Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies have greenlit M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender, a live-action feature film based on the hit Nickelodeon animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. The pic is slated to open in theaters over the Independence Day weekend in 2010, Friday, July 2 to be exact.
The word Avatar is curiously missing from the title, probably due to the fact that James Cameron is releasing a 3-D sci-fi movie titled Avatar in late 2009. The highly anticipated CG-laden flick from the Titanic director has nothing to do with the animated TV show.
Shyamalan burst onto the scene with the blockbuster supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense, and followed up with Unbreakable, Signs, The Village and Lady in the Water. He’s currently finishing The Happening, another film with a supernatural theme. He will direct and produce Airbender from a script he wrote himself. Joining him as producers are Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, who produced the Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park film franchises, Sam Mercer (The Sixth Sense, The Happening) and Scott Aversano (Failure to Launch, The School of Rock). Michael DiMartino and Brian Konietzko, the creators of the animated series, will serve as exec producers.
‘I was drawn to the series because of its influences, one being Hayao Miyazaki,’ says 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 supernatural 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.’
Like the series, the film will take place 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 reluctant young hero, 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. According to Paramount, Shyamalan will strive to combine the epic scope and visual style of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings saga with the action and spectacle of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.