Jackson Rathbone & Nicola Peltz – The Last Airbender

July 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Interviews

In filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan’s new movie “The Last Airbender,” actors Jackson Rathbone (“The Twilight Saga”) and Nicola Peltz (“Righteous Kill”) play siblings Sokka and Katara, two teenage warriors from the Southern Water Tribe who must help stop the evil Fire Nation from destroying the earth.

During an interview with me, Rathbone and Peltz talked about working with director M. Night Shyamalan and what it was about the original animated series that made them want to be a part of the feature film adaptation.

Jackson, “The Last Airbender” is completely different than anything director M. Night Shyamalan has ever done in his career. What was it like working with him on the set and did it feel like it was a learning experience for everyone?

Jackson Rathbone: M. Night was one of those directors that I always waited for his next film to be released. Now to be a part of his film is very exciting. This is the first family film he has ever done. It’s very cool to work with an artist that is well known for doing one thing and now he’s switching it up. I definitely learned from him. Every time I work with someone, I try to pick up as many tricks and tips and techniques as I can.

Nicola, you’re fairly new in the film industry. What was the most challenging part about working on “The Last Airbender?”

Nicola Peltz: Honestly, the most challenging part was the last day of filming and knowing you would have to leave each other. We all became a big family – the cast, the crew, everyone. It was definitely upsetting leaving on the last day.

Nicola, I read you were a fan of the original animated series. What specifically was it about the show that you liked?

NP: Yes, I was definitely a fan. I have six brothers and a sister and I would watch the show with my two younger brothers. I loved the series because in every episode you go on a new journey and learn something different. There are a lot of family values and morals. I loved Katara before I even auditioned. She’s a fighter, but at the same time she has a big heart and cares for everyone and has a great relationship with her older brother.

Jackson, is there something specific about the original show that you enjoyed?

JR: Yeah, it really has a beautiful sense of spiritually that we were able to bring to the movie. There is a message about having faith in one’s self. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make the next two films. The great thing about this first film is that it’s based on Book One, which is water. I’ve always been a big fan of Bruce Lee and his teachings and philosophies. In his book “Artist of Life” he talks about being like water. The four elements are something that has always been prevalent in a lot of mythology. It’s very cool to be part of a project where everyone wanted to make it as honest to the original series as possible while at the same time maturing the story enough so it can be appealing to all audiences.

Jackson, is there a philosophy or motto you live by in your daily life?

JR: Yeah, my family has a motto, which actually goes with our family crest, which says “Suaviter et Fortiter.” It’s Latin for [“mildly and firmly”]. It means being strong in your beliefs and in who you are. It also means being very genuine. You can be very firm in your beliefs but at the same time you can be very open to other people’s ideas.

What about you Nicola? Are there any deep-seated ideas you live by?

NP: I just always follow my dreams and follow my heart. I work hard and give 110 percent in everything I do.

Jackson, is there any added pressure on the cast and crew because this story had a fan base that followed the original TV series? How does that compare to the fan base that follows the films in “The Twilight Saga?”

JR: It’s very interesting because in “Twilight” we are bringing literary characters to life. There wasn’t necessarily imagery to these characters yet, so we had to become the imagery. With “The Last Airbender,” you have all these animated characters. We have to become these animated characters and bring them to life in this live-action format. There is definitely some pressure in trying to appease the fans as much as possible. Basically, you can please some people some of the time, but you can’t please all people all of the time. That doesn’t mean you can’t try.

The Last Airbender

July 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Noah Ringer, Jackson Rathbone, Nicola Peltz
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan (“The Happening”)
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan (“The Happening”)
Just when you thought director M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense,” “The Village”) couldn’t get any more incoherent than he did with his last three films, he veers from his usual twisty cinematic offerings and lands somewhere below rock bottom with “The Last Airbender.”

What makes things even worse for the one-hit-wonder is that his new film carries with it a $150-million price tag that could end up professionally crushing the director if Paramount Pictures doesn’t at least break even by the end of the summer. With what “Airbender” delivers, it’s almost inevitable that it won’t.

“The Last Airbender,” which is adapted from the popular Nickelodeon anime cartoon “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” could have been exactly what Shyamalan needed to pull himself out of the rut he has been in for the last six years. Instead, the filmmaker who scored two Oscar nominations in 1999 for directing and writing “The Sixth Sense,” comes out of this latest fantasy project more lost than ever.

In “Airbender,” actors Jackson Rathbone (“The Twilight Saga”) and Nicola Peltz (“Deck the Halls”) stars as Sokka and Katara, sibling warriors of the Southern Water Tribe who unearth the legendary Avatar, the only person who can control all four elements – Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire.

In this case it’s 12-year-old Aang (Noah Ringer) who is called upon to bring peace to the world. Missing for over a century, Aang rises from his frozen state in an iceberg and is given the responsibility of uniting the Four Nations before Prince Zuko (Dev Patel in his first film since “Slumdog Millionaire”) and his uncle Iroh (Shaun Toub) of the Fire Nation wage war against their elemental enemies.

While there is enough mythology to create some interesting storylines here, Shyamalan somehow takes a promising narrative and drains it of all its enjoyment by tacking on longwinded narration and uninspired dialogue to a majority of the scenes. The disastrous screenplay is marred by everything from its sluggish pacing to its uninteresting romance.

Moreover, it’s shocking to see that 11 years after Shyamalan directed an extremely memorable Oscar-nominated performance by then-child actor Haley Joel Osment he has absolutely no insight into what young actors can offer anymore. Even worse than Mark Wahlberg’s laughable performance in “The Happening,” first-time actor Ringer (who voiced the character in the animated series) delivered his lines with such stiffness you’ll wonder why no one on the set stood up and pointed out the obvious lack of acting talent.

Besides the inexpressive performances across the board (with the exception of Toub), “Airbender” is a halfhearted and terribly dull adventure and the most disappointing movie of the year thus far. Shyamalan should probably take a step back from making feature films, reevaluate his place in the industry, and see where he should go from here. At this point, it might not even be his choice anymore.