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The Last Airbender review [Jul. 4th, 2010|09:52 pm]
Movie Reviews: Write them or Read them


Animation in the U.S. is rarely viewed as a place for for thoughtful stories, unless the creators are shooting for satire it doesn't happen very often. So it was a breath of fresh air when Avatar: The Last Airbender showed up. It mixes various cultures, ideas and comes up with its own mythology in its own unique world. It's no surprise a movie was put into production simply called The Last Airbender losing part of its title, because of some other Avatar.

The idea is there is a world where people can control (or bend) the four elements of water, earth, fire and air. Groups are built on one of those elements, so there are the Water Tribes, the Air Nomads, the Earthworkers of Ba Sing Se and the Fire Nation. If any of these groups get out of hand the Avatar steps in. The Avatar is the one person who can control all the elements. Unfortunately, the Avatar has been missing for years allowing the Fire Nation to wipe out the Air Nomads and start taking over the world. Two kids from a water tribe wake the Avatar. The problem is he's still a kid named Aang and while he has the potential to control all the elements he has only mastered air. The kids go on a quest to train Aang so he can save the world.

You couldn't put the picture in better hands than M. Night Shyamalan who both adapted his screenplay from the animated series and directed it as well. This is Shyamalan's first real chance to do action and for the most part it's well done. Framing and shots are executed in a compelling manor and there is no doubt he can direct a good action scene. He actually has more problem in the writing area. The movie covers the entire first season of A:TLA and there's a lot of events and plot points that over the course of several episodes that have to be stuffed into a 2 hour movie. Much of which has to be done through exposition.

For exposition you have to rely on the skills of the actors to make sometimes ridiculous lines sound natural. Many of the stars of The Last Airbender are new to acting and they have to do a lot of that sort of thing here. Besides exposition we have a voice over narration by Nicola Peltz (who plays Katara) which is lifeless. Noah Ringer (Aang) has to play a "Once more into the breach" type scene that sounds more pleading than inspiring. Fortunately, acting does not drive this sort of movie action and CGI do.

The CGI effects are the standard well done efforts that most movies do very well these days. TLA could not have been made as quickly and seamlessly even a few years ago. The tech lets any imaginary thing look real. So when fire is thrown at the earth it is very believable.

Those that have never seen the animated series might be lost going to see The Last Airbender. The effects and action make up for it. The picture is enjoyable, but you are probably further ahead watching the animated series. It's rare for animation to beat out live action, but this time it does