M. Night Shyamalan Talks The Last Airbender

Published 5 years ago by , Updated September 17th, 2012 at 11:58 am,

prince zuko aang the last airbender movie posters M. Night Shyamalan Talks The Last Airbender

To tide us over until the first theatrical trailer for The Last Airbender gets released on February 12th (it was delayed from last Christmas) we have some info on the movie straight from director M. Night Shyamalan. The last we heard was that Shyamalan was, “pulling his hair out in the editing room,” although producer Frank Marshall said that all was well in post-production.

In an update, Hero Complex got a chance to talk to Shyamalan about The Last Airbender. They discussed such things as what got the director interested in the project, this being the first time he’s directed something based on existing source material and Shyamalan compared the movie to another two successful franchises.

Shyamalan spoke about how he got interested in the original anime cartoon series, Avatar: The Last Airbender (obviously the film is not going to use “Avatar” in the title because of a certain other recent successful film). Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly (depending on how you look at it), it was his seven-year-old daughter that got him hooked onto the Nickelodeon series:

“She made us watch as a family and all four of us were hooked… I was like, ‘This would make a killer movie. And my wife who really has been kind of in neutral about my career was insane about it. Insane about it: ‘You have to do it. This is it. This is the one.’ “

The Last Airbender marks not only the first time Shyamalan has directed something based off of existing source material, but also his first truly large-scale production. After the success of his debut feature The Sixth Sense eleven years ago (has it really been that long?), he was flooded with offers to direct entries in major franchises, such as the first Harry Potter. Evidently he turned all of them down. With the failures of recent offerings like The Happening and Lady In The Water, perhaps the director is looking for another avenue to show off the filmmaking skills his first few films demonstrated he has.

So why is Shyamalan taking on an adaptation this time? Well, it was the Eastern philosophies (particularly the Buddhist philosophy) fused with martial arts aspect of The Last Airbender that got him interested:

“Aang [the main character] himself needs to find balance to be the Avatar and to master each of these elements… We get to see the process of someone mastering themselves through the three seasons to get to peace.”

Finally, Shyamalan talked about how he sees similar elements (get it?) in two other successful properties, The Matrix and Star Wars:

“In the first ‘Matrix,’ you realize that what you’re seeing is all false… Those are really ancient ideas. Basic old, old religion. This has that as well. So if you go on the journey and you’ll feel that epiphany on top of a great roller-coaster ride. It’s going to be something.“

Despite not knowing a great deal about the original cartoon series, I still find myself highly-anticipating Shyamalan’s adaptation of it (it made Screen Rant‘s 2010 most anticipated list). My attention was particularly snagged when the first teaser trailer appeared online, squashing many of the doubts I had that Shyamalan couldn’t manage such a big special effects and action-driven film. We’ll have to wait until this summer to find out if he redeems himself from the disappointments of his last two offerings.

What do you think about Shyamalan’s take on The Last Airbender? Are you a fan of the cartoon and if so (or even if you’re not) are you looking forward to the big-screen live-action version?

The Last Airbender stars Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Jackson Rathbone and Cliff Curtis. It hits theaters on July 2nd, 2010.

Source: LA Times Hero Complex

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  1. i love the tv series and can't wait 4 the movie!!! also i like M. Night Shyamalan.

  2. I am really looking forward to this movie. The cartoon/animé was brilliant. The writing, the action the voice talent (kids BTW) all fused into an epic woven tail of fantasy and adventure. Again … CAN NOT WAIT!

  3. I consider myself a pretty big fan of the series. I am definitely looking forward to htis movie

  4. I look forward this film and it may be #1 on my most anticipated list. The cartoon it was based on was a wonderful cartoon and seeing Shyamalan's passion of it only makes me more sure he can carry out the job rather than some random hack from Hollywood. Shyamalan has been stuck in a rut for some time now and it is nice to see him breathing some fresh air.

  5. This has definitely caught my interest. I really like Shyamalan. I even liked the ones that you guys don't like. So I expect to be blown away by this

  6. Honestly, I was worried until I saw the teaser. Since then, I've been very excited. This may be my most anticipated film of the year.

  7. What I am looking forward to with The Last Airbender is to finally see Shyamalan do something other than what he is known for.

  8. I consider the show to be one of the best/most entertaining TV shows I've ever seen, and I really want the movie to be just as awesome. I still don't agree with the casting choices for some of the characters, which is why I'm not totally sold on the movie. I'm really looking forwards to the trailer and I hope it proves that he won't bastardize the source material.

  9. Oh people throw a big fit over the casting Dev Patel is a great actor and the kid playing Aang looks almost exactly like him (Asian or not). Also I get sick and tired of hearing from these “Shyamalan is racist for not making eveyone chinese” people. Newsflash! Shyamalan is INDIAN not white. Adding more races into a film is not being racist, that is simply a difference of adaption.

  10. Man, my expectations are high for this.

    For those who haven't definitely watch the series, one of the best.

  11. I love watching this show, Im not worried at all that shymalan is directing and I hope that he is including alot of the elements that make the show so much fun to watch. I think this is going to be a tall order though and Im not sure this is going to live up to the show.

