where the film did quite well).   If the film does well, the sequel will have to win the hearts and minds of the fans who hate the first movie (if online reviews are the trend to follow).   THE LAST AIRBENDER (as it stands) is a great visual piece only to be brought down by the poor kid acting, a rushed story, and a script that could have been better.

 

This movie review is 7-3-2010 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission.  Send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com