M. Night Shyamalan has finished his script for The Last Airbender, the live action movie based on Nickelodeon's epic cartoon, Avatar — and he's told Paramount and Nickelodeon that he thought they had a new Star Wars on their hands. Shyamalan screened a rough teaser trailer at the New York Licensing Expo Night, and we were there. Details after the jump.
Night claims Airbender and Star Wars will be similar based on the religion they create. I could see why he would want that to be true, but just because you make three of something that has an ancient code and a deep fictional history, that doesn't automatically make it the next Star Wars. Still Night shared a production update with an excited room and briefly talked about casting, filming plans and why he wanted to make this movie.
The Last Airbender will tell the first book of the three-part Avatar series. It will follow Aang the reluctant hero, who is an Avatar and a protector of the world. He's the people's only hope to restore balance between it's four nations of Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. It all started when the Fire nation attacked, and Aang has to use his martial arts, and his abilities to bend nature's elements, to fight.
The very rough Airbender teaser trailer took old movie footage of martial arts fighting and then spelled out, "The nations lived together in peace until Fire Nation Attacked." Pan out to a shot of the Avatar planet with a blue arrow imposed over the top, referencing Aang, the savior of a world. The teaser also showed lovely sweeping landscape illustrations of each nation on the planet that looked pretty similar to the cartoon's representation — but alas, no illustrations of Aang, Azula or Katara.
All of the concept art for the movie is done, and every single frame has already been story-boarded. Like the cartoon, there will be multiple martial-arts fighting scenes, almost 20 of them, but they will be done his way. That means the fighting will extend the story and enhance the character, and Shyamalan has applied the same rule to his CGI use. The elements react to some of the characters emotions, so that among the mountain homes and alien characters will all have to be CGI. Sets are going to be built in August this year and some of the exotic locations picked for filming are Greenland and Vietnam. Casting has started and Shyamalan hints that he thinks he's found the next big star. So perhaps Aang will be played by a fresh face.
Shyamalan wants to create, as he called it, religion around this movie similar to the religion that inspired him from other films. "Star Wars had religion and I mean that," explained Night. "Something that connects us with these stories which is what they had in the Star Wars and the first Matrix. Those movies caused religions to happen." Methinks he's confusing religion with just heavily layered story-telling, yet in his defense there are many Jedi orders throughout the country. Do you think he wants more costumey fans running around Tai Chi bending the elements? It would be good marketing, I guess.
Shyamalan admits that Star Wars was a movie that made him want to make movies and he had been searching for a story like this. So it's cute that it was his youngest daughter that introduced him to the cartoon series. Shyamalan hopes that after watching this movie, "Every kid at every breakfast table should be trying to bend the milk out of their cup." Airbender is set to release over the 4th of July weekend in 2010.