Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles The Last Airbender is a 2010 American fantasy adventure film written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. It is based on the first season of the Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. The film stars Noah Ringer as Aang, with Dev Patel as Prince Zuko, Nicola Peltz as Katara, and Jackson Rathbone as Sokka. Development for the film began in 2007. It was produced by Nickelodeon Movies and distributed by Paramount Pictures. The Last Airbender was made for $150 million. Premiering in New York City on June 30, 2010, it opened in the United States the following day, grossing an estimated $16 million. It received extremely negative reviews by critics, who cited many flaws on the movie, such as inconsistencies both over the plot and source material, acting, writing and cast choices, which most of the actors have different racial traits from the characters of the original series, creating several controversial responses, both by fans of the original series and even viewers of the film who were unfamiliar with the series. The movie swept the Golden Raspberry Awards in 2010, with five wins including Worst Picture and has been considered to be one of the worst films of all time. Despite negative reviews, The Last Airbender opened in second place at the box office behind The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, and eventually grossed $131 million domestically and $319 million worldwide. Plot Fourteen-year-old Katara and her fifteen-year-old brother, Sokka, are near a river at the Southern Water Tribe, a small village in the South Pole. While hunting, they discover an iceberg that shoots a beam of light into the sky. Inside of the iceberg is a twelve-year-old boy named Aang and a giant flying bison named Appa. Unknown to them, Aang is the long-lost, mighty Avatar — the only person on the planet able to "bend" all four elements. One hundred years have passed since the Fire Nation has declared war on the other three nations of Water, Earth, and Air in their attempt to conquer the world. Zuko, is an exiled prince of the Fire Nation on a quest to find the Avatar and bring him as prisoner to his father, Fire Lord Ozai, so he can return home. Seeing the light that appeared from Aang's release, Zuko and some Fire Nation soldiers arrive at the Southern Water Tribe to demand the villagers hand over the Avatar. Aang reveals himself as he surrenders himself to Zuko on the condition that he agrees to leave the village alone. On the ship, Aang is tested by Zuko's paternal uncle Iroh to confirm him to be the Avatar. After being informed that he is to be their prisoner for passing the test, Aang escapes using his glider and flies to his flying bison brought by Katara and Sokka. Aang and his new friends visit the Southern Air Temple where they meet a winged lemur, who Aang later names Momo. Aang also learns that he was in the ice for a whole century and that the Fire Nation wiped out all of the Air Nomads, including his guardian, Monk Gyatso. In despair, he enters the Avatar State and finds himself in the Spirit World where he encounters a Dragon Spirit that tells him that he only knows Airbending, and that he also needs to learn Waterbending, Earthbending and Firebending in order to become a fully realized Avatar. The Dragon Spirit tells him that he should learn Waterbending first, and that the best teachers are in the Northern Water Tribe as there are no more experienced, master waterbenders in the Southern Water Tribe. To seek shelter, Aang's group arrives at a little Earth Kingdom village controlled by the Fire Nation, and they are arrested because Katara tries to help a young boy escape from Fire Nation patrol soldiers. They incite a rebellion by reminding the disgruntled Earthbenders that earth was given to them. Katara is given a Waterbending scroll that she uses to greatly strengthen and hone her Waterbending and to help Aang learn as they make their way to the Northern Water Tribe and liberate and secure more Earth Kingdom villages in the process, weakening the Fire Nation's food and water supplies. During a side track to the Northern Air Temple on his own, Aang is betrayed by a peasant and captured by a group of Fire Nation archers, led by Commander Zhao, a Fire Nation Commander appointed by the Fire Lord. However, a masked marauder, the "Blue Spirit", helps Aang escape from his imprisonment. Zuko is the masked vigilante, and Zhao realizes this. He arranges to kill the prince. Zuko survives the assassination attempt on his life with Iroh's help. He sneaks aboard Zhao's lead ship as his fleet departs for the Northern Water Tribe, which is a heavy fortress, to capture the Avatar. Upon arriving, Aang's group is welcomed warmly by the citizens of the Northern Water Tribe. Immediately, Sokka quickly befriends the Northern Water Tribe princess, Yue. After a few agreements, a Waterbending master, Pakku, teaches Aang waterbending. Katara also becomes a much stronger and more powerful waterbender due her training with Master Pakku. Soon, the Fire Nation arrives and Zhao begins his attack while Zuko begins his search for the Avatar on his own. After defeating Katara in a battle, Zuko captures Aang as he enters the Spirit World to find the Dragon Spirit to give him the wisdom to defeat the Fire Nation who tells him to let his emotions flow like water. Returning to his body, Aang battles Zuko before Katara freezes him. Before leaving to join the battle, Aang lowers the ice so that Zuko can breathe. As the battle escalates, Iroh watches Zhao capture the Moon Spirit, with which its Ocean Spirit counterpart had assumed the form of a fish. Despite Iroh's pleas, Zhao kills the Moon Spirit to strip all of the Waterbenders of their powers and abilities to Waterbend. Yue explains to everyone that the Moon Spirit gave her life, willing to give it back as she dies in the process. With the tables turned, Zhao finds out Zuko survived. They almost fight before Iroh appears and tells Zuko it's not worth it. Zhao is