M. Knight’s Avatar now just M. Night’s The Last Airbender

     April 17, 2008

Written by Nicole Pedersen

Last fall director M. Night Shyamalan announced plans to adapt the animated Nickelodeon series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” into a live action feature. All good, thought I, but isn’t there another flick called “Avatar” in the works right now?

Yes, Nicole, you were right – King of the World James Cameron had already begun production on his original sci-fi epic “Avatar.” Two films, one title and neither were based on my adventures in “Second Life,” as I at first hoped.

So what’s a diminutive director to do when up against the brute force of the Cam? Well, according to the following press release he has abandoned the “Avatar” title and is going with the hyphen-less “The Last Airbender” – although Shyamalan still gets to put his name in front of the title even though he only adapted the concept. A tentative release date has also been set for the film: July fourth weekend 2010 – somebody at Paramount is banking that “Airbender” will be better than “Lady in the Water,” I guess – and really, how could it not be? Just pray that the waterbenders don’t turn into Narfs in his version and check out the press release.

Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies have greenlit the live-action epic adventure “M. Night Shymalan’s The Last Airbender,” which will launch over the Independence Day weekend in 2010, opening Friday, July 2, 2010.

Shyamalan, the visionary creator of the Oscar nominated “The Sixth Sense,” “Signs,” and the upcoming “The Happening,” will direct and produce the epic action-adventure based on a script that he penned. Joining him as producers are Kathleen kennedy and Frank Marshall, who produced the blockbuster “Indiana Jones” and “Jurassic Park” franchises, Sam Mercer (“The Sixth Sense,” “The Happening”) and Scott Aversano(“Failure to Launch,” “The School of Rock”), Michael DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko, the creators of the popular TV series “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” that inspired the film, will serve as executive producers.

“I was drawn to the series because of its influences: one being Hayao Miyazaki, said Shyamalan. “I’ve always been a huge fan of Miyazaki’s work. He is one of the greatest storytellers in the world and makes anime films in Japan. His combination of spirituality and super natural elements have brought depth and meaning to his art form. In “The Last Airbender,’ I see an opportunity to make a live-action version of a Miyazaki film.”

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Nickelodeon to bring M. Night Shyamalan’s vision of “The Last Airbender” to the big screen and to audiences of all ages,” said John Lesher, President, Paramount Film Group.

“M. Night Shyamalan’s exciting vision for a film with the potential of ‘The Last Airbender,’ is another perfect fit for the Fourth of July holiday weekend that we have used to launch such blockbusters as ‘War of the Worlds’ and ‘Transformers,'” said Rob Moore, Vice Chairman, Paramount Pictures.

Based on the hugely successful Nickelodeon animated TV series, the live-action feature film is set in a world where human civilization is divided into four nations: Water, Earth, Air and Fire.

The Fire Nation is waging a ruthless, oppressive war against the other three nations. The film’s hero, the reluctant young Aang, is the “Last Airbender” – the Avatar who, according to prophecy, has the ability to manipulate all of the elements and bring all the nations together. Aided by a protective teenage Waterbender named Katara and her bull-headed brother Sokka, Aang proceeds on a perilous journey to restore balance to their war-torn world.

“M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender” promises to be a summer movie for the ages, combining the imagination and visual canvas of the “Lord of the Rings” saga with the action and spectacle of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

More from M. Night on “The Last Airbender” here.

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