The Last Airbender Movie Review
admovieso | April 6, 2012 | No comments
The Last Airbender was inspired by M. Night Shyamalan’s love of the Nickelodeon series after watching his daughter’s enthusiasm for it. This is a lovely tribute to a father’s love for his daughters and what they care about, but it may not be the best reason for the creation of a film. First of all, "The Last Airbender", in TV cartoon form, appeals to a very young audience. No matter what filmmakers do, it’s difficult to reinvent a cartoon like this and to make it appeal to older audiences.
This is “Book One: Water”, apparently part of a series, so that we can expect at least one movie sequel. For this one film to extend into a three part series depends on whether the world is ready to embrace a film based on a child’s imagination in which children save the world and adults are either mentors or villains.
Another conundrum posed by this film, created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, is its casting. The Nickelodeon series is obviously and without question based on Asian an Inuit culture. Shyamalan has decided that most of the cast of the movie should be white. Considering that Shyamalan is from India, one might think that he would be interested in giving the film more of a multi-cultural, if not an Asian, bias. Except for Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire") and Indian-American actor Aasif Mandvi, who play villains, most of the other actors are white. Unfortunately, this faux pas in casting has caused a bit of controversy and the film is losing credibility due to this controversy.
What’s the story behind The Airbender? Well, once upon a time there was harmony between all of the nations which included Fire, Earth, Air and Water. This is due to the talent of an Avatar, who could “bend” (control) all four. Unfortunately, this avatar has disappeared.
Fast forward a century. The ruling nation is now Fire. Fire rules through violence. At this time two other of the movies cast, Katara, played by Nicola Peitz, who is a waterbender, and her brother, Sokka, played by Jackson Rathbone, last seen in “Twilight”, meet a child named Aang, played by Noah Ringer. Surprise, surprise: Aang turns out to be the missing avatar who is also the reincarnation of all past avatars.
Why was the avatar missing? He decided to run away from home! This seems like an odd story turn for those attuned to more complicated plots but might work for a young audience.
Aang ran away before he could be taught by monks how to do anything but bend air, so for this movie, and presumably the sequels, he will be learning all the other bending he needs to know to bring about world peace.
This film is going up against other movies playing in theaters this summer like The Karate Kid, a film full of violence. Audiences enjoy violence and action. But how is The Airbender going to provide an action-packed bloody competition to The Karate Kid when 1) the point is made more than once that there’s no reason to kill Aang as he will simply reincarnate over and over and 2) He has been raised as a Buddhist so he’s not allow to hurt anyone else? Even though there are loads of fights and action, there’s no blood, hence the PG rating. There are plenty of water crystals that incapacitate fighters, bloodlessly, of course.
This is Shyamalan’s first epic movie and its review is something akin to “Ho Hum.” The movie seems to be in need of more or better lighting, which seems to be in tune with its less than stellar action.
The saving grace of this movie is the child actor Ringer, who plays Aang. He is from Dallas, has a bald head, and is a master of tae kwon do and is wonderful in the part of Aang. It would have been smarter for Shyamalan to spend more time on Aang rather than all of the strange creatures, heroes, and villains he depends on for the movie’s story line.
Aang and his tattooed head provide more substance to The Airbender than any other part of the movie. It’s too bad that Shyamalan didn’t see this himself.