drowned by Waterbenders after Zuko and Iroh leave him to his fate. Aang remembers his life before being trapped in the ice, including when he left his home, seeing his master's face. With his Waterbending powers and his emotions "flowing like water", Aang enters the Avatar State and raises the ocean into a gigantic wall in order to drive the armada back. Aang now fully embraces his destiny as the Avatar as he, Katara and Sokka prepare to continue their journey to the Earth Kingdom to find an Earthbending teacher for Aang. The Fire Lord learns of the defeat, and angry about the betrayal of his brother Iroh and the failure of his eldest son Zuko, he tasks his youngest daughter Azula to stop the Avatar from mastering Earth and Fire before the arrival of Sozin's Comet, which she accepts, giving a sinister smile. Cast Noah Ringer as Aang He is an Airbender who disappeared from public sight a hundred years ago. While chronologically one hundred and twelve years old, Aang still retains his biological age of twelve. He is the latest incarnation of the Avatar Spirit. Though he is capable of bending all four elements, at the beginning of the film he has only learned to Airbend. It is also his duty to maintain balance in the world, which conflicts with his easy-going, fun-loving personality Dev Patel as Prince Zuko a sixteen-year-old Fire Nation prince who travels with his Uncle Iroh. The former heir to the throne, he was exiled by his father, Fire Lord Ozai, and ordered to capture the Avatar in order to regain his lost honor. Nicola Peltz as Katara a fourteen-year-old girl of the Southern Water Tribe and its last remaining waterbender. Since the death of her mother, Kya, she has served as the maternal, motherly figure in her family, and is no stranger to responsibility despite her young age. Jackson Rathbone as Sokka a fifteen-year-old warrior from the Southern Water Tribe and Katara's older brother. He can be condescending, and has no waterbending abilities. He often takes up leadership roles by virtue of coming up with most of the workable plans and tactics. Shaun Toub as Uncle Iroh Zuko's paternal uncle. He is extremely easy-going and friendly, and often acts as a surrogate father to Zuko. Formerly a great general of the Fire Nation, personal tragedies led to his retirement, and the role of heir-presumptive passed to his younger brother Ozai. Aasif Mandvi as Commander Zhao a hot-tempered Fire Nation Commander in pursuit of the Avatar. He is Zuko's principal rival. He has an obsession with libraries. Seychelle Gabriel as Princess Yue The princess of the Northern Water Tribe, who was Sokka's first girlfriend, and romantic love interest. In a tragic turn of events, she sacrificed herself to save the water tribe and the balance of the earth, by turning into the moon. Cliff Curtis as Fire Lord Ozai The leader of the Fire Nation as well as Prince Zuko's father. Summer Bishil as Princess Azula She appears once at the battle where Zuko refuses to fight and again at the end where she accepts the role as hunter of her older brother and uncle, and destroying the Avatar. Francis Guinan as Master Pakku He is a water bending master of the Northern Water Tribe; he taught Aang to water bend. Randall Duk Kim as Old man in temple He is an Earth Kingdom villager, who often visits the remains of the Northern Air Temple. Isaac Jin Solstein as Earth bending boy He is based on Haru of the cartoon series. He started the prison uprising by earth bending a pebble to the back of the lead Fire Nation soldier's head. Keong Sim as earthbending father He is based on Tyro of the cartoon series. He and other Earth benders in his occupied village agreed to be imprisoned in exchange for the non-benders to live in peace. He reneged the terms of surrender by bending an earth-barrier to protect his son from the lead soldier's retaliatory Fire bending attack. John Noble as Dragon Spirit He is a new composite character taking over the roles of Avatar Roku, Fang, Koh and Guru Pathik from the cartoon series. Production Development According to an interview with the co-creators in SFX magazine, Shyamalan came across Avatar when his daughter wanted to be Katara for Halloween. Intrigued, Shyamalan researched and watched the series with his family. "Watching Avatar has become a family event in my house ... so we are looking forward to how the story develops in season three," said Shyamalan. "Once I saw the amazing world that Mike and Bryan created, I knew it would make a great feature film." He added he was attracted to the spiritual and martial arts influences on the show. Avatar: The Last Airbender co-creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko voiced their opinion within an interview regarding M. Night Shyamalan writing, directing and producing the film. The two displayed much enthusiasm over Shyamalan's decision for the adaptation, stating that they admire his work and, in turn, he respects their material. Producer Frank Marshall explained that they have high hopes to stick to a PG rating. "I'm not even sure we want to get in the PG-13 realm. Furthermore, Shyamalan said, "A lot of the inspiration for the direction we took comes from a friend of mine. A Nathan Blackmer helped shape this Idea into the film it became. I took away a little bit of the slapsticky stuff that was there for the little little kids, the fart jokes and things like that...We grounded Katara's brother...and that really did wonderful things for the whole theme of the movie." Paramount's president Brad Grey said that despite the director's career being inconsistent, he "believed in [Shyamalan's] vision and that he could execute it," adding that "It's a bold step because he had to create a potential new family franchise." The studio was willing to spend $250 million in a trilogy of films, one for each season. The Last Airbender's budget wound up being $150 million, with later over $130 million being spent on marketing costs, making it Shyamalan's most expensive film. Casting M. Night Shyamalan originally offered the roles of Aang to Noah