One of the most anticipated films of the year debuts next week and it might just end up representing M. Night Shyamalan's return to glory. I am of course speaking of The Last Airbender, the live-action 3D film based on the hit Nickelodeon cartoon, Avatar: The Last Airbender.
The multi-award winning American cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender tells the story of Aang, a young Airbender and the last of his people who, with his new friends, must journey through the Water, Earth and Fire nations to learn how to master all four elements and save the world from the tyranny of the Fire Nation.
The series aired from early 2005 to mid-2008 and is structured into three complete seasons or "books" as they're officially referred to as. The first Book, "Water" released years ago on DVD but was re-released last week in a new 7-disc collector's set in preparation for the release of The Last Airbender summer blockbuster feature film.
The Story of Book 1: Water
The first of the three books of Avatar: The Last Airbender introduces us to Aang, the protagonist and title character of the series. We quickly learn that nearly a century prior, Aang was frozen in ice along with his loyal companion, a flying bison named Appa.
Over the years, Aang's people, the Airbender kingdoms were invaded by the Fire Nation and all Airbenders exterminated. We quickly meet two members of the South Water Nation, Sokka and Katara, the latter of which is a Water Bender in search of training, as they discover and awaken Aang from his frozen state of sleep.
From there on, our heroes set out on a journey to help Aang master all four arts of Bending and this sense of discovery as we explore the world and history through flashbacks is what really makes the story of The Last Airbender so special.
Their journey is far from a peaceful however, with Prince Zuko, an exiled Fire Nation prince hot on the trail and causing problems at every stop Aang and company decide to make.
The main story arc of Book 1: Water follows the group as they begin their epic journey at the South Pole and head to the North Pole to seek another water kingdom for training. This is the same main storyline explored in the film adaptation, The Last Airbender, so if you want to get yourself pumped and prepared for the film, it's prime time to start watching this series if you're unfamiliar with it (or even if you are).
The series works for all audiences and is one of the few cartoons that's completely re-watchable and just as enjoyable the second time through. While often comedic in nature, it becomes serious when it needs to be and explores plenty of darker themes and plot points. Although only a cartoon, the action-packed series depicts amazing martial arts fight choreography and an emotional story line that will capture your hearts and imagination as Aang, his pets and his young companions enter a new and dangerous world.
The Complete Book 1 Collector's Edition of Avatar: The Last Airbender includes the entire Book 1: Water DVD set along with special features and a new 7th bonus disc. The set includes a behind-the-scenes documentary with the creators which delves deep into the thought processes and story behind the creation of the series as well as more art, interviews and a feature on fan response to the series. The most notable new feature is the new documentary which runs 30 minutes long and comes in HD format.
The DVD bonus features include:
- Behind-the-scenes with the Avatar cast & crew
- Avatar pilot episode with audio commentary
- The making of Avatar - Inside the Sound Studios
- The making of Avatar - Inside the Korean Animation Studios
- Avatar documentary
In additional to all the digital goodies included on the 7-disc set, comes a beautiful exclusive preview edition of the art of the animated series. The booklet runs through character and location designs which helped shape the Four Nations and our favorite heroes and villains.
If you have the original Book 1 DVD set for Avatar: The Last Airbender, I wouldn't deem the collector's set as necessary unless you're a hardcore fan looking for the nicer packaging to keep in your collection. You're really only getting the one bonus disc and an art book all in a nicer box, but if you do not already own any part of the season and/or haven't treated yourself to watching this show, this is an absolute must-purchase. This Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko series is one of the greatest cartoons ever made and tops my list of personal favorite series.
The one issue with the set and a problem surely familiar with owners for the first box set is that the episodes come in their original 4:3 aspect ratio and not on HD, a real shame considering the attention to detail emphasized in all of the episodes.
Providing viewers with 533 minutes of awesome and running for a suggested retail price of $57.99, the Complete Book 1 Collector's Edition of Avatar: The Last Airbender hit store shelves June 22, 2010 so go pick it up!
M. Night Shyamalan's adaptation of this Book 1: Water and hopeful first part of a trilogy, The Last Airbender, opens in theaters July 2, 2010.