02 June 2009

What to Expect From The Last Airbender

Some may argue that The Last Airbender is not a "superhero." Well, I would assert that Aang is a hero, and he certainly has super powers. I mean, can you control the four elements? I didn't think so. Thus, the upcoming The Last Airbender will be covered on this site.

The movie is based on a popular animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender which aired for three seasons on Nickelodeon. Each episode of the series was introduced as follows:

Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony; but that all changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements could stop them, but when the world needed him most...he vanished. A hundred years past and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, and airbender named Aang. And although his airbending skills are great...he has a lot to learn before he is ready to save anyone. But I believe...Aang can save the world.

Here is perhaps a better description for the uninitiated:

In a world where the four elements (Fire, Earth, Water, and Air) can be controlled, the Fire Nation is waging a ruthless, oppressive war to control the other great nations. The only hope for stopping the brutal Firebenders rests on the shoulders of a reluctant young boy named Aang. The last known survivor of the peaceful Air Nomads (Airbenders), Aang is also the "Avatar", the physical incarnation of the world itself who possesses the ability to manipulate all four elements. Aided by a protective teenage Waterbender named Katara and her bull-headed brother Sokka, Aang begins a perilous journey to restore balance to their war-torn world. Standing in his way is the Prince Zuko, the banished Prince of the Fire Nation, who seeks to capture the young Avatar in order to restore his honor.

The series had a surprising amount of character development, continuity, and cultural detail for each of the 4 element-based nations in the show. Also, the main antagonist, Zuko, was a refreshingly developed and interesting villain.

The movie incarnation is dropping the Avatar to avoid confusion with the upcoming but unrelated James Cameron movie Avatar (what are the chances of two films called Avatar being made at the same time?). It is hoped that this live-action adaptation will launch a trilogy of films, each based on a season long arc of the original series.

The original source material was superb (check out my season 1 review), but I am apprehensive about this film series. In animation, it is much more believable that kids could win a fight with adults. But in live action, I don't care how many black belts you have, an unpowered kid shouldn't be able to defeat an adult soldier. Its just not believable, see The Chronicles of Narnia. The film is going to be directed by M Night Shyamalamadingdong, who I personally like quite a bit, but who has fallen from popular favor over his last few films. Hopefully, people wont expect a trademark twist from The Last Airbender and will give M Night a break.

The film also got off to a controversial casting of an all white group of kids to represent the ethnically diverse characters from the original series. This has since been somewhat rectified with some recasting. The Last Airbender opens on July 2, 2010, hoping to capitalize on the 4th of July Weekend. I have tempered high hopes. Look for the trailer to be attached to this months Transformers 2.

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