  12. If he can't even get the casting right, what makes you guys think he won't ruin the source material. I was REALLY hyped about this until I saw who was directing, and then his choice of cast about clinched it.

    I mean, seriously, Jackson Rathbone? Dev Patel? No Asians in the main cast? Why does Hollywood have to mess with what's already worked?

  13. In response to Wulfen-

    1. Because it works as a cartoon which doesn't really have actors besides people who voice act and you never see what they look like. making it easier to find people. Finding good children actors is much more difficult. Also I would rather have an actor true to the character portray than color of skin and shape of eyes.

    2. I hate tell you this but it was Shyamalan who brought the movie to the studios. You would not even be getting a Last Airbender movie without him.

    3. What's more he was quoted saying he was attempting to distance himself from other martial arts genre by having more races in the film besides chinese. (If you want asian characters you will have Suki in this film and Toph in the next.) Now we are getting actors that are Chinese, White, Hispanic, Indian, Persian, and Japanese.

    4. He is very passionate about the material and I trust that WAY more than just some random dude.

    5. Aang LOOKS white in the show. He has huge eyes that take up 2/3 of his face and if he were any whiter he would have looked like a vampire.

    6. Who cares? More power to him if he is getting the personalities and good actor portrayals. I really could not care less what color their skin is.

  14. So, adding races to a movie based on a show that supposedly had all asian characters (apart from the water tribe) is racist? Adding a bit more diversity is racist? And why do people blame hollywood as a whole when they don't agree with what a director has done (I mean last I checked Paramount was DISTRIBUTING the film not INTERFERING like Sony Or Fox)?

  15. I've never watched the show. I just hope they don't make the classic mistake of putting everything that embodies the Cartoon in the first movie, then when people want to see more you've got no more real story to tell. If Shyamalan has turned out a winner I hope he decides to do a few more movies for others, as long as they meet high standards for storytelling of course.

  16. You don't really need to worry about that. The Last Airbender was a short 3 season piece that covered one large plot and concluded (Just like a movie trilogy). So long as they stick to the basic plotline of each season they should be fine. If it does the first movie will involve escorting Aang to the north pole so he can be trained in Waterbending.

    Seriously this is nothing like Dragonball that attempted to jam 400 episodes into and hour and a half.

  17. so i've read a lot (on here) about avatar the last airbender, i've seen the teaser and the images released. they all look good so i thought i'd check it out. i started watching the first couple of episodes and i thought.. hm isnt this a bit childish? even tho im not that old. it was like typical kids show. then i watched it some more and i found it interesting, now after the 6th episode, im totally hooked! i even find it funny (dont judge!) and im really looking forward to the movie, i think it can be awesome! the cast is great as well:) who is playing the girl character in the movie? i hope its both childish/funny and serious action. i dont want it to be all fight fight fight, well i wudnt mind:) hope it turns out great! cause im definitely there to see it when it comes out!

  18. @Magnus

    That is exactly how I felt when I first started watching the show. I had heard about it and thought it was a cool concept, but I always assumed it would be too childish. Then I found out that my girlfriend's brother who was 19 or 20 watched it and I decided to give it a shot.

    If Shyamalan can capture the fantastic dynamic between the characters than I think the movie will be awesome. If not, no amount of cool action/martial arts will save it.

  19. I loved the cartoon (I plan on buying the DVDs soon) and, after seeing the teaser trailer I cant wait for the movie, even if Im not the biggest M. Night fan. it looks awesome and, if faithful to the cartoon, it will definately beone of my favorite movies of 2010 (especially if we see Aang use that giant water monster in teh Avatar state at the North Pole)

  20. Sounds straight up. It would be great if someone could crack the code on bringing these to successful fruition…

  21. Zuko(on seeing Aang the first time) : You are just a kid!
    Aang : You are just a teenager!!!

    That was from the first ep of Avatar. I have to say it is one of the best shows I have EVER seen (including non-animation)! Shyamalan seems passionate about the plot and the trailer was reassuring. Looking forward to it more than any other film;can take my little sister to it without any worry!

  22. Great job with the white washing

  23. I think that you 100% right. I watch the full series at least once a month and the casting is disgusting

  24. Are you white? Just a question

  25. Go back to your little cave troll.

  26. I can't watch this. The sight of these little white kids dressed up as Tibetan monks and Inuit villagers is just making me too damn upset.

  27. Adding is one thing, but there isn't a single East Asian or Native American actor in the main cast, despite 90% of this show being based on their cultures. There's one South Asian – Dev Patel – playing the villain.

    Think about this. When was the last time you saw one of these kids' fantasy movies where you actually had a minority kid playing the lead? Do you understand why this was such a big deal for some of us?

  28. Nobody expected everyone to be Chinese. But why aren't any of the hero characters East-Asian or Native Americans? Why aren't Dev Patel (Zuko) and Gabrielle Seychelles (Yue) playing Sokka and Katara instead of those pale Caucasian kids they got?