[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=5094&w=o[/img]Title: The Last Airbender
Starring: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Assif Mandvi
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan (Screenplay)
Runtime: 103 min
Release Date: 11/16/2010 (Blu-Ray)
In the world of The Last Airbender there are four kingdoms, each of which is named for the element that it harnesses. In the Fire Kingdom, some gifted children are born with the ability to manipulate the element of fire, these children grow up to become "benders". Likewise, in the Earth Kingdom and Water Tribes benders exist with an affinity to the element that their kingdom represents. The world is kept at peace by the Avatar, an Air Nomad who is the only being able to bend all four elements and as a result communicate with the spirit world.
When the film begins it has been 100 years since the Avatar mysteriously disappeared, the Fire Kingdom, emboldened by the Avatar's absence has waged a campaign of conquest and subjugation upon the other kingdoms in an attempt to murder or imprison all benders of other elements. The Air Nomads have been wiped out and the Avatar is believed lost forever. The film opens in the icy wastes of the continent belonging to the Southern Water Tribe. A young woman Katara (Peltz) and her older brother Sokka (Rathbone) are orphans of the war with the Fire Kingdom. Katara and Sokka are attempting to hunt for food beneath the ice but aren't having much success. Katara is a water bender but she is young and unable to control her abilities, more often freezing her brother than actually controlling the ice beneath him.
After several hours of hunting with no success Katara and Sokka begin to travel back to their village. As they are cresting a small rise the ice in front of them bulges and explodes upward. They find a small boy and a large creature that looks like a massive bison with a beaver tail lying on the ice. They bring the boy back to the village and learn that his name is Aang, and that he was underneath the ice for only a few moments as far as he is aware. In the ocean nearby Prince Zuko(Patel) of the Fire Kingdom notices the explosion of ice as Aang and the beast surface. Zuko arrives at the village with a contingent of fire benders and demands that all the elderly be brought to him. Aang reveals himself to Zuko and offers himself in exchange for the villagers. Aboard Zuko's vessel his uncle Iroh brings a small tray into the room where Aang is being held, the tray contains a candle, a rock, and a small jug of water.
Iroh explains that he will give Aang a test, and that if he passes the test he is free to go. Aang agrees and Iroh places the candle in front of Aang. The flame grows and flickers as it is pushed nearer to Aang's body. Iroh then takes the jug of water and pours a small puddle onto the table, within moments the puddle collects into a small sphere of water. Finally, Iroh places the rock in front of Aang - the rock levitates of the table and hovers in the air. Iroh appears visibly shocked, and explains that Aang has just failed the test that so many others have passed - Aang is the reincarnation of the Avatar.
When he is informed that he will be forced to stay Aang stages an escape using his formidable air bending capabilities. Sokka and Katara are attempting to rescue Aang when they see him soar off the surface of the vessel, using his staff as a glider. Aang joins Sokka and Katara and mounts the large creature he calls Appa. Aang wants to go back to the temple of the Air Nomads where he lives, so Sokka and Katara agree to accompany him. When they arrive at the temple they are greeted by nothing but sun baked skeletons, all the Air Nomads have been executed. Aang cannot believe this has happened as he has been gone so short a time from his perspective. Katara believes that Aang was beneath the ice for an entire century and that he was the Avatar the disappeared. Aang is then beset by a vision of the spirit world, where a dragon spirit informs him he must travel to the Northern Water Tribe to learn how to bend water if he is to fulfill his destiny and become the Avatar.
Sokka, Katara and Aang begin their journey north, stopping in small villages in the Earth Kingdom to liberate the oppressed citizens and drive back the soldiers of the Fire Kingdom. Meanwhile, Admiral Zhao (Mandvi), the ruthless commander of the Fire Kingdom's armies plans to capture Aang himself. Prince Zuko has been banished from the Fire Kingom for questioning his fathers authority. Zuko's only hope to be accepted by his father once more is to capture the Avatar and bring him to Fire Lord Ozai. Zhao sets a trap at the Northern Air Temple using a bribed peasant, hoping to capture Aang when he visits. Aang travels to the Northern Air Temple and is captured and imprisoned by Zhao. Shortly after his capture Aang is freed by an unidentified masked warrior and they manage to escape the compound. During the escape the masked warrior is knocked unconscious and Aang is forced to carry him to safety. When Aang removes the warrior's mask he discovers that it is Prince Zuko and returns to Katara and Sokka.
Following the escape Admiral Zhao comes to suspect that Zuko was the masked warrior and plans an assassination attempt. Zuko narrowly escapes the attempt with his life and goes into hiding with his Uncle's help.
