Is Shyamalan Out of His “Element” for The Last Airbender?

Damn it feels good to be an Avatar! (I’m about ten seconds away from grabbing a blue Sharpie and drawing an arrow on my head.)
By  · Published on June 10th, 2008

That’s right, Nickelodeon fans. The cartoon series, Avatar: The Last Airbender is heading to the big screen, with the direction of M. Night Shyamalan. The pairing does raise a few eyebrows. Shyamalan is best known for suspense-thrillers like The Sixth Sense, The Village, and Lady in the Water. His movies are anything but PG, which makes me wonder if he’s really capable of a family movie.

Avatar is a tale of intrigue, friendship, adventure, and fantasy. The Fire Nation threatens to enslave the Water Tribe, the Air Nomads, and the Earth Kingdom (warring nations named for the element their people are capable of bending). Bending is a type of innate magic developed by all the people. The Chosen One: a twelve year old boy named Aang, is destined to learn to bend all the elements, and restore peace. The cartoon features beautiful animation combined with witty dialogue and complex storyline. The characters use a combination of magic and martial arts in their bending; the movements are fluid and fast-paced due to the flexibility of animation.

But how will this beloved series translate to a live-action movie? While many elements of CGI will be used, Shyamalan will really have to find some talented young actors to pull off the roles of Aang, Katara, and Sokka. His films have a wonderfully dark nature, coupled with beautiful sets and costuming. Still, as an Avatar fan, I have hundreds of concerns. For example: I wonder if Shyamalan will use CG to create Aang’s faithful flying bison companion, Appa, or use Jim Henson-esque muppetry like Falkor in The Neverending Story.

While we won’t see The Last Airbender until sometime in 2010, I’m sure the series itself as well as Shyamalan’s latest thriller, The Happening, will keep both sides content until then. In the mean time, Shyamalan assures fans: “I loved the story…I loved the characters in the story and I felt like I could be me inside this larger canvas of this very long-form movie. I think it inherently had kind of family issues and serious larger topics”.