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"Last Airbender" is superficial spectacle

By Josh Law
On July 7, 2010

"The Last Airbender" is a film based on the Nickelodeon television program "Avatar: The Last Airbender" in which people of different nations are given special abilities to manipulate elements such as fire, water and earth.

The lead character, Aang (Noah Ringer), has returned to his world after a hundred year absence to find the Fire Nation has waged war upon the others. Aang represents the last of his kind, the Air Nation, and is also what is known in the film as an "avatar," one who has the gift of bending the elements.

Aang must learn to manipulate all of the elements, thereby bringing peace to the nations of the "benders", and re-establishing himself as the keystone avatar who brings harmony to the families.

The special effects in this film were outstanding. When the characters manipulated their individual elements during the battle scenes, the fluidity of the animation was incredible. This made for very good climactic fight sequences. All of the background CGI used for the castles and countryside was absolutely breathtaking as well, and when animal characters were introduced, the computer graphics were spot on.

However, there were many times when the screen became very blurry during these sequences, which could be attributed to its conversion to a 3-D format.

The plot lacked real character development, which made it very difficult to get close to any of the characters, and distracted from the philosophical ideas the movie intended to portray.

"The Last Airbender" is based around the concepts of balance and mediation, and the belief that in order for one group or nation to exist, there have to be others around to keep the balance. These concepts are very meaningful, and if they had been presented correctly, could have had a profound impact on the viewer's enjoyment. Since there was little to no real character development though, I found it difficult to feel the movie on a deeper level.

The poor choices for actors and their performance during the film were other sore spots in the movie. There were times during the film where the actors did not perform up to par for what we would expect out of a mainstream movie from Hollywood, much less a movie by director M. Night Shayamalan.

The actors who presented good qualities were almost all white in a film steeped in Eastern culture and philosophy, which I found a little strange when contrasted to the fact that many of the characters who exhibit warlike or evil qualities in the film are of a darker skin tone. It calls into question why those specific choices were made during casting.

Overall, "The Last Airbender" was a good film for quick consumption and digestion. It is candy for your eyes and has a good meaning behind it, but I would rather experience it in the theaters in 3-D than at home on the DVD player.

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