The Last Airbender

The Last Airbender

In Theatres: 
Jul 02, 2010

Voice actor Dee Bradley Baker voiced Appa and Momo in the original animated show "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (2005) and reprises those roles for the live-action film adaptation.

M. Night Shyamalan is famous for his larger than life stories that typically feature some sort of twist towards the end. His latest feature, The Last Airbender, is not one of those films.

Based off the popular Nickelodeon cartoon by the same name, the film follows four kingdoms based on the elementals of Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. A select few known as Benders are able to control the elements and bend them to their will. That was around a century ago as currently the Fire Nation has practically taken over and forbidden the practice of bending. All hope seems lost when suddenly Aang (Noah Ringer) appears and happens to be the Avatar, a special being with the power to bend all four elements.

The film takes place over the first season or book of the show. You see, Aang has been frozen in captivity for 100 years and is still a little boy. He also can only bend his natural element, air. To defeat the Fire Nation, he's going to have to learn the rest of the elements, beginning with Water.

Turning a cartoon into a live-action film can be troublesome. On one hand, you don't want to disappoint the fans of the series but then again, you want to attract a new audience as well. Avatar was colorful and lighthearted yet still had action and adventure. The Last Airbender seems to forget the former two and simply focus on the action and adventure parts. Colors typically consist of varying shades of blue and red. While I can see why that is done, the film will never match the vibrancy of the cartoon.

Some of the coolest effects come from the manipulation of fire and water. If you've seen the trailer, you know what I'm talking about. What I don't understand is why it takes so long for them to start bending. First they must do these ridiculous looking motions before they're able to control the elements. In reality, they'd be dead by the time anything got done.

The majority of the characters are represented in the film. Aang is accompanied by Katara (Nicola Peltz) and her brother, Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) on his quest. Then there is the disowned prince of the Fire Nation, Zuko (Dev Patel) who must regain his honor by capturing the Avatar. Truthfully, Patel is one of the few characters who shows any sort of depth. Fans of the series will be familiar with his inner struggle for acceptance and I think the film portrays that well. As for the rest of the cast, I wasn't too impressed with their acting skills. Sure they may be able to throw a punch or swing a sword, but when it comes to having a conversation they completely fail.

I'm not going to even talk about the film in 3D. Let's just say that if a film is produced in 2D, it should remain that way. We've seen how good 3D can look and simply converting it afterwards just doesn't cut it. Don't waste the extra money on it. That is all.

The Last Airbender has its faults like any other movie but manages to tell a decent story. Besides, up was the only place to go after M. Night Shyamalan's last abomination that was The Happening. The bending effects are cool and should the film do well, we can expect to see a few sequels in the following years. Still, I can't help but feel that it would have been better off as a high production animated film.

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Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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