As an anime and cartoon fan, I was, like many, anxiously awaiting the premiere of The Last Airbender. I have been a fan of M. Night Shyamalan since The Sixth Sense and felt that The Last Airbender was his comeback film. The jury is still out on that one. Suffice it to say, I was disappointed.
It wasn’t as if Airbender was bad, but it didn’t live up to the hype—or the original series’ storyline. I left the theater wishing Shyamalan had done more with the movie. Here’s the premise—Aang, a member of the Air Nomads, runs away from home after learning that he’s the next Avatar. He and his flying bison, Appa, (one of the few things that was right about the movie) are caught in a storm and forced into the sea. Aang saves them by creating an air bubble around them that freezes. Fast forward 100 years and Aang is discovered by Katara and Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe, a once-powerful waterbending people. Once freed, Aang desires to return home but is being hunted by Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation. The prince is in exile because he angered his father, Fire Lord Ozai, and can’t return home until he brings back the Avatar. His benevolent uncle Iroh travels with him.
Aang initially is captured by Prince Zuko and given a test which he easily passes. Prince Zuko feels that his honor will be restored but the Avatar escapes and reunites with Katara and Sokka. They fly off to the Air Nation temple where Aang makes a gruesome discovery. Aang now has to learn all the other elements if he is to stop the Fire Nation. They travel to the Northern Water Tribe to learn waterbending. Along the water, Aang and his friends free several villages that are under Fire Nation control. The Avatar’s reputation grows but Prince Zukko is hot on his trail.
The movie states that this is Book One in what appears to be a trilogy. Well, if this is Book One, then Books Two and Three better improve on the first. There is hope: Azula, Prince Zuko’s evil sister, will play a major part in Book Two. Shylaman had better study the cartoon and get her character correct or the second book will be a bust. While The Last Airbender had some good points (special effects, scenery, and martial arts techniques), it does not capture the essence of the cartoon. I give The Last Airbender two out of five stars. Let’s hope the second time is the charm.