Ringer; Sokka to Jackson Rathbone; Katara to Nicola Peltz; and Zuko to Jesse McCartney. In an interview with People, Shyamalan claimed that he did not want to make The Last Airbender without Nicola Peltz, "I said that only once before in my career, and that was when I met Haley in The Sixth Sense auditions." In February 2009, Dev Patel replaced Jesse McCartney, whose tour dates conflicted with a boot camp scheduled for the cast to train in martial arts. Katharine Houghton played "Gran Gran", the grandmother of Katara and Sokka, and Seychelle Gabriel portrayed Princess Yue, another of Sokka's love interests and princess of the Northern Water Tribe. Isaac Jin Solstein played an earthbending boy. Comedian Aasif Mandvi played Commander Zhao, Cliff Curtis played Fire Lord Ozai, and Keong Sim was cast in the role of an Earthbender. Ringer began practicing Taekwondo - the martial art and national sport of South Korea - at the age of 10. His skills later garnered accolades, including the title of American Taekwondo Association Texas State Champion. He began shaving his head during his martial arts training to help cool off, which gave him the nickname "Avatar" due to his resemblance to Aang from the animated series. When he heard about the film adaptation, he made an audition tape with his instructor and sent it to the filmmakers. He hadn't worked on a film before, but his resemblance to Aang—enhanced by painting a blue arrow on his already shaved head, swung him the role. Having not acted before, Ringer was required to attend acting school a month before filming commenced. Peltz was familiar with the character before submitting for the part of Katara, having faithfully watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, the animated series on which the film is based, with her younger twin brothers. She describes her character as being a big role model with young girls and women, "She's really mentally and physically strong, strong-willed and -minded, but she's also caring and compassionate... The movie has a lot of values, but it's also fun. It's fantasy, but it's also a really cool battle between good and evil." She explained that she initially didn't know about Rathbone starring in the Twilight films until after she met him and said that working with Shyamalan was an amazing experience. Rathbone, who originally auditioned for the role of Zuko, was approached by Shyamalan to audition for the film. After waiting for six months, he received a call informing him that he was cast as Sokka. Rathbone stated that his favorite scenes were the fight sequences, which he prepared for by stickfighting. Before Slumdog Millionaire was released, Patel auditioned for the role of Zuko by submitting a tape to the studio. Shyamalan called Patel personally to inform him that he got the part. Training for the film was intense, as he had to learn Wushu and different martial arts. Patel recalls fighting, punching, and throwing and said the experience was "truly amazing." While he was filming Slumdog in India, he would finish a take and turn one of the channels over to the animated series. Even though it is based on a cartoon, he wanted to bring as much of himself as possible to the character he was portraying. Shaun Toub, who was cast as Iroh, describes his character in the first film as "loose" and "free". He compares Zuko's "obsession" to his childhood memories and how kids are always looking for their parents' approval, saying that Zuko just wants his father's. "He isn't necessarily bad, he just has a great deal of built up anger and forgets to consider others. I think people will understand that he's not bad, he's just angry and hurting because he really wants his father to love him, but his father is too busy with other things." He says that Patel is an "18 year old with all this energy," and that Patel was able to influence him into appreciating the business of filmmaking more. While comparing the animated series to the film, he says the film is much more serious. He attributed this change to the director trying to relate to every age group, rather than just kids. Filming Pre-production began in late 2008, while filming began in March 2009 in Greenland. After two weeks, the cast and crew moved to Reading, Pennsylvania, where production designers and special-effects crews worked for several weeks, preparing the local site for the film. A production team scouting the area found the pagoda on Mount Penn, which served as an ancient temple in the film. Reading mayor Tom McMahon explained that crews made road improvements and buried electrical lines surrounding the structure. Filming also took place in Ontelaunee Township and at the William Penn Memorial Fire Tower in Pennsylvania after the production crew finished at the Pagoda. When asked about shooting the film in Reading, Pamela Shupp, vice president of Berks Economic Development said, "They needed buildings to shoot all the interiors, and were looking for a group of buildings with high ceilings and specific column spacing. We showed them a number of buildings, but we couldn't come up with enough to meet their requirements. So the interiors will be shot in Philadelphia." Visual effects With a film as technologically advanced as Avatar, the expectations of realistically throwing balls of fire and water were pushed to the limit on The Last Airbender. Pablo Helman, who previously worked on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, was the visual effects supervisor for the Industrial Light and Magic team on the film. He worked closely with Shyamalan, reviewing each scene and talking about the visual effects needed to tell the story, and ultimately worked with about 300 people to reflect the director's vision, who he said planned it all in a story-board book. Industrial Light and Magic was posed with visualizing the elemental tribes of Air, Water, Earth, and Fire; most importantly creating the "bending" styles of these elements. Additionally, they were required to animate inanimate creatures and enhance stunt work with digital doubles.