One of the greatest cartoons ever, in my opinion, is Avatar: The Last Airbender. Last year, I watched all three seasons (called ‘books’ in their cool structure, named after the elements in the story) and while it took a few episodes to get into, it picked up fast and quickly became an incredible journey, a deep story and most of all, an entertaining series for all audiences.

Today, we finally have the first images of two main characters, Aang and Prince Zuko from the movie after the jump.

The show was critically acclaimed and a massive success for Nickelodeon. So, it was no surprise when they quickly went ahead and started to make a movie (or a trilogy of movies) based on the show. The project is headed by M. Night Shyamalan who desperately needs a new hit on his resume to counter his falling reputation from each of his movies being consecutively worse than the previous.

What raised a sense of worry about this particular project is that many thought it just too difficult to translate the cartoon into live-action without it either being too extreme, goofy and corny (similar to Dragonball Evolution), or it not respecting the source material and therefore, the built-in fanbase.

The situation got real bad later on in the process, when casting announcements started hitting the web and many folks were up in arms over alleged racist casting choices in selecting mostly Caucasian actors to play Asian characters. This was most notable when young pop star Jesse McCartney was cast as Prince Zuko.

Fans were not impressed. Could this situation have any more negatives going for it?

Conveniently, he dropped out, and more conveniently they cast a non-Caucasian actor to replace him. Hot from the buzz surrounding Slumdog Millionaire, the talented Dev Patel stepped in to play the role and I thought it was a great decision.

Continuing the trend of addressing the lack of a multi-cultural cast, further casting announcements were made over a month later adding Aasif Mendvi, Shaun Toub, Cliff Curtis and Keong Sim to the The Last Airbender’s roster.

There were still doubts surrounding the movie and I didn’t feel much positive for the project. That is, until now…

USA Today has a pair of exclusive photos of Noah Ringer, the 12-year old Karate star in full costume as Aang (the Avatar) and of Dev Patel in costume as Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation:

Noah Ringer in full costume as Aang

Dev Patel as Prince Zuko

Their costumes look awesome and the actors look good in character – except for Patel’s hair which is the same as in Slumdog and nothing like Zuko’s from the first season. That being said, we don’t know what context that photo is from. It could be a flashback or some other scene. You’ll notice the angle of his face hinders our view of the part of his face where his big scar should be.

With these images finally out, we can hopefully expect to see more popping up online. I’m interested in seeing the other main characters and most especially, Appa, the six-legged flying Sky Bison. For those of you who never saw the show, I know it sounds crazy.

What do you think of the live-action incarnations of Aang and Prince Zuko?

The Last Airbender (the leading title word “Avatar” was dropped as to avoid confusion with James Cameron’s Avatar) is scheduled to open July 2, 2010.

Airbender Trivia: Noah Ringer’s friends called him Avatar for years because of his resemblance to the character before even auditioning.

Source: USA Today