Fans of the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender can rejoice once they hear what M. Night Shyamalan (The Happening, The Sixth Sense) plans to do with his live-action film adaptation of the series. Shyamalan spoke to Empire Online about how he sees Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Shyamalan described the plot of the series as follows:
The actual plot is in a place where there are four tribes of people. And these people each have people within their tribe that have mastery over one element: water, earth, fire or air. They all live in a balance and harmony and once every generation there is born an individual who can bend - that is manipulate - all four of those elements and thereby keep a balance between all. They are kind of a Buddha figure to some extent. The story is about how, in this particular time, this avatar is born into the airbenders and disappears. Then all hell breaks loose and the fire nation basically commits genocide and eradicates the air tribe in the hopes of killing the avatar and taking over control of everything. This child then re-emerges, which is the beginning of our story. He reappears having been frozen in the ice - there is a whole story about how that happens - a hundred years later and this world is all fucked up and he is the last airbender, but he doesn't want this job. He's forced into the position of putting the world back together again. It actually has a lot of Shakespearean overtones to it. There's lots of family angst, and fathers denying sons in different storylines.
As epic as the scope of the story is, what attracted Shyamalan, known for his philosophical approach to film, was the deeper story in the film. "Buddhist and Hindu philosophies run through the stuff," Shyamalan says. "When I realised that is what it was, it really drew me as the template for putting storytelling on a new level. There is a kind of thread that connects Star Wars and The Matrix - the first one. That same thread is in this story, about a forgotten belief system, or the illusion of the world now."
But the deep story alone won't be all that we see, of course. "Obviously [there will be] some breathtaking visual effects," the director says. "Just imagine if you saw a little girl bending water out of a glass into the air as an extension of her own personal discipline. It's three movies about the hero learning three elements. Live action."
While a film of this scope is different than anything Shymalan has previously worked on, the filmmakers' philosophical approach to movies should blend well with the tale being told in the animated series.
Also, a story from Variety from today reported that Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies will both distribute the film, with a release date slated for July 2, 2010. They will also drop the "Avatar" from the title, to avoid confusion with James Cameron's film, Avatar, which will be released on December 18, 2009.