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, Blinding Edge Pictures and The Kennedy/Marshall Company and distributed by Paramount Pictures. Premiering in New York City on June 30, 2010, it opened in the United States the following day, grossing an estimated $16 million.
The film was universally panned by critics. Many reviewers cited inconsistencies within the plot and between the screenplay and the source material, as well as the acting, writing and casting, however some praised James Newton Howard's soundtrack, and the decent acting from Dev Patel, Aasif Mandvi and Shaun Toub. The film swept the Golden Raspberry Awards in 2010, with five wins including Worst Picture and has been considered to be one of the worst films ever made.
Despite negative reviews, The Last Airbender opened in second place at the box office behind The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Produced on a $150 million budget, the film grossed $131 million domestically and $319 million worldwide. It is currently the third highest grossing Nickelodeon film, behind 2014's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and 2011's The Adventures of Tintin.
Fifteen-year-old Katara and her seventeen-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 thirteen-year-old boy named Aang and a giant flying bison named Appa. Unknown to them, Aang is the long-lost 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 the eighteen-year-old 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 and surrenders 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 he is 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. Katara's pleas bring Aang back out of the Avatar State.
To seek shelter, Aang's group arrives at a little Earth Kingdom village controlled by the Fire Nation, but are arrested because Katara tries to help a young boy escape from Fire Nation soldiers. They incite a rebellion by reminding the disgruntled Earthbenders that earth was given to them. Aang tells Katara and Sokka that he only knows Airbending and must master the other elements. 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 (where Aang will be able to learn from Waterbending masters) and liberate 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. Zhao realizes that Zuko is the masked vigilante. He arranges to kill the prince, but Zuko survives the 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. 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 to 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 ability 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 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; angry over 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.