M. Night Shyamalan, best known for his thriller films with their twist endings like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and The Happening, has just finished the screenplay for The Last Airbender, his adaptation of the very popular Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Shyamalan told MTV about the direction he's taking the film - or rather series of films, since he intends for the tale to be told over three films.
"I'm supposed to write the second one this Fall when we're prepping," he said, noting that the first film will hit theaters in July 2010. "I don't want it to feel like 'Oh, the first one made a lot of money, let's make another one.' It's not that at all. This is a story told over three movies. A very clear, Shakespearean story that's told over three movies. And for me, that's when a franchise works the best, like The Lord of the Rings. It's when it's all plotted out in advance [that sequels work], and this is the clarity of what we're doing."
Shyamalan also reveals that one of the things he is looking forward most to with the series is the ability to show that he is able to create films that don't follow his typical pattern. "What's great about doing something like that is that let's say your instinct is to distill me down into three characteristics: thrillers, scary, twist. Let's just say, 'Oh, that's what he does,'" Shyamalan explained. "Then when they come see The Last Airbender - which has none of those three things in there - and yet, you'll be able to tell in 30 seconds that I directed it. Now you'll have to go, 'Wait, I realize there are other things that define him. [Things] I knew, but was never really acknowledging them on the same level as these other characteristics.'"
The director is also quick to explain that The Last Airbender, while it may be based on a cartoon aimed at children, is not simply "kid's stuff", which was often said to be true of the animated series as well. "The spirituality, the centering on relationships and family, on inherent optimism. Things like that, you'll see," he explained. "It seems like an odd fit [for me], but when you see the movie, literally, it's full of Buddhist philosophy, it has all this stuff. All the elemental stuff that really lends itself to...almost a Hindu kind of connotations; there's a lot of Hinduism in it. So suddenly you'll see those kind of things in the [future] movies, and I think it'll reflect really well and make the relationship more accurate and more complex, which will be a great thing."
The Last Airbender tells the story of the successor to a long line of Avatars who must put aside his irresponsible ways and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water, Earth and Air nations. Based on the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, the film is being directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and will hit theatres in 2010.