The Last Airbender (2010)

Rated PG. Our Ratings: V-4 ;L-1 ; S/N -1 Running time: 1 hour 34 min.

Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.
Psalm 71-1-4

Our heroic band travel by air.

2010 Paramount Pictures

Director M. Night Shyamalan latest film is based on the popular Nickelodeon animated TV series “Ava tar: the Last Airbender” that ran from 2005 to 2008. Judging by the lame results, it would have been best to leave the series to the cable system.

In the Airbender series the world is divided into four kingdoms, based on the old traditional elements, Water, Air, Earth, and Fire. A supreme Avatar with the power of “bending,” that is controlling, all four elements, is supposed to keep them in balance. However, the last Air Avatar named Aang (Noah Ringer) disappeared a hundred years earlier before he had learned to control all four elements. The ruler of the Fire nation Lord Ozai (Cliff Curtis) wants to control the world, so he captures anyone with even the slightest ability to bend an element. He is so harsh that he has exiled his own son Prince Zuko (Dev Patel), who is accompanied by his uncle Iroh (Shaun Toub). Indeed, Lord Ozai is about the opposite of the ideal king described in the royal psalms of Israel. Thus this would-be ruler of all four kingdoms has shattered badly the balance or harmony of the world.

A brother and sister from the Water Tribe, Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) and Katara (Nicola Peltz), discover a 12-year-old monk-child from the Air Tribe encased in a block of ice with his gigantic dragon-like furry steed. Thawed out, the boy turns out to be Aang, now ready to assume his rightful role. First, if he is to prevail over Lord Ozai, he needs to learn how to bend water, which requires a trek to the Northern Water Kingdom. Sokka and Katara vow to help and protect him in the venture. Standing in their way is Prince Zuko, who, hoping to regain royal favor, intends to capture Aang and turn him over to his father.

This is one of those adventure films, depending more on computer effects than believable characters and action, that just does not seem to come together. The attempt to transform it into a 3-D film (and thus rake in some extra cash) messed up the look of the film. I was also put off by the casting of Caucasian actors in the role of the heroes/heroines and Asians in the roles of the villains. M. Night Shyamalan, of all directors, should have been more sensitive to this!

I have never seen the cable series, but I presume that it is better than the movie derived from it. The peacemaking theme and Asian mythological basis also could have been explored a little more deeply, though, of course, this is a kid’s film, which means heroes and villains and themes must be kept at a fairly simple level—still, I wonder what the folk at Pixar could have done with this material? There is no comparing this film to Wall-E!