The Last Airbender
I saw this movie in the company of an
8-year-old boy, whose one-sentence review was, “Best movie ever!”
Since he’s the perfect target audience, the following remarks
should be taken in that context:
Noah Ringer plays Aang, the
pre-adolescent “chosen one” who was supposed to be the next
“Avatar,” the one who would bring balance to the universe, but he
decided to run away from his great responsibilities, and managed to get
himself encased in ice for 100 years, along with his pet flying bison (who
looks like a cross between a Pekingese and a platypus).
Apparently he didn’t like the idea that a Jedi, er, Avatar, could
only exercise his great natural powers if he remained never married, and
forever childless. (Maybe
he’s on to something there. We
all now know that required celibacy can produce some lamentable pathology.)
In the absence of the Avatar, the
universe has descended into chaos. The
people of fire have been conquering the people of air, earth, and water, and
subjugating them mercilessly. In
fact, the King of the Fire People was so enraged at his only son that he
burned, and permanently scarred, his face, but Prince Zuko (Dev Patel, who
catapulted to fame as the lead actor in “Slumdog Millionaire”), instead
of rebelling against his impervious father, has decided instead to try to
win back his favor by capturing the vulnerable-looking but powerful Avatar.
Fortunately for Aang, he was freed
from his ice-prison by a couple of friendly siblings, Katara (Nicola Peltz)
and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone). They
are of the Water People, and she is a water bender who needs practice (her
comical ineptness being a source of childish humor).
Once they discover that Aang is the Avatar, the Last Airbender, they
are eager to help him overthrow the reign of terror of the Fire People.
But there’s a problem.
Aang dropped out of school before he had completed his training, and
now all his teachers are gone, as well as the entire school (destroyed and
razed by the Fire People). So
Aang and Katara find some water-bending teachers, and that instruction comes
in handy during the big battle with the Fire People.
Yes, the siege is violent, but somehow
somewhat bloodless, as well. The
invaders are repulsed more than slaughtered, and even the sinister bad guy
survives, now even more determined to succeed, by anointing his only
daughter to reign after him. (Obviously
they are setting up a sequel.)
The 3-D action is well-suited for this
kind of fantasy fable. Though
the story drags in places, and seems unduly complicated for a child’s
tale, the best part is that the casting is solid, and the teenage actors
really do carry this film. Try
taking a child with you, and see the wonder of a new world appearing through
their marveling eyes.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace