Last Airbender, The

MPAA Rating: PG

Entertainment: +2 1/2

Content: +1/2

Noah Ringer, Nicole Peltz, Jackson Rathbone. Live action family sci-fi adventure. Written by M. Night Shyamalan, Michael DiMartino. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

FILM SYNOPSIS: There are four nations, Air, Water, Earth, and Fire. Three of these nations unite when the Fire Nation launches a brutal war against the others. After a century of no hope in sight, Aang (a boy who has been asleep in a globe of ice for a hundred years) is suddenly released by two adventurous teens and discovers he has the power to manipulate all four elements. He comes to realize he is an Avatar (a reincarnated warrior who can control air, water, earth and fire). Aang teams with Katara, a Waterbender, and her brother Sokka to restore balance to their war-torn world. At least I think thatís what itís about. You really need to be 9 years old and a follower of the afternoon animated TV series. Surprisingly, there were a lot of grown-up devotees present at the screening. Evidently, they have night jobs.

PREVIEW REVIEW: In The Last Airbender, from beginning to end, violence you will find. Though M. Night Shyamalan dresses up the scenery with eye-popping CGI technology, and the two youngest stars (Noah Ringer, Nicole Peltz) have a good screen presence, the story relies on this constant carnage to hold viewer attention.

Director Shyamalan has often been praised by this reviewer for placing spiritual themes within his narratives. Indeed, his Signs has been a DVD alternative suggestion of mine for many a film (go to moviereporter.com for its review). Here, he leans a little toward Eastern philosophies, but I wouldnít worry that your children will be too influenced by any message here. The symbolism of the Avatar as Savior, along with messages of honor, bravery, and self-sacrifice, are completely overshadowed by the slo-mo martial arts action sequences.

Thereís also a great deal of violence in the form of mystic wonders, with the boy controlling water to form a defense and the bad guys using fire to destroy. At one point a character is drowned within a bubble of water. Scenes such as this, along with the dark tone (misery and the death of loved ones are spoken of) and the many loud and frantic battle sequences make this unsuitable for young children. And I question its suitability for older kids simply because they are bombarded by so much TV and film savagery. (Isnít it interesting that so many people are entertained by seeing destruction.)

DVD Alternatives: The Iron Giant. Animated kids adventure about an imaginative little boy who befriends a giant robot who doesn't seem to know how he came to be (something we never learn, although it appears in the beginning that he came from space). Highly entertaining, with humor aimed both at kids and adults. Set in the '50s, it's a little hard on the military and government secret agencies, but it also deals with spiritual issues, stating, "Souls don't die, they go on forever." Suggesting both filmmatic and thematic ideas from The Day The Earth Stood Still and King Kong, The Iron Giant is smart, funny, and exciting. However, parents should view with little ones, both to reassure and to explain certain messages.

The Incredibles. This hilarious, action-packed, animated adventure has a put-upon superhero family now denying their superpowers and living under a government protection plan. Taking on grownup themes such as the suspicion of infidelity and a barrage of violent do-or-die histrionics, Pixar Animation Studios and filmmaker Brad Bird (The Iron Giant) incorporate cartoonish slapstick with thoughtful PG-rated wit.

War of the Worlds. Nothing man can do seems to stop a Martian invasion. Ah, but God in His infinite wisdomÖBased on a story by H. G. Wells, this superior sci-fi actioneer is eerie and frightening, but it also contains a positive message. Donít miss the ending narration by Sir Cedric Hardwicke. Not to be mistaken with the newer one with Tom Cruise as an anti-hero with a dysfunctional family. The 1953 version with Gene Barry is eerie and mesmerizing.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor:
Paramount/Nickelodeon Pictures

Summary
The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: None

Profanity: None

Violence: Though bloodless, there is a great deal of violent action, with people using the elements of fire, wind and water to attack their enemies; lots of martial arts battles; the lead boy is beaten in one scene and in danger several other times; a few scenes may scare little ones; though only rated PG, I felt the tumultuous fantasy action deserved a PG-13.

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: Aang is a reincarnated monk who meditates and follows some sort of Eastern philosophy, though never called Buddhism.

Running Time: 103 minutes
Intended Audience: 12-years and older


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