After Aang manages to rejoin Sokka and Katara and they finally finish their journey to the Northern Water Tribe. The tribe accepts them once Aang demonstrates his air bending abilities, and begins to train Aang and Katara in the ways of water bending. Although he trains as hard as he can Aang struggles to bend water due to the guilt and grief he feels about the war his absence has instigated - his instructor informs him that only those who are emotionally at peace can bend water successfully.
In the Fire Kingdom a meeting takes place between Admiral Zhao and Fire Lord Ozai. Zhao informs Ozai that he has discovered where the water and moon spirits are located and believes that if they are killed all water benders will lose their power. Ozai grants Zhao permission to take the fleet and attack the city of the Northern Water Tribe where the spirits are believed to live.
With a massive fleet bearing down on the city Aang must learn to overcome his guilt and bend water if he is to save the people of the Northern Water Tribe and the spirits that empower them.
The Last Airbender is rated PG for stylized fantasy violence. This is a relatively clean film with no profanity and no sex or nudity.
Having lowered my expectations for the story appropriately, I approached my review of The Last Airbender hoping that the video and audio presentation would make up for any shortcomings in the plot. The Last Airbender comes to the Blu-Ray format with a 1080p AVC transfer that has an average bit rate of 24Mbps. This is a really nice looking transfer that boasts plenty of fine detail and great colors. Scenes in the snowy environments of the water tribes are shockingly vivid and look excellent as the snow contrasts with the brilliant blue sky. Flesh tones are wonderfully preserved and this is especially appreciated in a film that shows people from so many ethnic backgrounds representing the various kingdoms. Night scenes are inky with great shadow delineation and no visible black crush. The grain pattern from the original 35mm film is nicely preserved and adds a fine texture to the picture that is free of any specks of dirt or other aberrations. No digital noise reduction, edge enhancement or other processing artifacts are visible though there is slight banding in a few scenes that may be a result of the encode. While not a reference level transfer of the caliber of many recent releases this is a great end result and is certainly far superior to the indescribably awful 3D conversion the film was given before its box office release.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack presented with The Last Airbender is excellent. The sound design of the film includes a stunning variety of effects and environmental sounds. The sounds of the elements being manipulated in the film are unique and extremely detailed. Environmental noises like the whispering of the wind or the steady churning of waves against vessels and ice are incredibly detailed and realistic. The surrounds are used to great effect throughout the film though particularly so in battle scenes as giant flaming baskets thunder overhead and walls of water spring up to block fireballs. Low frequency effects are beautifully integrated with the mains and are used judiciously and while the bass is formidable it doesn't steal the show from the other five channels. Dialogue throughout the film is easy intelligible and has smooth integration with the other elements of the sound design. The end result is an extremely pleasing listening experience that balances all the elements of a great multichannel surround mix and leaves the viewer entirely immersed in the fantasy world of the film.
The Last Airbender comes to Blu-Ray with a solid list of extras that are all in High Definition. The volume of material is not as impressive as some releases but this is still a solid set of Extras and is nice to see.
- Discovering The Last Bender (9 segments, 1 hour) [HD]
- Siege of the North – 18 minutes [HD]
- Origins of the Avatar – 7 minutes [HD]
- Katara for a day – 5 minutes [HD]
- Deleted Scenes (Four scenes) [HD]
- Gag reel – 4 minutes [HD]
- Avatar Annotations – Picture-in-picture interview clips and behind the scenes details for select scenes during the film [HD]
- DVD of The Last Airbender and Digital Copy
While M. Night Shyamalan seems to have become stuck in a rut producing mediocre film after mediocre film, The Last Airbender was still an enjoyable film to watch. Thanks to a great Blu-Ray audio and video transfer the film is at least no longer plagued by bad 3D and this allows the story to be evaluated on its own. While the Nickelodeon series used as the inspiration for The Last Airbender is extremely compelling, the screenplay itself seems to have trouble telling a cohesive story. While there are moments of emotional impact and even brilliance, the film as a whole feels poorly edited and more like a really good "made for TV" SyFy channel film than a Hollywood blockbuster. The performances of most of the main characters are lackluster at best, though Dev Patel and Shaun Toub are both excellent in their roles and have great chemistry on screen as uncle and nephew. Despite the shortcomings of the storytelling in The Last Airbender, the aural and visual elements are not plagued by the same issues. This is still a great looking (and sounding) film that deserves a viewing if you get a chance. While I can't in good conscience recommend a purchase, The Last Airbender is worth a rent, even if the only purpose is to help you forget that awful awful 3D you were subjected to during the summer.