While M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender may have been a critical disaster, the film has supplied Paramount with a decent box-office run, taking in over $79 million domestically, as it heads into its second weekend. While Shyamalan still has a way to go before he recoups the $150 million budget, it's not hard to imagine the film turning a decent profit.
Of course, with that kind of box-office potential, it's only a matter of time before Paramount starts talking about The Last Airbender sequel - poor critical reception didn't stop the studio from making Transformers 3. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, Shyamalan has already mapped out two Airbender sequels.
Speaking with MTV, Shyamalan confirmed that he's already begun work, in an unofficial capacity, on a pair of Airbender sequels. Just like any director staring down the barrel of a critical bomb, Shyamalan is already resting on one of Hollywood's principle go-to change-ups, promising that the Airbender sequels will be darker in tone.
"I do [have things mapped out]. The third is more ambiguous, but the second one, I've written a draft that I'm really happy with and is darker and richer, and it has a wonderful antagonist in it in Azula, who's kind of like our only real, pure antagonist in the series, so I'm excited about that."
Check out the interview snippet below to hear it straight from Shayamalan himself:
Shyamalan also indicates that certain Last Airbender footage that was shot, but cut, will not appear as deleted material on the DVD release - as the scenes have been saved for the future sequels. Giving a hint at the direction Shyamalan hopes to take the franchise.
Hint: Elite female warriors en route.
"We shot [an amazing scene with the Kyoshi Warriors], and we spent an unbelievable amount of time choreographing them. And they just distracted from the movie, because the movie wasn't about them. I probably won't show the Kyoshi Warriors [on the DVD] because I want to save them for the second movie, because I'm going to have to introduce them all over again."
Since Paramount already took a number of liberties with the franchise, to the studio an Airbender sequel is probably a no-brainer - considering the box-office potential, not to mention cliffhanger in the first film. But will they bring Shyamalan back? Especially since most critics have universally placed the blame, for Airbender's failure, squarely on the director's shoulders.
Shyamalan seems pretty rooted in the production process (having already shot scenes that could be used in a sequel), as well as the future direction of the franchise. It's hard to imagine Paramount uprooting him simply because critics thought the first film was a total mess. While many fans of the Avatar cartoon, myself included, might have felt cheated by Shyamalan's Airbender film, the general public is embracing the film with cash-money. While Shyamalan might have made a mockery of the cartoon as we know it, Aang and the Avatar franchise now have more commercial appeal than ever before.
Hopefully, the critical failure of The Last Airbender will finally be the kick in the pants that Shyamalan has needed for years - getting him out of his own head and back in the business of quality filmmaking.
What do you think of the prospect of a trilogy for The Last Airbender? Do you think Shyamalan is the man to finish the job?