Guest Review: The Last Airbender

Adapted from Avatar: The Last Airbender, one of Nickelodeon’s best animated series to date, The Last Airbender is M. Night Shyamalan’s live-action version of the three season show that follows the tale of a cute yet powerful ten-year-old named Aang (Noah Ringer) who lives in an ancient Earth world. Here, as the film’s introduction describes inhabits four nations, each representing  water, earth, fire or air. Aang is a young airbender, the last of his kind in fact and is the most recent incarnation of the Avatar, the only one with the power to control all of the four elements. In order to end a longtime war amongst the nations and restore balance in the world, Aang and his friends, siblings Katara (Nikola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) of the Water Tribes, must defeat the conquering Fire Nation.

For a story with as much detail and character development as the original television show, Shyamalan, in order to get to the “good parts”, seems to rush through important points either by ignoring them all together or glazing over them with an unmoving and clunky voice over by the young waterbender Katara. But even an extra half an hour onto the 94 minute running time would not have saved the film from its awkward script.  While a little rewriting is to be expected, Shyamalan butchers moments and locations that hailed from memorable events in the series (diehard Avatar fans know what really happened on the Island of Kyoshi). With the uncomfortable acting and staging, one is left wondering why Shyamalan chose to cast the adorable but painfully rigid child actors.

Agreed, it can be a tall order to adapt a television series into a standard length feature film and capture the spirit of what made the television show a success without missing a few details that may slow down the film’s momentum, but it might have behooved Nickelodeon to enlist the talents of a director or screenwriter with experience condensing vast a storyline and whose last three films did not bomb with critics and box offices.

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This review was written by  Chesney Davis, founder and editor in chief of Vintage on Philly.

Visit her official blog at:  www.vintageonphilly.blogspot.com

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