Continuing the animated TV series turned movies trail, let’s talk today about one of Nickelodeon’s most popular series that was adapted by none other than M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense fame), and won for him a lot of accolades, but in the worst categories, rather than best.
We are talking about his 2010 film – “The Last Airbender“.
|Movie||:||The Last Airbender|
M. Night Shyamalan
|Produced by||:||M. Night Shyamalan, Sam Mercer, Frank Marshall|
|Screenplay by||:||M. Night Shyamalan|
Avatar: The Last Airbender
by Michael Dante DiMartino and
|Music By||:||James Newton Howard|
|Production companies||:||Nickelodeon Movies, Blinding Edge Pictures, The Kennedy/Marshall Company|
|Distributed by||:||Paramount Pictures|
June 30, 2010 (New York City, premiere),
July 2, 2010 (United States)
|Starring||:||Noah Ringer (Aang), Dev Patel (Prince Zuko), Nicola Peltz (Katara), Jackson Rathbone (Sokka), Shaun Toub (Uncle Iroh[), Aasif Mandvi (Commander Zhao), Seychelle Gabriel (Princess Yue), Cliff Curtis (Fire Lord Ozai), Summer Bishil (Princess Azula), Francis Guinan (Master Pakku), Randall Duk Kim (Old man in temple), saac Jin Solstein (Haru), Keong Sim (Tyro), John Noble (Dragon Spirit), and others…|
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The TV series that inspired this film was called Avatar: The Last Airbender, and was quite a fusion of Dalai Lama meets Indian mythology meets Asian martial arts, and more. Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the series was very distinctly set in an Asian world that existed through the four basic elements of life: Fire, Earth Water and Air. Yes, very similar to the Indian theory of Panchmahabhuta: Bhoomi, Agni, Jal, Vayu and Aakash. (In our reviews of SHAKTIMAAN TV Serial, we talked about it in detail.)
The world of this animated TV series is looked after by the spirit guides and exists in parallel to a spiritual universe. The four elements are represented by people living as the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. In each nation / tribe, there is a special set of people who are born with ability to manipulate or “bend” the elements through their psychokinetic powers. The “bending” is achieved through controlled motions of martial arts and you can see elements of tai chi in waterbending, Hung Ga Kung Fu in Earthbending, Northern Shaolin Kung Fu in Firebenders and Baguazhang in Airbending.
While most people have to be content with bending only their birth elements, there is a special one born every few generations, called Avatar. The “Avatar” can bend all four elements and his/her purpose in life is to preserve the balance and harmony in the world. He/she is also capable of communicating with the guiding spirits of the otherworld.
The “Avatar” is “the one” spirit, so when he dies in one life, he is reincarnated immediately in the next life while he/she retains some knowledge of all the previous births. The reincarnations are born in a different tribe every life, based on their place in the natural cycle of Fire, Air, Water and Earth in that order. So, if the Avatar born in the Fire nation dies, his reincarnation is born in the Air Nomads and so on.
The search for the Avatar is quite like the search for the next Dalai Lama. At the age of 12, the children of the relevant tribe are offered 1000 toys to choose from. The “Avatar” always chooses the same 04 toys in each birth and the child then starts on the journey to gain the knowledge of all four elements and also understand his/her responsibilities in this life.
The TV series provided the background and previous stories in form of flashbacks, but the 2010 film focuses on the story of Aang: The Last Airbender. Let’s take a quick look at the story:
Experience the thrilling live-action adventure based on the hit Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender.
It has been almost a century since the death of last Avatar Roku, who stopped the Fire Lord Sozin, from starting a world war to rule over other nations. His next re-incarnation was born in the Air Nomads and at the age of 12, Aang was recognized to be the next Avatar. The prospect of never having a normal life however terrified Aang and he ran away on a hybrid bison Appa. When they got caught in a storm on the ocean, Aang entered the “Avatar” state and sought refuge in an iceberg.
While Aang disappeared, Sozin carried out a genocide to wipe out all Air Nomads, in order to prevent the next Avatar. The hundred years’ war was started wherein the Fire Nation slowly gained control over the rest of the world, Sozin’s plans being followed through by his son Azulon and then his grandson Ozai, who is the current Fire Lord.
The film starts with the release of Aang from the iceberg in the village of the Southern Water tribe. Right on cue, the Fire Nation’s exiled prince Zuko arrives in the village in search of him and captures him. The last remaining waterbender in the village is fourteen year old Katara, who with her brother Sokka, become the first allies of Aang as he escapes Zuko.
While Aang is an excellent Airbender, he doesn’t have the knowledge of other elements, and it is imperative for him to learn these in order to accept his responsibilities as an Avatar. So, Aang, Katara and Sukko start a journey to the Northern Water tribes, where Aang can learn waterbending. The Fire Nation is hot on their pursuit and follows them all the way with a threat to destroy the last stronghold of the Water Tribes.
The film continues on Aang’s emotional and spiritual journey as he finally comes to acceptance of his grief of having abandoned his fellow Air Nomads and rest of the world to the mercy of the Fire Nation by shunning his responsibilities. As he lets his emotions flow, he finally masters waterbending and lets the ocean loose on the Fire Nation Ships and then controls it back. But, this is only a start of his journey……………
The premise is absolutely riveting and the TV series was received very well by the viewers as well critics, but the film unfortunately did not live upto the fans’ expectations. Starting from the star cast, which included Caucasian and Indian actors playing Asian characters to the script that has a feeling of disjointedness to the “not-so-brilliant-acting” by more than one actors, lets the film down heavily. The special effects and visual are gorgeous though, and even thought the film was berated by the critics and won awards for “The worst film of the year”, it did moderately well at the box office and still continue to do business in form of action figures and toys.
So don’t hesitate to watch a re-run of the animated series on Nickeodean when you get a chance and the film is also not so bad if you have couple of extra hours to kill…..
Five out of Ten.
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