An announcement made on the social website Twitter Friday morning by The Last Airbender producer Frank Marshall proclaimed, “We are almost finished shooting, so casting is complete.” Much to the simultaneous rejoicing and chagrin to fans of the Nickelodeon cartoon-turned movie trilogy, a year’s worth of post-production now begins with Industrial Light and Magic responsible for CGI effects. But there has been much silence as to who has been cast in minor roles.
All of the principle actors have been announced, but the bit parts who turn up as major one-time players in the first film have yet to be divulged. Here is a who’s who of the cast so far.
Noah Ringer plays Aang, the title role and savior of the world of Last Airbender. According to many sources he hails from Texas and is a state karate champion. This is the first acting role in his life, and what a part it will be. Aang is the last of his kind and also the current Avatar, a guide sent from the spirit world in human form to live as one of us. He relies on his past incarnations for wisdom in dealing with humanity, growing in his journey of learning what it means to be the Avatar and to maintain peace.
Nicola Peltz, who plays Katara of the Southern Water Tribe, has been in two previous films. Katara is a fourteen year-old waterbender, able to manipulate water to do her will as Aang can do the same with air. She is similar to Aang in that she believes all of the other waterbenders in her tribe are gone, taken away years ago by the evil Fire Nation. Katara watches over her tribe with the care of a skilled mother.
Jackson Rathbone, of Twilight fame, plays Katara’s older brother Sokka (pronounced Sock-ah). Sokka is in charge of the tribe in the absence of his father Chief Hakoda and the other warriors who have sailed off to fight the Fire Nation and defend the Earth Kingdom. Unlike his sister, he must rely on cunning and skill rather than the ability to waterbend.
Dev Patel, coming off his uber-successful Slumdog Millionaire, has the daunting task of playing Zuko. Banished prince and son of the Fire Lord, Zuko has been hunting the Avatar for two years when he finds him hiding in the Southern Water Tribe. Scarred when his father wrongfully accused Zuko of dishonoring him, Zuko feels the only way to regain his rightful place is to bring Aang home in chains so the Fire Nation can finally declare victory in a hundred-year long war. Zuko is by far the best and deepest character in the original cartoon.
Thus begins the pursuit of Aang as he flees with Katara and Sokka to learn the next element he must master from the Northern Water Tribe. His journey halfway around the world provides the backdrop for The Last Airbender, first in a planned trilogy directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Other parts such as Fire Lord Ozai, Uncle Iroh, and Commander Zhao have also been announced. However, there is still mystery behind who will play some key roles. Perhaps they have not been announced so as to not divulge secrets of the plot that Shyamalan has set forth in his screenplay. Hopefully whatever characters we end up seeing will be expertly cast and performed. Dev Patel and Jackson Rathbone are both good starts.
The Last Airbender is based upon a Nickelodeon cartoon set in a world where four elements, water, earth, fire, and air can be manipulated at will by humans living in one of four nations. The peaceful Water Tribe, huge Earth Kingdom, abominable Fire Nation, and peaceful Air Nomads inhabit this fictional world deftly crafted by storytellers Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The Last Airbender hits theaters July 2, 2010.